Without a doubt, there are some really innovative people in the library world who are doing some amazing things. But are these people the norm or are they the exception? How many of us do innovative things or have innovative ideas on a daily basis (or a weekly one)? I know that I have this perception that innovation is a difficult task – too difficult for me to accomplish. Trying to figure out how to change a culture that doesn’t foster innovation is even more challenging. I was intrigued by a post by Stephen Abram in which he has some some ideas about what kills innovation. He links to a post by Jeffrey Phillips from a blog called Innovate on Purpose. Phillip suggests that lack of sustained feedback is one of the biggest barriers to innovation. In response, Abram asks “Now does that ring true in libraryland?” In my experience, definitely. Even when we do tackle innovative projects, they are often just that – projects. Life returns to normal after they have been completed. They have a beginning and an end. We don’t have a continually evolving innovative attitude. And, we don’t necessarily have good mechanisms to encourage spontaneous feedback. People don’t generally come up and say “I have a great idea.” More often than not, they only voice an opinion when asked about something.
Abram asks some other tough questions about behaviors that can kill innovative thought. He adds: “Do our management processes require every idea to be fully formed. Do we have difficulty with new ideas and pilots and experiments. Do new ideas get crushed under the weight of a single user’s negative feedback…?” I have certainly seen these types of things happen. I don’t really have any concrete answers about encouraging innovative thinking, but I do agree that as a whole those of us in the library world aren’t very good at it. How do we get staff to be excited about the library, to voice their thoughts and opinions, to think creatively? I do believe that innovation has to be a team effort -something that everyone buys into. It seems to me this is a culture that needs to be cultivated.