Well, weíre finally at part three of this series. Here are the final ten tips and a bonus tip. (If you missed the first two parts, check out the OneSource for July and September 2005.)
23. Understand the adoption curve.
I love the adoption curve. It explains so much about why certain people are not as comfortable as others with innovation and change. Yet everyone (or nearly everyone) eventually adapts to changes in our world. Basically, new innovations need to attract the use and attention of 15% of your target group before they break the overall inertia of the entire market. Bridging the chasm between the early adopters and the greater majority is a major deal.
I have found that in the early phases of a new or innovative product that the opinions of early adopters are most useful. As the product progresses though its lifecycle, the reactions and opinions of later adopters become increasingly important. Likewise, the opinions of folks who have a predilection to late adoption offer little substantive advice on transformational or leading-edge technologies. We can easily track innovators through early adopters, and early through late majority, in the adoption of Internet access and Web sites through libraries.
24. Do research for yourself, too.
Set up alerts on your hot issues and hot technologies. Your research skills are not just for your clients Ė use them in your own cause. Read the blogs in your field and have a trusted circle of bloggers who alert you to cool ideas, changes in our field, and Web sites worth a look. Make sure to attend the keynotes and trends sessions at conferences and not just the core sessions in your area of expertise. Keep your mind open to the viral effects of these new information grapevines. Just look at the success of such technologies as RSS, blogs, Wikis, etc., which were achieved with little or no formal advertising. So many exciting things are happening now.
25. Bring management on board first.
Then add customers and users, BEFORE you launch. This is a truism in every book about innovation and product management. Yet it is shocking how often itís ignored. Without your management on board, understanding the goals, product, and overall agenda, you risk failure. They are a key stakeholder and can certainly drive a stake through the heart of your project. Keep them in the loop, continuously.
26. Feedback is a gift.
Like that wedding gift from Aunt Sally, you can keep it, display it, return it, or hide it in the closet. Itís your choice. Donít overvalue one piece of out-of-context feedback or let it loom out of perspective and balance. Feedback is best digested in the aggregate rather than in small doses. Squeaky wheels are fine and need to be oiled. But if itís the engine that needs attention, then that well-oiled wheel is just a distraction. Feedback shouldnít be cause for stomach-wrenching stress. You are in control of how it can be dealt with (good or constructive or bad) and need to hear and accept this gift from your stakeholders. Do you have feedback mechanisms on your Web site?
27. Measure - donít just count.
Decision makers CANNOT interpret your statistics. They either donít have enough background or just donít have the time to invest. You have to do it for them. This is the real beauty of the Normative Data Project. It allows you to compare numbers between like library systems and branches. SirsiDynixís Directorís Station lets you find insights into the basic operating information of your library. Between the NDP and Directorís Station you have the power of Wal-Mart style systems at your own fingertips. Wal-Mart knows what goods are selling every day and to whom. They know exactly where their customers live and everything about the nature of the neighborhoods and communities they are serving. The Census, NCES, maps, and library use information in the NDP or tracked in your Director's Station data and Unicorn reports is great data and made infinitely easier to use and more timely through SirsiDynix's products. You can be as smart as a Fortune Top 50 Corporation! The ability from both NDP and Directorís Station to create perfect visuals (bar charts, pie charts, graphs, and maps) that communicate difficult financial and statistical information effectively to decision makers is great.
Every organization has thousands of ideas that are worthy of consideration. No organization can do them all. Thatís the tough part. When you have 100 good ideas to choose from, the critical skill isnít choosing five, but sacrificing 95. Learn the skill of temporary sacrifice. You can store your good ideas in an idea parking lot and bring them forward into the strategic planning process as projects are completed. If you donít focus and choose to limit your energy to achieving success on those that will deliver the most value to your enterprise and users, then you are choosing mediocrity.
29. Cheap is expensive.
Especially in the long run - think of cheap products as pilots for the real implementation. This seems obvious, but I am always shocked by the needless nickel and diming that limits the success of a project. Good budgeting and management are truly necessary, but financing success is different and having a value system that sets doing it right as a priority rather than doing it cheap as a best practice. Every real project should recognize the real costs in conversions, customization, user adoption, marketing, introduction, launch, and client support, etc.
30. Build for the future.
Too often projects that are planned for 18-36 months naively assume that things will stay the same technologically. Remember the lessons of the past where things mutated quickly - DOS became Windows, diskettes became CD-ROMs, Netscape begat MSIE which begat Firefox, online dial-up became Web broadband, etc.) You canít be certain of the future, but you canít wait for total stability either. Thatís the ambiguity. Dealing with ambiguity is a key competency in change management and introducing innovation.
31. Learn from Best AND Bad Practices.
I admire those who can craft and communicate best practices. I also find it difficult to cull from these best practices exactly what caused ďsuccess.Ē However, when I hear about a worst practice, I seem to learn quickly and see the moral of the story really fast. Interesting that. Here is a list of the lucky seven themes of bad practices in introducing innovation in new products:
∑ Multiple, ambiguous objectives
∑ Different functional objectives
∑ Focus on current customers and confusion about future target customers
∑ Narrow engineering focus on elegant solutions and leisurely attitude to time
∑ Team doesnít own project and blame is shifted
∑ Narrow specialists in functional chimneys
∑ Unclear direction, no one in charge, accountability limited, inconsistent or invisible executive support
32. No mistake is ever final.
One of my better bosses had this phrase framed on the wall of her office. She said she was going to get it in needlepoint one day. We were part of a skunkworks that was tasked with re-technologizing a major corporation as well as introducing transformational change into a huge market and changing the overall culture of companies involved. No small task. Not only did we make many mistakes, but also we learned from them. If we werenít making mistakes, we werenít trying hard enough. Albeit, we tried to limit the exposure of our experiments, but like learning to skate, if youíre not falling down, youíre just not learning well enough. Her sign ďNo mistake is ever finalĒ encouraged us to try just that little bit harder to achieve greatness because we knew we had her support. If you want to change things for the better, you have to be a change agent, and that means you have to be more comfortable with making mistakes and dealing with them effectively Ė and learning all the time.
Bonus Tip: Have some fun!
We are often too serious. Our work is serious, and our impact on our communities is enormous! However, working creatively, trying new things, and being innovative are fun. Take the time to recognize that and live your life to the fullest. Celebrate your successes and your teamís work. Champion your libraryís achievements! Reward your colleagues when they succeed. Donít ever get so heads-down that you canít see the big picture. Itís a wonderful world.
Well, weíve arrived at the end of this three-part series. I hope you have found my old insights useful. I think that these could form the basis for a good discussion between development teams and library managers. As I said at the beginning, every one is not guaranteed to work every time or in every situation. Itís always good to keep talking, debating, and working together to move our organizations and our communities forward. Finally, Iíd also love to hear your insights and learning from over the years. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, and I am always glad to hear from you.
Stephen Abram, MLS, is vice president, Innovation for SirsiDynix. He is the past president of the Ontario Library Association and the past president of the Canadian Library Association. In June 2003 he was awarded SLAís John Cotton Dana Award.
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