Inventing isn’t Innovation

I was so fortunate to participate in the Military Libraries Workshop in December in CA. Fortunate to be in California in December (!) and to be among some incredible speakers.  Dr. Marc Ventresca was one of these speakers; now Associate Professor, Graduate School of Business and Public Policy, Naval Postgraduate School as well as University Lecturer, SAID Business School, University of Oxford,he’s also a Research Affiliate. Research Affiliate, Center for Security and Cooperation, Stanford University,Research Lead, Innovation Journalism Initiative, Stanford University, and Associate Fellow, Martin Institute for Science and Civilization, University of Oxford — phew! Plus he’s just a great speaker and a really nice guy.

Marc spoke about innovation & change, specifically lesson learned regarding innovation — that innovation is not about inventing new ways or new products.  One of the lessons is that what matters is NOT how great something is, but rather how efficient an organization is at killing projects that aren’t working. Innovations stem from changes in the current organization infrastructure, culture, technology and systems to the current contexts — in “recombining existing elements and re-purposing existing solutions” to address new situations.  Consider this: IDEO, whose mantra is “nothing invented here” talks about the innovative Reebok Pump shoes which “combined” and “re-purposed” the bike tire, medical products and shoes to create these shoes.  And consider this: technologies or products that we look at as ‘incredible’ and ‘game changing’ are initially seen as ‘inferior’ and usually just a bit strange. As Marc said, people don’t know what they need or want; Ford said if he’d asked people what they wanted, they’d have said “a faster horse.”

So in the area of library services, we need to look not at what people say they want (cuz usually they don’t know what they want), but rather at how we can combine and re-purpose 2 or three things from different areas to create something new…..that may not work properly at first…..that may seem “inferior”….and stick with it, keep building on what works and kill the parts that don’t work.  Marc’s question to the workshop participants was to ask how did online services become a solution and to what problems —- to look for connections with other fields…..where there are connections, why, and how to combine them.

Interesting….I’m in….and about to look at his latest presentation on Leadership Amidst Ambiguity….oh yeah..

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