It’s often difficult to describe things you do instinctively. I once put together a panel of SLA members asking them to describe themselves by discussing ”how do I know what I know?” SLA member Anne Mintz, at Forbes magazine at the time, told me it was one of the hardest things she had to do! My business partner, Rebecca Jones, talks about me as being curious, I am but I just found a better description in a book by Amy Wilkinson, The Creator’s Code: Six Essential Skills of Extraordinary Entrepreneurs. The first skill is one I have talked about in workshops I’ve done for SLA on seeing the big picture and strategic planning; Wilkinson calls it Finding the Gap and I had called it, Looking for Opportunities or identifying pain points and finding a solution. Here’s what Wilkinson says:
FIND THE GAP
By staying alert, creators spot opportunities that others don’t see. They keep their eyes open for fresh potential, a vacuum to fill, or an unmet need. Creators tend to use one of three distinct techniques: transplanting ideas across divides, designing a new way forward, or merging disparate concepts. I characterize creators who master these approaches as Sunbirds, Architects, or Integrators.
In innovating, reinventing, experimenting we do things differently, in a new way for our environment as a creator or entre/intrapreneur. I find I learn a lot from others in other industries, organizations, etc. One of the strengths of SLA has always been that those planning conference events bring in practitioners from their specialized fields so we learn from them and can apply their strategies and techniques in a new way in our environments – transplanting ideas across divides. This also happens at Information Today conferences whose programs I design and of which SLA is a prominent sponsor (Computers in Libraries, Internet Librarian). At these events we transplant ideas across different types of libraries. Years ago as a special librarian, I didn’t believe I could learn anything from public and academic libraries; Ha! It is amazing what public libraries do to engage their customers and how special librarians learn from them: i.e. setting up a Pokemon Go in a government library, setting up makerspaces/innovative places spaces in a corporate workplaces, creating book clubs in organizations.
As an entrepreneur and consultant, I am always looking for new ways to move forward and create new designs that will engage our audiences and clients. Focusing on what might be ahead, creating visions, looking a differences scenarios, giving people something to think about when they consider the future and how their organization or library has to evolve to keep up. For example, take my granddaughter Logan who is now a year and a half old. What will her life be like as a young adult? Consider that she may never learn to tie a shoelace (as there is now Velcro & new types of laces), she may never learn to drive (now that driverless cars are coming online), she may never learn cursive writing since everything is done with computers today, more and more by using our voices! So if these types of kids are our future clients, what should we be planning in terms of programs and services to stay relevant?
And certainly mashing things up to try different approaches to programs and services is happening everywhere, especially with content and new tech tools: using Paper Li to create a current awareness product on the fly, using bots to reduce repetitious activities, creating online tutorials which can be watched at the point of need or “in the flow” as APQC calls it.
Entrepreneurial thinking is for everyone in every environment. Do it by keeping an open mind, observing different organizations and places, listening, grabbing ideas from others and trying them out (experimenting), paying attention when someone has a problem/criticism because there is definitely an opportunity/gap there!