Does your library and information or knowledge service functions have a goal to increase innovation or create and deliver high-value services for customers? (customers being residential neighbourhoods, students, faculties or corporate project teams?) Chances are you are using design thinking, but may not be using two practical business tools to consider how the initiative under development will impact other services or relationships, the costs, production and delivery issue, or the strategic fit (or not).

At the Library Shark Tank in October the teams will use the Business Model Canvas or the Service Design Framework to scope and ready their ideas for consideration by the ah…..sharks — (really the panel of library-passionate advisors, all nice people – honest). The beauty of these models is their blend of hard-hitting questions with simple presentation; there’s nothing like a 1-page synopsis of a service or application to boil a complex idea down to a concept that can be clearly communicated.

Why 2 models? Here’s our thinking – and I invite you to weigh in on this:

Service Design Framework: 

The framework has proved indispensable for working through new service ideas within libraries and other organizations that already have pretty full portfolios of client offerings, from programs to services to products. We libraries sometimes struggle to clearly define what a service is and is not, and how it differs from other services. Come on – be honest; how often has your team debated “is the catalogue a service?”  This framework forces libraries and information providers to confront questions such as  “how does this program complement, compete with or cannabalize other programs that we are offering or that our partner is offering?” and “who ARE the targetted groups, and what makes this program unique in their minds?”  Hard conversations – and absolutely essential.

Business Model Canvas:

The Canvas, designed by Strategyzer (who provides quality resources) is a tool for crafting a new business model. While it is useful for us to work through service and operational innovations, I have found that it’s focus is really for a new entity rather than an existing organization or library. Admittedly it poses many of the same questions asked in the Service Design Framework, particularly regarding the customer segments for whom the concept will be valuable and defining exactly what that value or benefit is.  The canvas also shines a flashlight on revenues — “why will people pay for this, and how will the revenues be sustainable?”  For libraries that question is re-framed as “why will people use this service (and pay for it with their time and attention), and how will we engage them to continue to use it over time to ensure its sustainability?” 

To better understand the richness of these tools for library innovation, have a look at How to Use the Business Model Canvas for Innovation, and examine the canvases of Uber and BMW. 

Think those companies don’t relate to your enterprise content department or academic library?  Ah…..have a look at their Key Partners and how they nurture Customer Relationships; we librarians are learners – we can learn from these companies. What always strikes me is that their Cost Structure contains R&D.  Where is the R&D in any library canvas or framework? 

One of the key outcomes we’re aiming for from the Hive Mind at the Asilomar is the recognition that our sector must invest in R&D — even if that’s Rip Off and Duplicate! (thank you Linda Hofshire from Colorado State Library’s fabulous Library Research Service for that definition!)

If you can’t attend, you can still participate in the hive (no, the sharks won’t eat the hive — they’ll be feeding the hive with their experience and advice!), by doing the same preparation as those who will gather around the post-it laden tables: