Friday, February 25, 2011

Disruptive Technologies to Watch!

If you're not familiar with Charlene Li's work, she's the co-author of Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies, with Josh Bernoff, sole author of Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead and founder of the Altimeter Group, a consultancy based in San Mateo, CA.

I've posted this presentation on disruptive technologies. It's worth paying attention to. I have always loved the concept of technologies being disruptive. The word makes you stop and take notice. People generally don't like to be disrupted. It's jarring, wrenching. It means to break apart, to throw into disorder. Warning: if you're change averse, this is not comfortable territory! 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Big ideas and how to quash them!

For the last few years NELLCO has been in a period of significant organizational change. We've relocated our offices and are back to being physically co-located with one of our member institutions, Albany Law School. In 80s and 90s NELLCO was seated, first physically and later only administratively, at Harvard. For most of the first decade of the 21st century we were administratively tied to Yale, but physically housed in commercial office space remote from any of our member institutions. Today, we are administratively independent and building a physical presence for NELLCO that is closely identified with Albany, NY.

Working with Organizational Design & Development Associates, the NELLCO Board of Directors developed an ambitious strategic plan for 2010-2014. As I review the plan today I feel confident that we're on track with the goals the Board defined for us. We are now moving in some really exciting directions that result directly from the hard work of the Board.

One goal from our current plan is the focus of this post; Program Goal A: To maximize the benefits of membership and efficient use of consortium resources in an organization dedicated to a leadership position in the law library field. This is where we have potential to realize some 'big ideas.'

Big ideas are always (necessarily) departures from status quo. A recent posting by Jeff Arnold on his blog, Zen Leadership, points to our amazing ability to talk ourselves right out of any 'big ideas' with a litany of 'what ifs.' Throwing up obstacles left and right in the very first instance is a sure way kill off any big ideas.

Another blogger, Ann Michael over at the Scholarly Kitchen, talks about the same issue in her post, Pizzas and Publishing. Our innate need to overcomplicate things paralyzes us. She quotes Ryan Jacoby from his  Seven Deadly Sins That Choke Out Innovation:
Innovation is all about discussing new ideas that currently have no place in the real world. If you’re only comfortable talking about things that don’t strike you as alien, chances are you’re not talking about real innovation.
So my take away as I reflect on NELLCO's evolution and these posts about big idea thinking is to encourage all of us to work harder at imagining what could be, what might work. While I don't agree with Jeff Arnold's characterization of S.W.O.T. analysis as a Stupid Waste Of Time, I do agree that prematurely calling out potential obstacles is a sure way to stifle innovation!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Rachel Botsman on Collaborative Consumption

I just finished watching this video from TEDxSydney in 2010.


What a compelling theory! There is so much hope for our long-term cultural survival in the idea of a wholesale revolution from an era of hyper-consumerism to one of collaborative consumption. Ms. Botsman's theory turns several ideas about technology on their heads. In using technology to facilitate consumption, communities are being built in spaces where people traditionally operated in isolation. A marketplace based on trust, rather than credit scores, is emerging. These concepts, trust relationships and community building, are often seen as casualties of the digital age. Botsman challenges that thinking and offers an exciting alternative vision of the future.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Collaboration and Conflict

Recently I read a blog post that posited that in order for entities to truly work as partners, they needed to be devoid of any conflicts of interest. To that notion I say hooey! If that were the case no one would ever collaborate. In fact, it's crucial to the process that areas of conflict (perceived, potential or actual) are clearly identified and attended to if collaborative efforts are to succeed. If conflict areas are denied or neglected they are much more likely to sabotage the group's or institution's efforts.

I was reminded of this idea of conflict among collaborators again today in a conversation about how organizations develop an identity, and how they carry out their missions in accordance with that identity. The real challenge for any group of collaborators lies in finding that sweet spot where conflicts of interest can take a back seat to the greater good of the whole. As groups begin working within that safe zone, and trust builds among the parties, some conflicts may evaporate and new opportunities for joint action may open. It's through the practice and habit of collaboration that a culture of collaboration emerges, in spite of any areas of conflict.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Workflows, library staffing and collaboration

Today I was thinking about a tweet from Connie Crosby where she was asking about workflow and looking for a good definition. I immediately thought of R2 Consulting (Rick Lugg and Ruth Fischer) and all of the great work they've done on the topic of workflow. Years ago they did a workshop for the NELLCO Acquisitions and Collection Development Special Interest Group that was very well-received, so I went to their website to see if they might have a good definition. Of course, that rabbit hole was deep and I stumbled across some great recent resources by R2 about collaboration and consortia that led me to penning this post.

Two underlying themes run through both brief articles; the future for libraries is sharing and sharing is hard. So, drawing on philosophy 101, the future for libraries is hard. Are we surprised? No. Are we resistant? Yes. Reading the R2 pieces will likely strike fear into the hearts of many. When workflows move from redundant environments to centralized ones, someone(s) is likely to be out of a job. If the work you do is in the categories of work identified by R2 as suitable for either the cloud or the collaborative, you probably have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. But I believe we can accomplish this shift in an evolutionary, rather than revoluntionary, transition.

I was recently (in the last few months) reading a post or an article about the flagging numbers of incoming students in MLS programs. I looked every where for that post and couldn't find it. If anyone recalls this please let me know! Anyway, the premise was that the low enrollment (I think the author had the figures in the post) would in fact result in librarian shortages, and measures should be taken to avoid that eventuality. I think that's a mistake. If in fact enrollments are down we should exploit that reality to facilitate real change. If we can see that the work of libraries needs to be redistributed as part of the sustainability of libraries, let's move in that direction. It's a huge task, but it can be done. Library staffs that are visionary will reorganize in ways that will protect current employees so that they can be engaged in the shift, rather than in opposition. As workflows are distributed up and out there will be new demands on library staff, new skills needed and new jobs created. New disciplines will emerge that will complement the work of libraries. Just today Social Media in Organizations tweeted that they are working on a curriculum for a Master's Degree in Social Media! There will (dare I say always?) be plenty of work that needs to be done around the creation, curation, access and preservation of information in all formats. We can achieve it through thoughtful collaborations!