A Cultivated-Taste for Failure and Chaos

I don’ t normally read the Harvard Business Review, but a colleague at work brought the current issue to my attention because the cover said Reading Google’s Mind, and she knew of my fascination with innovation and with Google. The actual article is called Reverse Engineering Google’s Innovation Machine; it’s a pretty good read and fits in well with some of the ideas I’ve been exploring lately.

In the article, the model we might follow was called A Cultivated-Taste for Failure and Chaos. I love it!

Google's Innovation Ecosystem

A few weeks ago I was asked to come and speak to the marketing team of Laurel Springs School in Ojai, California because of some of the things we’ve been trying out in our library at Santa Barbara City College. I’ve taken some ideas from Google, and other successful companies, by trying to be nimble, exciting, and innovative. Of course, a library is a little different from a company but we can certainly take some queues from business. For example, rules are meant to be flexible and this allows us to have a better relationship with our students and faculty. We try new things just to see if they stick and, as a result, it has created a little buzz in the community – even got a mention in the prestigious Chronicle of Higher Education. Anyway, as I prepared for my presentation at Laurel Springs, I made a list of the things we’ve tried over the past 20 months that may be contributing to our success. Things like an interactive web site, wiki, instant messaging with librarians, Facebook, Twitter, LibraryThing,taking down all the signs that say DON’T or NO, and allowing food and drinks. There is certainly a level of chaos, but we have also increased our “business” by 90% in less than two years.

Speaking of Twitter (you can learn more with this 2-minute video), a related development occurred when a Twitter colleague in Kentucky proposed a conference presentation for Internet Librarian next Fall. Nine of us responded to her idea and we had a wonderfully chaotic group edit using Google Docs. What a trip to be editing a document with six or seven other people at the same time. To see a sentence appear and disappear while typing was thrilling, not to mention that I only know one of these folks in the F2F world. Now I’ve added them all to my Twitter timeline and I should know them all quite well come October.

I love being a librarian, working with innovative people, and being in a position to just throw stuff at the wall and see what sticks.