Innovation as needed

There’s a lot to reflect on this week so I chose one of the group questions from the end of the “Innovation and entrepreneurship in information organizations” chapter reading to start me off.

Describe an ‘innovation’ you were involved in.

I worked most of last year in a university library where, even though I was originally part-time and ‘only’ an assistant, I was encouraged to involve myself in changes and take charge of projects. In short, my library fostered an innovative organizational culture. This is how I came to be involved in the ‘waiting room’ rehabilitation of the periodicals and new books display.

What were the personal circumstances or drivers that led you to seek an
opportunity to do things differently?

In our library the Circulation Desk is directly across from the front doors, but also has a good view of an area with a couch, coffee table, and two chairs. Originally we had a periodicals display between this area and the entrance and a glass display case for new books on the other side. While working at the Circulation Desk, I noticed that the couches were being used as a meeting place for group projects; students who didn’t have each other’s phone numbers would plan to meet there before moving upstairs to the study rooms. At the time, one of my colleagues was trying to improve the system for tracking periodical usage. I suggested that we could improve the periodical and new book usage by arranging this area like it was a proper waiting room.

How did you go about locating and developing that opportunity/idea? How did you go about the planning for translating that opportunity
into action?

I spoke with our Systems Librarian who was our expert on access and also our Health & Safety representative about the best way to rearrange the chairs and displays and also the Library Technician in charge of our new book displays.

How did you go about capitalizing on the new opportunity?

My new arrangement worked really well for several months until a colleague who’d been put in charge of a book display completely rearranged everything without conferring with anyone. She made the area completely inaccessible a weeks before I left to come here and start my MLIS, so hopefully by the time I return they’ll have missed me so much they offer me a full-time job!

As I was reading this chapter, I was thinking back to a few weeks ago in my Systems Analysis & Design class when we read an article on creativity and innovation by Robert I. Sutton called, “The Weird Rules of Creativity”. Sutton’s management techniques for creating an innovative environment are very different and I’d take him more seriously if he had shown evidence that he had work experience to back it up, but some of his ideas had some merit. He spoke about the innovations that can happen when creative colleagues disagree, or when you hire someone who hasn’t had experience dealing with your current issues as opposed to someone who’s boxed themselves in because they have. I did come away from the article with the idea that creating an innovative environment is as much about managing people as it is providing the right technology. My take on J. Rowley’s chapter was informed by this view; the reading mentions both sides, digital entrepreneurship and public/social entrepreneurship. Overall, I think that with OSS and higher technical skills amongst everyday people, it’s not new technological solutions that we need, but management styles that focus on the management of HCI instead of a focus on one or the other.

Multimodal IS a Form of Teamwork

This weeks reflection will be a little disjointed because the first half is about my VARK results, which is about how I personally learn, and the second is about the readings I chose, which are about how groups form. I’m sure there’s a Venn Diagram where they overlap, but I can’t reflect on everything so for all you Visual learners out there, here’s how I think they relate in a single image (made on Creately).

I’m a type one multimodal because I was always taught was that if I couldn’t learn something one way then I was to try another, which is why I use a variety of modes, depending on the situation.

I wasn’t always multimodal; I know this because I was in a special education program at school and whenever we had a substitute teacher they’d have us do a learning style test (they always thought they were the first to try this and we let them believe it because we felt kind of sorry they’d been stuck in the basement with us). Anyway, I was uncoordinated, had no sense of direction, and was quite bookish, so I always ended up Read/Write (R), but somewhere in high school I began to ‘take ownership’ (see what I did there?) of my education and developed the following techniques:

1) Whenever I have to go somewhere new I look at a map and then sketch my route on a piece of paper to help me visualize.Then, a few years ago, I took up running and to calculate how far I’d run I’d memorize my route as I ran it and then draw it on Google maps. As my fitness increased and I ran farther and farther, I developed the ability to visualize myself running on a giant Google map.

2) I’m easily distracted (no kidding, this is what it says on my educational assessment), but when I’m moving it keeps that part of my brain occupied so I’m able to focus better.

Note: I would say that I prefer Kinesthetic because I have trouble grasping abstract concepts and I learn something faster if I can relate it to an experience.

3) Back when school was more about regurgitating facts on tests, I used to study by rewriting my notes as many times as it took to learn the material because it forced me to engage with the material. Also, during a test I could picture my notes as I had written them. If I could identify them on, say, the right hand page of my green notebook, in a numbered list, then sometimes I could reread them in my head.

4) My only aural/auditory (A) technique is to discuss material with others because I’m forced to engage and reflect on it out loud and to consider other’s opinions.

Speaking of discussing material with others, we’ve arrived at what I thought of this week’s two teamwork articles.

When I first started reading ‘The Discipline of Teams’ by Jon R. Katzenbach and Douglas K. Smith I thought the opening examples were of leaders and that a correlation was going to be drawn between teams and leadership. Clearly I was already layering my own biases over this article, but I felt justified when I encountered the phrase “Building ownership and commitment to team purpose” (165), which I interpreted as each team member assuming a leadership role by taking personal responsibility for the team’s goal. Katzenbach and Smith wouldn’t agree that a team must be made up of leaders, but in those early, successful examples that’s exactly what I see. It’s also a more positive spin on the ‘Storming’ stage of Rodney C. Vandeveer’s Five Stage Model because this stage is when the team members are sorting out their roles, although Vandeveer seems to see this as a hierarchical fight for the lead position. As you may have guessed I wasn’t impressed with ‘Synergy and Team Cooperation: Understanding the Dynamics of Teams’, but Vandeveer and I got off to a rocky start. I’ve noticed that most of my readings were published in the mid-nineties, but it hasn’t bothered me as we use plenty of current examples of businesses and management styles in class and all of the concepts I’ve encountered are still relevant. However, Vandeveer’s vocabulary uses a lot of buzzwords from late-twentieth century corporate jargon, such as ‘synergy’ and ‘dynamics’ that created the very view of ‘teams’ and ‘teamwork’ that both articles are trying to dispel. I was astonished to discover that ‘Synergy and Team Cooperation’ was published ten years after ‘The Discipline of Teams’.

References

Katzenback, Jon R.; Smith, Douglas K., (1993). The Discipline of Teams. Harvard Business Review. 71 (2), pp.162-171. Discipline Of Teams

Vandeveer, R. C. (2003). Synergy and Team Cooperation: Understanding the Dynamics of Teams. Synergy and Team Cooperation