In this issue:
Harvard Business Publishing • January 27, 2009
Getting back to business. This excerpt from Chris Zook's "Return to Profit from the Core" has lessons for every organization whose mission has evolved to serve multiple constituencies in multiple ways. A tough economy and shrinking resources are forcing us all back to basics, which, as Zook points out, is not necessarily a bad thing.
It's probably true that while you should always focus on your core value proposition, tough economic times can make this even more important, since any waste at all must be cut out of the system. But the danger is that libraries may interpret this to mean sticking with what we've historically seen as our core mission (largely building collections). In reality, it is a brave new world out there and we would do well to refocus our efforts on a core value proposition that takes our new challenges and opportunities into account. This will mean starting with our missions and re-envisioning our "core" and being relentless in refocusing our resources on supporting those aims. ( Tennant)
Social Computing Magazine • February 6, 2009
Baby-step your way to change. Although the focus here is on Web 2.0 technologies, the article provides a useful guide for introducing any type of innovation to the workplace. Suggestions for non-threatening implementation include: starting small, creating a beta group, co-opting early adopters and building on success.
Frankly, I'm a glutton for all those how-to-focus-your-energies articles that boil things down to 5 or 7 or 9 essential steps. I live in hope that, within the 5 or 7 or 9 things, there will be a nugget of a notion that I would otherwise overlook. Chistiakoff's Five Keys is a solid list of how to move people— especially those who are less than enthusiastic about change in general—into new ways of doing things. Having cool tools to hand makes those motivational tasks even easier. ( Elkington)
The Economist • February 13, 2009
The dynamics of collective decision-making. Lessons learned from how bees and ants make decisions can help humans reach consensus and avoid the pitfalls of "groupthink." Sharing information beforehand and recruiting active leaders (champions) to your cause can go a long way toward successful implementation.
In the 1780s, Condorcet applied the principles of probability to group decision-making and concluded that the best outcomes are obtained when the majority rules. Recent studies of complex insect and animal societies suggest that independent judgment and knowledge transfer are essential to securing the greatest good for the greatest number. Continuous information exchange is the regulator in this social economy. The lesson here: think for yourself, but learn from others' choices. ( Malpas)
Change This • February 11, 2009
Telling our story. Peter Drucker famously said, "The purpose of business is to create and keep a customer." And to do that in tough economic times we need a compelling story. Cincom CEO Thomas Nies suggests that, "Companies must choose to write new stories based around how they will create what works best for the customer, and then serve the customer's story as well as their own."
Anyone whose company can last 40 years selling what IBM is giving away probably knows something about Stories, Story-telling, and Story-selling. Thomas Nies certainly does. Whether our tale is a Truth Story (which doesn't have to be literally true to convey a timeless message or a universal truth) or a True Story (which is literally true), or best of all some combination of the two, we're heading into a financial climate where making our narratives mesh with and elevate those of our customers is going to be essential for survival. Unless we can come up with a really killer Bailout Story... ( Massie)
Sloan Management Review • Winter 2009
Banking on success. Actor Will Smith's box-office success is no fluke—when he first came to Hollywood, he and his manager studied the top 10 grossing movies of all times and noted that all ten contained special effects and eight out of ten had special effects and a love story. That knowledge has steered Smith's choices and it shows—his last two moves have had tremendous box office success despite so-so reviews. So, when fewer than a quarter of the almost 300,000 books published in the U.S. in 2004 sold more than 100 copies, how can we use technology to make better predictions about what people actually want to read?
Both recommendation and prediction services require large number of independent participants to succeed—another example of "network effect." Libraries, archives and museums have a mission to provide access to the "long tail," and have no vested interest in creating blockbusters or making existing blockbusters bigger. The authors note that the best recommendation tools balance consumers' sense of individuality with their group identification. Recommendation tools can stretch users' horizons, providing access to the long tail with new and surprising suggestions, balancing the familiar with the unexplored. That strikes me as the niche we can fill. As a type of distributor of cultural products, we would also likely treat recommendation services as an adjunct to our core work. "Saving the time of the Reader" is Ranganathan's fourth law of library science. ( Smith-Yoshimura)