How to Steal Like an Innovator

Innovation Leadership Network • November 2011

Repackaging. Blogger Tim Kastelle says the most gifted innovators share many characteristics with the most creative cover artists. He cites Austin Kleon's article, "How to Steal Like an Artist": "It's often what an artist chooses to leave out that makes the art interesting. What isn't shown vs. what is. In this age of information overload and abundance, those who get ahead will be the folks who figure out what to leave out, so they can concentrate on what's important to them." Read on for more good advice on how to reinvent for success by doing less, not more.

By now we've heard (how many times?) how Steve Jobs stole the mouse from Xerox PARC (and how Microsoft stole the GUI from Apple). An essential component of innovation is adaptation. But in the workplace, just flat out stealing someone else's good ideas—especially those ideas have to do with changing up processes and procedures—is perfectly fine. Go ahead, try it out. You don't need to invent the wheel—someone has probably already done it.

Beware of reading this article—you could be caught up watching the mesmerizing video. And if you were really like me, you would think that an appropriate follow-on would be a mashup of the dance scene from Pulp Fiction where Vincent Vega and Mrs. Mia Wallace tear up the dance floor at Jack Rabbit Slim's, subbing in the real sound track from Bande à Part, the Mar-Keys "Last Night." Or you might wonder what a hybrid of the Madison Dance and the Algorithm March might look like . . . ( Proffitt)


Everything Is a Service

Dachis Group • November 21, 2011

Everyone is a service. In today's service economy, many industries still take a factory-production approach to service (think schools and hospitals), but treating customers as if they're widgets on a conveyor belt ignores the new reality—that in a service-dominant world, "value is co-created by companies and customers working together," says Dachis Group founder Dave Gray. "This kind of exchange requires a relationship, and the product is only an intermediate step in the value-creation process." Read on for examples of companies that have successfully made the transition.

XPLANE founder Dave Gray notes a fundamental shift from products to services in today's economy. A service-centric economy requires businesses to build themselves around their customers, rather than around products and production processes. In particular, businesses must restructure themselves to thrive in an environment where competitive edge is attained by cultivating two-way relationships with customers—that is, listening and responding to their needs, and optimizing their service experience. In these circumstances, physical products become something along the lines of a "service avatar": a physical manifestation of a set of services and experiences. Gray points to the example of a Kindle, which he observes is not simply a device for reading books, but a physical interface between the customer and a set of services Amazon provides. The bottom line for Amazon is not to sell Kindles; it is to optimize and enhance—and thereby increase the demand for—the set of services accessed through the Kindle. This thinking parallels recent trends in libraries, where we have seen a shift away from the primacy of maintaining print collections and infrastructure (i.e., physical products and production processes), and more attention on building services and service experiences around emerging needs and workflows of their users. ( Lavoie)

Why Our Brains Make Us Laugh

Boston Globe • November 20, 2011

Funny business. A new book, Inside Jokes: Using Humor to Reverse-Engineer the Mind, examines how humor helps us make sense of our surroundings by providing a momentary reality check against the brain's tendency toward rapid-fire assumptions. Check out this interview with co-author Matthew Hurley for more on the power of using humor to get your message across.

Much like "Why do we dream?" the question of why humans need humor is a fascinating one. The answer put forth by the authors of this book is as good as any I've seen: humor is the brain's way of rewarding itself for finding and correcting the half-baked assumptions we all make as we careen through a typical day, which (the authors posit) is actually an essential survival technique. Throughout the article's interview, first author Matthew Hurley laments that academic study of the role humor plays in the human organism has never really been—wait for it—taken seriously by other scholars. Ba-dum-pa. There's just something about the origins of laughter that defies close analysis. ( Massie)

How Libraries Are About More Than Books

Huffington Post • November 30, 2011

Who you gonna call? Over the last 10 years, libraries have morphed into all-purpose community centers, offering access to public wifi, technology coaching, homework help, language lessons, music practice rooms and more. Read on for a reaffirmation of bricks-and-mortar libraries' central role in the communities they serve.

This third installment in the HuffPost's series "Libraries in Crisis" highlights what libraries offer their communities beyond books. This is a laudable goal, as our 2005 report, Perceptions of Libraries and Information Resources , determined that the library "brand" is strongly bound to books. Although no librarian will find this article surprising, it is no small thing that an online publication as widely read as the HuffPost is helping to expand our brand beyond books. ( Tennant)

Why Might a Publisher Pull Its E-Books from Libraries? • November 22, 2011

Penguin pique. Penguin's decision to pull its e-books from libraries raises questions about publishers' search for a viable e-book business model in the face of perceived threats posed by Amazon, OverDrive and people with library cards. Check out Laura Hazard Owen's assessment of this latest wrinkle in e-book lending.

Hazard Owen points to increasing demand for e-books in libraries as a potential threat to traditional publishing business models. But the dramatic growth in library e-book licensing (and lending) is the symptom, not the cause, of Penguin's problem. Penguin's lurching retreat from the library e-book marketplace is an adaptive—if clumsy—response to changes disrupting the entire publishing ecosystem, and should be considered alongside the company's tentative ventures into e-book amplification. Both are nice illustrations of what economists call the "penguin effect" ( Farrell & Saloner, 1986), i.e., individual (or organizational) hesitation to seize an opportunity for of fear of predation. The more interesting story here is how Amazon has inserted its powerful discovery and fulfillment services directly into the library environment, blurring the line between the buying and borrowing. As Peter Brantley points out in a recent PW post, the library audience is a potential growth market for individual book sales. This is less paradoxical than it seems: as e-book models continue to evolve to support increasing personalization (annotation, re-bundling of content), the incentives to acquire a personal copy are likely to increase rather than decrease. The question for Penguin and other publishers is whether they will seize this opportunity—or go adrift on shrinking floes. ( Malpas)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, the Digital Visitors and Residents project has been exploring students' and scholars' information-seeking and learning strategies in order to map what?

Get the answer.