Innovative Ideas to Watch in 2012

HBR Blog Network • December 21, 2011

Thinking ahead. It's the time of year for lists: check out Michael Schrage's top six trends for 2012, which include the Slacktivism Co-Opt and Gerontabletification, and get up to speed on future marketing opportunities for businesses and organizations.

I've been a fan of Schrage's for quite a long while. Don't know if these neologisms will catch on but the trends they name are real. For Schrage's prescient thoughts about libraries you could check out his comments "Long Overdue: Rethinking the Librarian's Role in a Post-Google World" from the final RLG Annual Meeting in 2005 where he said:

"The thing is, you just don't take real-time responsiveness as seriously as I do. You like to take your time—which means you like to take my time. Patience may be a virtue but sloth is one of the seven deadly sins. I need you to respect my desire for greater speed in response, and I need you to respect my need for more convenience. Is that so wrong? Is that so selfish?

"So, yes, I'm spending more time with Google. It's fast and it's quick in a way that you never are. Do I always get the best answers or pointers I need? No—but they're almost always 'good enough'—and, you know, some times 'good enough' is pretty damn good. Even at MIT—and especially at Harvard."

And lots more like this about the innovation culture in libraries. He also spoke at the OCLC Symposium (streaming video) at 2008 ALA Annual about the Mashed Up Library. ( Michalko)


Infinite Stupidity • December 15, 2011

A little innovation goes a long way. British evolutionary biology professor and Royal Society Fellow Mark Pagel says the advent of cyber-communication has enabled humans to prosper more from imitation than innovation: "And so, humanity might be moving towards becoming more docile, more oriented towards following, copying others, prone to fads, prone to going down blind alleys, because part of our evolutionary history that we could have never anticipated was leading us towards making use of the small number of other innovations that people come with, rather than having to produce them ourselves." Check out the transcript of Pagel's lecture on the evolution of idea-sharing and what it means for our future.

A longer-form interview that will reward attention and speaks directly to the true difficulty of innovation—"That’s one consequence of social learning, that it has sculpted us to be very shrewd and intelligent at copying, but perhaps less shrewd at innovation and creativity than we'd like to think."—and the way in which the Internet and global connectedness might be working against innovation. ( Michalko)


Half an Hour • December 21, 2011

Mind over matter. Among IBM's technology predictions for the next five years is that "mind-reading is no longer science fiction"—a development that could have significant impact on workplace collaboration and social organization (not to mention privacy!). Read on for one blogger's view of the potential ramifications of a "Muser Nation."

Oh, okay. What seems like science fiction today . . . (at least look at the IBM predictions). ( Michalko)

The Muses of Insert, Delete and Execute

The New York Times • December 25, 2011

For your amusement. Read this essay on how the tools of writing have helped shape their output over the centuries. University of Maryland English professor Matthew Kirschenbaum's Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing (set for publication in 2013) discusses the impact of writing technology on the work of early typists like Friedrich Nietzsche and word processing pioneers like Steven King.

For those who will be bewildered by the references to machines long disappeared, e.g., King's Wang, this review article will still be entertaining like discussions about the content of the first e-mail message. ( Michalko)

Best wishes for a productive and peaceful 2012!

You'll note that I resisted pointing to lots of 2011 lists. Here's your tip. Go to and browse their categorized lists of the best books of 2011.

It's become a traditional new year's activity for friends and me to go systematically through the best music lists published by the critics at The New York Times (start here and click on the related links for all four critics picks) and Entertainment Weekly to see how many of the artists, albums and singles we actually recognize. It's always fun to demonstrate our deep ignorance of pop music culture. The names of those bands . . . those artists . . . the album titles . . . almost all a surprise. So for those of you who want to be retroactively hip (albeit from a USA perspective) here's a Spotify playlist we assembled that captures all the singles mentioned by the critics in those two publications. Enjoy. Or not. Happy New Year. ( Michalko)


Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what are three stages in the development of authorities?

Get the answer.