The Challenges of Sustainable Innovation

Andrew Hargadon • March 15, 2012

One-size-does-not-fit-all. Entrepreneurship expert Andrew Hargadon provides insight into the significant differences between innovation in large and small companies, and in so-called brownfield and greenfield markets. The publishing industry appears to fit many of the characteristics ascribed to brownfield markets: "mature markets, whose scale and dependency on outmoded practices have proven unsustainable . . . " Read on to understand why sustainable innovation is particularly difficult under these circumstances.

It's good to have acknowledgment of the need for differentiation in our thinking and talking about innovation. The successful practices of innovation’s poster children can't just be pulled forward into other environments. I like the phrase "brownfield" markets (contrast the original use in an environmental context) as a descriptor of the challenge libraries face in re-inventing themselves. In the case of academic libraries the challenge is overlaid as the academy itself is increasingly a brownfield. ( Michalko)

Dark Innovation

Ubiquity/ACM • March 2012

Focus on the downside. This interview with technology and social networking analyst Jerry Michalski illuminates the phenomenon of "dark innovation"—new ways of doing things that negatively impact many people, including innovation in weaponry, end-of-life-prolonging medicine and yes, "over-extended copyright law." Check out Michalski's observations on the linkage between innovation and politics, between hubris and unintended consequences, and the need for more sunlight to dispel the darkness.

This is a very intriguing concept that represents a counterweight to the constant tug of innovation enthusiasts (that guilt-producing pundit aristocracy). I'm delighted that Michalkski cites Russell Ackoff as his biggest influence. As an employee at the University of Pennsylvania I was lucky enough to sit in on some of his Social Systems Science lectures. He's still worth reading and this elegy to the "Einstein of problem solving" says why. ( Michalko)

The Difference Between Popularity and Influence Online • March 24, 2012

Settling the score. "Influence is not popularity and popularity is not influence." With so many branding startups clamoring for our attention, enterprise strategist and author Brian Solis reminds us that there's more to influence than algorithms. Influence derives from "the elements that earn someone stature within their community," says Solis, and understanding those dynamics is essential to an effective marketing campaign.

Here's another good distinction that needs to be made more often. It does seem to me that a lot of firms set out only to have a social presence without having metrics. I'm not one to parse this argument further. I've never "checked-in," I don't follow or have followers and I have ignored my Facebook profile without feeling guilty. ( Michalko)

The End of Pax Papyra and the Fall of Big Paper

Forbes • March 13, 2012

Paper cut. Author Venkatesh Rao traces the historical significance of paper as a unifying influence on information culture and compares the demise of Big Paper to the fall of Rome, spawning "a bunch of squabbling smaller kingdoms, vying for a piece of the declining empire." Read on for more on life in a post-paper world.

The author offers a number of conclusions about the end of the paper model. For me the "end of canonicity in cultural life" is the really big one. That's the one that eliminates a pillar of being for the academic library. Collecting and stewarding the scholarly record is now a very uncertain and, perhaps, undoable task. ( Michalko)

A Fun DIY Science Goodie: Proof Yourself Against Sensationalized Stats

Scientific American • March 18, 2012

Statistically speaking. Author and TED veteran Garth Sundem offers a quickie refresher course on probability and statistics. This primer is a must-read in a time when politicians and pundits play fast and loose with numbers to make their point.

I love this kind of thing although I'm no longer as fascinated with puzzles as in the past. I remember a statistics professor in grad school telling an anecdote about a consulting job for the US Army. They were trying to decide whether it was worth providing every soldier with a mega-dose of vitamin C every day. They did a very large controlled study to see if that was correlated with sick time, etc. They established their significance test as 5% confidence interval which the analysis failed. It was well within a 10% confidence interval and would have saved a huge amount of money. Apparently he told this anecdote to every new class of his all the while brandishing a bottle of mega Vitamin C that he had in his classroom desk drawer. ( Michalko)

The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time

HBR Blog Network • March 14, 2012

Find the off switch. Most of us already know this, but it's worth repeating: multitasking lowers productivity. Check out Energy Project CEO Tony Schwartz's tips on how and when to tune in and tune out.

To take all this advice would really demand discipline. I think I'll start with one thing. Maybe the suggestion about meeting times and a ban on digital devices during them. Personally, I try to "Swallow the frog first thing" but don't always manage it. This is a phrase claimed to have originated with Mark Twain in Huckleberry Finn but my search through the full texts available doesn't find anything similar. If it wasn't him it must have been Yogi Berra ;) ( Michalko)

Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what service virtually combines multiple name authority files into a single name authority service.

Get the answer.