Research Publications Newsletters Above the Fold Above the Fold - 1 July 2014


The Disruption Machine

The New Yorker • 23 June 2014

Disrupting (and disturbing) the Disruptor. One of our favorite long-form authors, Jill Lepore, takes on one of our favorite business school professors, Clay Christensen. She beats up on his seminal text, The Innovator's Dilemma, in this New Yorker piece for a range of scholarly miscues—handpicking examples, ignoring contrary data, etc. Read to find out why she concludes "Disruptive innovation is a theory about why businesses fail. It's not more than that. It doesn't explain change. It's not a law of nature."

Wow. This is turning into a bigger dust-up than I imagine either of them would like. Their Harvard colleagues are weighing in—see David Weinberger's reaction. And Silicon Valley (at least the ValleyWag types) is going after Prof. Christensen ("The Guy Who Coined 'Disruption' Is a Total Jackass") with some good reason as he wasn't very nice in this Business Week interview rebuttal. Was he, Jill?


Of course, it is such a badly-abused concept (see this re: Taco Bell's resident disruptor for instance) that you might expect some piling on. (Michalko)



The Secret that Victoria Didn't Know

Innovation Labs • 24 May 2014

This is an article about an attempt to move into an adjacent market—a classic growth strategy. In this case, it's Victoria's Secret moving into athletic wear and casual fashion only to miss badly. Read it as a story from which we can extrapolate as libraries try to extend their service portfolio to new, arguably adjacent areas.

I love the line, "We bought a lot of sports bras" meaning they moved into the market and didn't sell much. The admonition to ensure you have credibility with the consumers in the adjacent market is really apt for libraries. If you aren't the place folks consider a destination for data management, if you can't create a series of small successes that make you a credible player, you will be saying "We bought a lot of servers." You might want to read the Bloomberg article that triggered the recommended blog post—The Victoria's Secret Sports Bra Glut—Businessweek. (Michalko)



Is Math Liberal?

Mother Jones • 20 June 2014

What's the best logical armor? Math. That's the answer if you believe the reviewers of Jordan Ellenberg's new book How Not to Be Wrong: The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life. The reviewers make a good case that mathematics is as much about the form of nuanced thinking as it is about the mechanics. Read this long-form review to get a sense of how that form of thinking might be relevant to your political attitudes, your tolerance for uncertainty, and the models you use for problem solving.

This is another RILR (review in lieu of reading) for you. I like the examples (see more in this other slightly shorter review—"Logical armour: A primer in mathematical self-defence") and given that the review is published in Mother Jones tolerant of their desire to bend this towards political beliefs. Support a mathematician who quotes John Ashbery. Soonest Mended. (Michalko)



Avoiding Stupidity is Easier than Seeking Brilliance

Farnum Street • 11 June 2014

A nice little essay that echoes some of the above recommended review of How Not To Be Wrong about mathematical thinking. In this case the author's advice, peppered with a variety of examples from sport and finance, is to avoid stupidity.

I was particularly taken because the opening example is about the difference between professional and amateur tennis. The pros win points; amateurs lose points. As I've only just begun trying to learn the sport this resonates. For a fascinating, illuminating trip into the pro difference read this wonderful David Foster Wallace piece from Esquire String Theory. (Michalko)



Secrets of the Stacks • 14 May 2014

Who knows the secrets of the stacks? Apparently Phyllis Rose who reveals what she knows in this excerpt from her book, THE SHELF: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading. It's a long excerpt from a book length paean to libraries and reading. She's clearly an intelligent friend of libraries. And in this case you may enjoy reading a sensible enthusiast's take on weeding collections.

You may also know everything that's revealed here. Despite working alongside the people who have provided the evidence and then shaped the discussion, direction and future of library print management I had never heard of CREW (Continuous Review Evaluation and Weeding) or the acronym MUSTIE (explicated in the article—my favorite criteria is Ugly). All things considered it's a pretty even-handed overview of weeding. Her advice to check out your favorite volumes regularly to ensue they are never relegated is, of course, naïve as well as charming. (Michalko)



Above the Fold Quiz

According to an item in this week's News and Views section, what are the top 10 ships represented in library collections?

Get the answer.