7 Association of Research Libraries Research Library Issues 292 2017 Give up the white papers and three-year plans Instead, facilitate open-ended brainstorming discussions, where the absurd to the sublime are encouraged. Be intentional about bringing people from differing backgrounds and expertise into these discussions. Establish an expectation that they are to participate. Diversity of ideas challenges the canon. Innovation cannot happen within the canon. At no point should budget considerations or other resource restrictions be allowed into the conversation. Nothing kills the innovative spirit like the budget officer saying, “How are we going to pay for that?” This approach has its detractors however. Some feel that without parameters innovation ideas can lose context. For me, however, it’s not that resource parameters are unimportant, but that the sequencing can occur much later in the process, after the compelling idea emerges. Similarly, the positional white paper scenario leads to wordsmithing and delays and stifles movement forward. Worse yet is the three-year planning document. Innovation happens quickly and unexpectedly. Change becomes the norm and adaptability defines the process, and over time becomes normative for the culture. Three-year plans, like white papers, lead to over-editing and unnecessary critique of the writing, and the ideas themselves become subordinate. Innovation does not follow a script. If documentation is required, try a one-pager outlining the idea and possible benefits. Make it something like an elevator talk: intelligible, concise, and compelling. As to the three-year plan and the white paper, they may work in some organizations, but by their nature they scream “safe, predictable, and ordinary.” However, as adaptions are needed from well-laid plans, the door opens for innovation, so there can be a silver lining as long as the plan undergoes continuous assessment.
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