5

Where Do New Ideas Come From?

Last night I chatted with local entrepreneur/designer/marketer Brian Swichkow. This came about because he posted a “secret code” to Twitter and I got a free beer out of the deal. Our conversation ranged from ebooks and iPads to sociology and organizational culture. He had a very different perspective than someone who works in libraries or academia, and it was refreshing. It made me start thinking in a different way.

There needs to be more original thinking in libraries, not simply rehashing the same things over and over. To do this we need to be able to see the library with fresh eyes and also start using our imagination and branching out from just the  library world. How can we do this?

  • Read and have conversations outside the profession – I subscribe to marketing blogs, science blogs, social media blogs in addition to just library stuff. Often, some of the best ideas are just stolen from somewhere else where it is commonplace.
  • Imagine alternate possibilities – In my conversation with Brian, he mentioned sometimes he lets his mind wander, thinking about things like why cars have four wheels and could it be any different or better. Imagination is sorely needed in libraries. Simply thinking of different ways in which libraries could work is useful. ┬áLibraries could be inside out, with our collections and people on the outside. That’s probably a terrible idea, but maybe there is something useful there. Imagination is the breeding ground for great ideas.
  • Ask why – Kate Sheehan wrote a good post about asking why as a tool for change. Questioning why things are done a certain way can tell you a lot and sometimes make you reevaluate what you’re doing. Why do we have anILS? Why do we provide reference? Why do students come to the library? Why do we have weekly meetings? “Why” is a great place to start.
  • Look to examples on the cutting edge – Aaron Schmidt mentions some Scandinavian libraries who are placing significant emphasis on creating and connecting as opposed to content. They are getting budget increases to do this. They likely are doing something right. Examples of original thinking can inspire you to come up with your own ideas.

There are plenty of good ideas out there but perhaps they are just in different professions, or not quite gelled, or the right questions haven’t yet been asked.

Andy Burkhardt

5 Comments

  1. Andy, a great post! I’d add “non-traditional thinking spaces” to the list. The shower, the car, the walk in the woods or around the block are all places that take people out of their normal thinking spots and give your brains a different perspective. Some of the ideas I have for my library happen in these spaces and not at my desk; the same can be said for some of my blog posts.

  2. Andy, a great post! I’d add “non-traditional thinking spaces” to the list. The shower, the car, the walk in the woods or around the block are all places that take people out of their normal thinking spots and give your brains a different perspective. Some of the ideas I have for my library happen in these spaces and not at my desk; the same can be said for some of my blog posts.

  3. There is a fair amount of literature you’ll find in the fields of innovation and creativity that point to the importance of reading/learning outside your profession – and getting some time when you are not really thinking about anything else related to work, etc. It could be in the shower (maybe in the car Andy W. but I try not to let my mind drift off too much :-)) – but for me it is often when I am biking to work in the morning and i’m on a stretch of road (I happen to ride down a fairly busy thoroughfare) when I can relax my mind a bit. Experts are also suggesting it’s a good idea to step away from technology if you want to allow some creativity to flow (see http://bit.ly/6wPsld ). The act of writing itself can also be a good way to come up with new ideas as you start out in one place but as you get to really thinking about the issues – you may find yourself crossing over into some whole new territory. Thanks for sharing what you learned with Brian.

  4. Good addition Andy. I was just talking with a faculty member about this today. Our environments really do affect our thinking. We can be a lot more creative when we go somewhere else. For our past two library retreats we leave the library and go to Shelburne Farms, which is an expansive farm/restaurant/inn that is out in the middle of nature right on Lake Champlain. Those have been some of the most creative and productive meetings that I’ve ever participated in.

  5. I definitely agree that stepping away from technology is important. I know that it can break up my concentration. I think much differently when I’m sitting at a computer than when I’m sitting on a park bench (with no iPad or mobile device out). I also agree about writing. That is one of the reasons I have this blog. I try to make some sense of the inchoate ideas that are floating around in my head. Writing makes ideas more concrete and gives you the opportunity to evaluate them.

    As for taking time not related to work or what your doing, I find that point very interesting. In one of our information literacy sessions here at Champlain, we talk about just that. That research is not just finding a bunch of sources and throwing them all together as you go. It’s necessary to take time to evaluate sources and reflect on how they connect and fit together into a coherent whole. Reflection is an integral part of the research process.

Leave a Reply