It happens here: Consumer-centric Innovation in Charlotte and beyond


If innovation were steak…(Part 3) by Frank Blair
November 9, 2009, 1:19 pm
Filed under: Charlotte, community services, innovation | Tags: , ,

If innovation were steak… (Part 3) – by Frank Blair

If innovation were a steak you were ordering at Longhorn’s or Morton’s, how would you place your order?  Just like steak, innovation can be well-done, medium or rare.

Rare?

A rare steak is warm all the way through, but still bright red in the middle.  This is innovation for those who want to try what hasn’t been tried before – the original idea that really has no precedent.  This grade of innovation is truly rare, and does involve risk in the sense that things may not turn out as expected.  Course corrections will have to be made to the project plan along the way in order to account for unforeseen consequences.  You will likely have to create the design or workflow specifications yourself, because the idea has arisen of its own accord, and there are no models elsewhere.

Benjamin Franklin had a knack for this sort of innovation – he invented the concept of a lending library open to the public.  In his time, only the wealthy had any sort of access to large numbers books.  Benjamin Franklin recognized that for a community to be truly creative, everyone had to have access to the resources needed to create new ideas.  In his time, that meant books.

Flash-forward more than two centuries.  Now the resources needed to create new ideas aren’t just books anymore…it’s music, and it’s animation; it’s video and it’s the computer; it’s the Internet and it’s digital books..  All of these serve the same purpose as the quill pen and the printed book did in Benjamin Franklin’s day.  And the library is still the place to go when you want to create new ideas.

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flickr photo credit: gregor bug

At Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, we recognize this by providing space and resources for people to create, not just consume, content.  Whether it is the Studio I animation studio, the “little playwright” desk at the Spangler Library in  ImaginOn, or the upcoming Job Help Center at Main Library, we provide access to the resources needed by teens, children and adults to innovate.

How do you like your steak?

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If innovation were steak… (Part 2) by Frank Blair
November 6, 2009, 12:28 pm
Filed under: Charlotte, community services, innovation, innovation trends | Tags: , ,

If innovation were steak… (Part 2) – by Frank Blair

If innovation were a steak you were ordering at Longhorn’s or Morton’s, how would you place your order?  Just like steak, innovation can be well-done, medium or rare.

Medium?

This steak has not been cooked through yet; it’s still a little bit pink.

If you are interested in this grade of innovation, look for a practice, technique or product that may be new to your industry or profession, but it is common somewhere else.  There may be only one vendor offering the service, or the practice or technique may never have been implemented in your industry before

So, for example, at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, an example of “medium” innovation would the recent introduction of the new ‘enhanced’ catalog we debuted on August 8, 2009.  Our customers had asked us to bring their experience into the 21st century by adding features (like relevancy ranking) that they were used to from other search engines and web portals.  They wanted the ability to create and retain their own book lists, to tag books and movies, and to write reviews and rank the books and movies they are borrowing.  All of these are possible from our enhanced catalog.  You can check it out at: http://catalog.plcmc.org – create a “My Discoveries” account.

Want more medium innovation?  Try benchmarking your products or practices against what occurs in an industry with a completely different business model.  At the library we do this when we compare ourselves to retail outlets and bookstores.

How do you like your steak?  Check back Monday and we’ll take a look at Rare.



If innovation were steak… (Part 1) by Frank Blair

Over the summer, I met Frank Blair, the Director of Research, Innovation, and Strategy at the Public Library of Charlotte Mecklenberg County (PLCMC.)   His background in Linguistics has taken him to many parts of the world, and he’s weaved his experience in IT and Innovation to make the city’s libraries a critical partner in our community.  Frank’s an extremely engaging personality, and this week, he’s a guest on this blog to share a lesson of innovation in 3 parts: Rare, Medium, and Well-done.  Enjoy!

If innovation were steak… (Part 1) – by Frank Blair

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flickr photo: nathanaelb

If innovation were a steak you were ordering at Longhorn’s or Morton’s, how would you place your order?  Just like steak, innovation can be well-done, medium or rare.

Well-done?

This steak has been thoroughly cooked.  Some believe it is the hardest kind of steak to cook, and that it is the steak for people who don’t like steak.  If you are in an environment that doesn’t care for (or is hostile to) innovative practices, techniques and products, then this is for you!  Of course there are people who just like their steak well-done for health reasons, or even just for the taste (go figure).

If you are interested in this grade of innovation, look for a practice, technique or product that is common in your industry or profession, but just hasn’t been implemented in your workspace yet.  There will likely be several vendors to select the product or service from, or perhaps alternative procedures or manuals to choose from.  The innovative thought comes from seeing the possibility of a practice, technique or product in another area or profession and realizing the possibilities inherent in customizing it for your particular niche.

So, for example, at Charlotte Mecklenburg Library, an example of “well-done” innovation would the recent use of on-line whiteboard and chat technology to provide homework assistance to school-age students.  Nothing is new about providing access to resources for homework in our libraries…we’ve been doing it for over a hundred years.  But our environment has changed, and many of our customers, especially students, want to use our resources on-line from home.  We partnered with tutor.com to provide free, online live homework help from 2PM until 10PM on school nights.  If you don’t have a computer or Internet access at home, you can use a computer at the library for the same purpose.  An existing service partnered with an existing library to create an innovative service for our county.  You can learn more about the service from this WBT News story.

Want more well-done innovation?  Try benchmarking your products or practices against others providing a similar service or product.  At the library, we do this when we compare ourselves to other libraries.

How do you like your steak?  Check back on Friday and we’ll take a look at medium.