Friday, 21 February 2014

Encouraging Innovation

This blog post stems from this week's SLATalk, as I wanted to follow through on a couple of ideas mentioned in a way that wouldn't fit into a 140 character Tweet! A Storify of the full discussion can be found here.

One of the questions in the chat focused on ways that managers can encourage innovation amongst their staff. Although I'm not a manager myself this is something I've given some thought to in the past. Below I've brainstormed a few ideas that I've been thinking about. Most of these I've found on Twitter or through my professional reading but I've also seen them mentioned at various conferences and events:

Encourage feedback - don't underestimate the importance of this. Asking people about events or courses they have attended will encourage learning and pride in accomplishments. It could be formal, such as a report or a presentation, or informal such as a few words in a department meeting. This encourages staff to actually reflect on what they've been doing and to share it with their colleagues which can lead to new ideas. It also helps to develop presentation and writing skills.

Comments from users - this is also feedback, even if it's not presented that way. It can be positive or negative but it can highlight issues from a user perspective. To the librarian it might seem that certain processes work but your users might be telling a different story. Take the problem on board and then open the floor up to suggestions. See complaints as a challenge and try to solve them as a team.

Learning boxes - these can be either real or virtual. The idea is that staff post about learning experiences they've had during the week and then meet to discuss them. This can be done anonymously which encourages people who might not normally contribute to these discussions. Don't give yourself a narrow definition of learning experiences either. It's not just about courses and conferences but the little things that happen during the course of day to day duties such as dealing with a customer complaint. Practice the three whats - what, so what and now what? Share what you learnt from the experience as this can help others in a similar situation and they can advise you as well.

Innovation/CPD hours - something I first came across mentioned on Twitter (itself a good source of ideas for innovation). I know that time is limited in a lot of jobs but if you can spare a hour a week then you can encourage your staff to undertake some CPD or use the time to come up with ideas to solve a problem. This is something that companies like Apple and Google do quite frequently. One of the most common complaints I hear from people is that they don't have time to do any CPD. Giving people an hour a week of work time, maybe on a Friday afternoon when most people are at less than full productivity, can help to overcome this. They can use this time to work on a development activity of their choice; taking a MOOC, reading blogs, taking a webinar. The crucial thing is that they keep some sort of record of what they've done. This approach does require trusting your staff not to waste their time and I appreciate that it wouldn't fit in every organisational culture but it's worth thinking about.

I'm sure there are many more ideas out there, feel free to share any tips in the comments below. This is just my small contribution to encouraging innovation.

photo credit: nhuisman via photopin cc

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