New Eyes

While I was doing some research for an article I’m writing, I came across this popular quote by Marcel Proust:

The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.

We talk about seeing with “fresh eyes” or “new eyes.” But how can we do that when we have been in the same field or location for some time? How can we freshen our perspectives?

Here are 4 ideas to get you started:

1. Walk through the front door of your building (not the employee entrance) at least once a week or so. This will let you know what your user/ customers / patrons are seeing when they first step into the building.
2. If your location offers services to children, you need to see things from a kids-eye-view! Don’t hesitate to lean down the height of a child every once in a while. You may see that all of those fun posters or the great book displays you’ve made are too high for a child to even see them.
3. Create a “makeshift reference desk” out of a table and a laptop. Situate yourself right in the middle of a study area or near the front door. Make a simple sign that says something like “Ask me for help” and tape it to the upturned top of your laptop.
4. If you have a couple of digital cameras or a flip video cam, ask a few of your users or new employees to snap images of 5-10 of the most interesting aspects of your location. How can you maximize those aspects (or what they represent)?

So, what are some other ways we can see with new eyes? How do you keep yourself awake, alive and refreshed each day?How about your users? So share.

Note: Marcel Proust is quite a quotable author. Other than that, I’m perfectly OK if you just use copies of his books as bookends.

Creating Crystal-Clear Boxes

After reading Dan Heath & Chip Heath’s arcticle Get Back in the Box– How constraints can free your team’s thinking in Fast Company, I’ve been pondering how important (and simply helpful) it is to have something real to hang our imaginations on when creating a new space, product or service. Many writing classes remind students to engage sense imagery in order to involve readers and create a connection between the story and the reader who only knows what is revealed one sentence at a time. In the same way, a common ground of images and references gives designers, project managers and staff some grounding as they venture into new territory. The idea of “thinking outside of the box” cannot be productive if it means operating in a vacuum. We take our experiences, senses, individual tastes and connections with us into every situation–every project. The article suggests that a project requiring innovation while still providing some constraints as “a crystal-clear box.” Goodbye to blank slate approaches. The phrase “crystal-clear box” alone conjures an idea of structure without visual constraint. I see the “crystal-clear box” being constructed by strong, clarifying direction that allows designers and project staff the ability to project new ideas and daring thoughts onto project without missing the mark. The next time we’re asked to create an “innovative program” or to be “forward thinking” or to “be change agents” lets ask for a semblance of a “crystal-clear box” first. And let’s also be mindful to offer up those same crystal-clear boxes to help clarify what we’re asking for.

Fun Find Du Jour

What is not remarkable about this everyday item with some sizz. A mini-stapler with neon staples!
And get this–it even has a magnetic bottom, so it can stick to the side of your filing cabinet (or soda can, I suppose). I didn’t need a stapler, but I bought it anyway…now that’s enticement.

Ordinary can become extraordinary.

A Must-Read for A New-Breed

Are you tired of working harder and getting no feedback to help move you forward? Are you over the ladder-climbing mentality that was set by your predecessor? Ready to give your boomer-boss the bump? Then here is your holy grail. Penelope Trunk lays it on out in a fashion that few “personal success” books do in The Brazen Careerist: The New Rules For Success. It does not get any clearer than this. It’s the book that reads like a blog–and could likely have as much impact! Trunk reminds us that it IS about YOU and YOU do have the right to be successful and YOU can make positive waves while at the same time actually having a life that has meaning to YOU while contributing to the success of your company or organization. This is the book for a new breed of leaders and trail blazers.
Get this book. Read it. Just imagine that it is hardback laptop.

Quote to get you jumping:
“”…when you’re starting a trend, often you look less like a trendsetter and more like a freak.”
Ahhhh, she had me at freak.

Are you a diagrammer?

How does sentence diagramming and looking into the future of vital libraries and civic organizations connect? Before you read what Kitty Florey says below from her book Sister Bernadette’s Barking Dog (all about the flooky practice and history of sentence diagramming and how it affects–or not–our lives today) think about this: Writer’s write. Leaders lead. Visionaries envision.
And diagrammers draw diagrams.
Which of these do you aspire to be? Which is active? Diagramming (analyzing or dissecting) a practice or an organization or a job doesn’t create any energy or vitality in it. It simply dissects it. The spirit is in the doing. Innovation is doing. Consulting, studying, dissecting is, well, consulting , studying and dissecting.
Reading Florey’s book reminds me that dissecting takes away the fluid nature–the very spirit–of language, just like peeling apart the layers of a practice to “make it more innovative” stalls out innovation all together. You can’t create a diagram for innovation. The Ren Gen knows this. Real innovators know this. Diagrammers haven’t caught on to this just yet. Are you diagramming your work, your practices too much? If so, consider being the innovation you’re seeking out instead.

“Among the people I’ve talked to about it, the consensus seems to be that learinng diagramming may have helped us to understand the functions of words, to think more logically about language, and maybe event to write more correclty. But it didn’t help us write well.”

Analyzing doesn’t help us innovate. Doing does.

Design, Form, Function, Story

What does the creator of the design savvy $100 laptop have to think about his approach to product creation? “I’m a futurist…in the sense that I integrate new technologies into areas where they haven’t been integrated before,” Yves Behar says in an article in the current issue of Men’s Vogue. This sends shivers up my spine! Isn’t this what the 2.0 Librarian works to support everyday? Another shizz-shivering moment–when I looked up his design studio’s web site and saw that the major tag line (and link to get into the site) is “Design Brings Stories To Life.” The gist of the mission of ImaginOn–one of my own design, and planning projects is –get this–“to bring stories to life.” Shiver with me, folks. Design, form, function, service, awareness, community identity…you name it…it’s all connected. All the cloud colors mix to create the horizon. Design is dreaming in action, in reality. Life and libraries…excellent things! Note to self: Add Yves Behar to contemporary visionary heroes list.

Real Pencils, Revisited

It’s time for an update on the pencil thing! Way back in February when I voiced my first big phat “why?” about golf pencils and their use in public libraries, we’ve had some shift. I ordered personalized pencils–REAL pencils for PLCMC…enough to replace all the golf pencils that float around (and then into the trash cans) the library system.
I’m going to make like a golf pencil and keep this short–sleek black pencils replaced the short stubby ones this summer thoughout the Charlotte region. And we’re hoping they were used and then walked out the door. They are printed with 3 messages:
“Where’s The Point: At Your Public Library”
“Want To Know Something: Go To Your Public Library”
“Reading 20 Minutes A Day Can Change Your Child’s Life”

Please feel free to steal these messages…and pass them around…on real pencils or in any fashion that is handy!
Oh, and this has gone a bit viral since my first rant, but just in case you haven’t seen it, someone else decided to question the short pencil…check out the Short Pencil Saga.

When the Bandwagon Feels Empty

The bandwagon seems really full sometimes. Everyone is jumping on with the new catch of the day or with the most “innovative” ways to do things. And I am (usually) right there cheering it on. When I feel it. I’ve felt it a lot lately. But in the past few days, I find myself feeling like the bandwagon seems a little empty (even when it’s overflowing). The bandwagon makes much noise. Much hoopla. Maybe too much?
When the bandwagon begins to feel like the status quo mobile, it’s probably time to jump off. Or at least move out of its way (lest you be told you’re raining on the parade). What’s a little rain, though, if the bandwagon is strong enough to withstand it.
Let it rain.

Innovating innovation–and when to let go

First, innovation may likely not just come from a good idea you had on your drive into work. It may involve part of that thought that gets plugged into a need you encounter later on that day. A conversation ensues and before you know it you have written up a proposal and you’ve got an innovative little project on your hands. Let’s say you’ve defined what success looks like (always do this–have many examples) and things are humming along well for a while. Everybody’s getting their needs met. Then something changes…something isn’t working the same. Users aren’t expressing interest, some staff have lost drive for it…what do you do? How do you let something that meant so much and likely provided so much meaning, impact, use at one time drift away? Well, sometimes you have to do just that. Even with innovation we must know when to say yes and when to say no; when to hang on and when to let go.
How do we learn to let go of what is not working. What was innovative at one time–will it always be…we must keep our fingers on the pulse, knowing that unless we can let go we’ll likely cause another kind of brickwall effect.

Innovation–The Hard Way

I’ve been thinking much about the idea of INNOVATION lately. You hear it used so much. It gets thrown around in board rooms and program rooms, on product packages and TV shows. But how do we get to innovation? Two thoughts have come to me about how we often get there. You could call it innovation-by-demand, or innovation-by-command…what I’m thinking about is the idea that often innovation happens either when we hit the proverbial brick wall and have no other option than to innovate, try “something new,” go in a different direction. Or innovation happens in the “back room.” This is when one or more individuals get together from one or more organizations or agencies and dream up an idea that is just–well, dreamy. To them. And then the worker bees (and perhaps a grant administrator) are pulled out to do the work. Reports are written, justifications are given…and we all live happily ever after. Right? But neither of these is true innovation. These are about handshakes or hardships. Neither of these modes allow an organization to be poised for innovation. These modes of “innovating” (which I believe happen more often than we’d care to admit) cheat us from the opportunities to create needs-based, natural innovative programs and services because we’re too busy jumping through the hoops of our dreamed-up innovative(well, really, “unnovative”) ideas. What would happen if we just let things happen naturally? Trees might grow, real relationships might emerge, brick walls might begin to crumble.