All too often we seek someone else to be innovators and change agents. Vision is the director’s job, or we wait for the keynoters and library prophets to point the direction. In truth innovation is a job for every librarian in every role. Everyone likes to see innovation as some act of grace in the shower where brilliant thoughts pop out of the ether and totally change the world. If this is ever the case, it is very, very rare.
Innovation happens in the every day. In fact every day changes can lead to world changing ones. My favorite example is the creation of the shot clock in basketball.
In 1953 Danny Biasone, owner of the Syracuse Nationals saw a problem with the game. His audiences were getting board, because once one team pulled ahead in a game they simply sat on the ball, not risking shots that could lead to turnovers. It lead to slow, low scoring games. Biasone introduced the concept of a 24 second clock that started after a team passed the center line. WIthin 24 seconds that team had to shoot the ball to either score, or reset the clock. The innovation had the desired effect – games move more quickly.
What Biasone could not have anticipated was that a faster basketball game gained in popularity, and was a perfect fit to the emerging television sports industry. TV stations picked up on basketball, that lead to an even greater audience. While the Syracuse Nationals are no more, their innovation really lead to the NBA, that Forbes magazine pegs as a $3 billion business (http://www.forbes.com/2004/12/08/04nbaland.html).
So instead of thinking of innovators as Steve Jobs, and Albert Einstein, think Danny Biasone. By making every day improvements in what we do, based on what we are doing it for (for the NBA, entertainment, for us knowledge creation) even small innovations can have massive impacts.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead