Monday, April 02, 2007

Technology Innovation in Academic Libraries Panel Presentation Epilogue

On March 31st, I participated in a panel session at the 13th National ACRL Conference in Baltimore entitled "Technology Innovation in Academic Libraries: Rocking the Boat or Unfurling the Sails?" The handouts and presentations are available. It was great (finally) meeting and working with Nancy Davenport, Jim Robertson, and Mary Mallery.

Since I had only eight minutes to present concepts (I could have taken an hour), there were some concepts I had to gloss over and additional observations I was unable to make. A search of the tag innovation on my blog will reveal past postings on the concepts I presented.

During my discussion of Clayton Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma I provided examples of other industries in which listening to one's customers led the market leader to miss the mark on the next disruptive technology. I have many more:

- Large photocopy centers were once the core of Xerox's customer base. These customers had no use small, slower tabletop copiers. By continuing to support the needs of the copycenters Canon was able to establish and lead the small copier market.

- IBM was the dominate company in the mainframe market. Their large commercial, government, and industrial customers saw no use for the emerging minicomputer. This allowed the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) to emerge as the dominant minicomputer manufacturer with it's PDP and VAX architectures.

- As the PC market emerged, DEC was caught spending resources to keep a foothold in the minicomputer market by building their own flavor of UNIX. DEC's response was the desktop machines which still used the proprietary PDP architecture and did not build an IBM compatible machine for several years. What remained of the company was eventually sold to Compaq.

- Apple was an early leading personal computing and set the standard for user-friendly interfaces, releasing the
Apple II in 1976 (The original Apple was a kit). Apple did not release their Macintosh Portable until 1989, five years after IBM released it's first portable.

In my rush to give my fellow panelists their time I also failed to deliver my closing comments:

"In closing, libraries need to take a lesson from the train industry, who met their demise because they thought they were in the business of trains, not transportation. Librarians can no longer afford to view themselves as being in the business of libraries; we are in the information business. As such, our organizations need to create innovative products, services, process, management styles, and organizational structures in order to remain relevant."

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