Monday, April 30, 2007

Can Change Occur Despite the Unchangeable Library Administrator?

In his recent rant about changing the unchangeable, David Lee King posted some very important observations and asked for ideas to convince administrators that constant change and innovation is good, and that it’s also a necessity in our new millennial world.

Technology (still!) is a world of mystery for many administrators. Technology happens. The challenge is that if the library administrators do not make technology a critical part of the library's vision it will continue to be an after thought. Any change involving or resulting from technology will continue to be a struggle.

It some ways it is understandable. Given fiscal and administrative functions and responsibilities make it nearly impossible for administrators them to keep up with technology. As an IT professional even I am even challenged to keep pace. Expecting administrators without a technological aptitude to carve out time to understand technology is simply not realistic.

Maybe we need to focus instead on convincing administrators that technology leaders need to be a part of the strategic planning and decision making processes. Make them a part of the senior leadership team. This way the administration is constantly exposed to technology talk and some assimilation could occur. However, getting new individuals added to the leadership team could be as difficult as convincing adminstrators themselves. Being a part of a team also does not assure support for ideas, but at least it opens up new communication opportunities.

In the classic Diffusion of Innovations, Everett M. Rogers states that adopters of any new innovation or idea could be categorized as innovators (2.5%), early adopters (13.5%), early majority (34%), late majority (34%) and laggards (16%). Each adopter's willingness and ability to adopt an innovation would depend on their awareness, interest, evaluation, trial, and adoption.

While Rogers' research focused more on market driven products, I feel this categorization and breakdown also describes how change and innovation is accepted within a library organization. Based on the categorization the innovators, early adopters, and even the early majority are likely to have their own motivations to change. Half of the library organization (the late majority and laggards) is likely to demonstrate some sort of resistance to change. The problem occurs when the administrators are among this group.

To be a change agent one needs to work on the unmotivated people first and get them involve in the change process as early as possible. Through exposure they gain knowledge and understanding and are more likely to form of a favorable attitude that allows the change to move forward. Once this group becomes committed to the change the easily motivated will simply fall into place.

There has been many threads over the last year regarding the concept of Learning 2.0 . I wonder. If we are able to educate the staff on technology and related changes would administrators be exposed to technology and change in most daily discussions? Would even more assimilation occur? Could a library organization learn to embrace and adapt to change despite the administrators? Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Talk, Talk, Elevator Talk

In preparing of an upcoming conference presntation on technology trends I stumbled across K.G. Schneider's post about the Ontario Library Association Superconference where she described a conversation regarding "elevator talks."

In essense, an elevator talk is a non-technical summary of a technology that can be expressed in an "elevator interval," or the time that an elevator to move between several floors; about 30-45 seconds. It has been said that the best way to demonstrate that you understand something is to try and teach it to someone else, particularly someone that does not understand the subject.

Or, as Thomas Dowling remarked to Ms. Schneider's post, an elevator talk "is also a great way to clarify your own thoughts about exactly why something that we intuit as "cool" will matter to a non-geek - if at all."

Give it a try. It is easier said then done. Sphere: Related Content

Friday, April 20, 2007

Student Use of Technology During Virginia Tech Tragedy

As the Virginia Tech tragedy unfolded students used a familiar the technology to keep connected with the events, friends, and families: Facebook.

Using laptops and wireless connections, students created new Facebook groups on the fly as the day unfolded. Thousands of people joined a group called “I’m ok at VT,” which was used by students to announce that they were safe, ask for details about friends unaccounted for, and to report the names of victims. Other groups such as "VT Unite" were also created and thousands of people world wide not associated with VT joined them.

The use of this social networking site to publish and discover information and report personal experiences was a natural since it is what today's students use to gather online. Facebook provided immediate and quickly-updated information.

As I watched the quality of the footage released much it was obviously generated by camera phones. In my Technology Trends for 2007 post I described the emergence of a concept called Mobcasting, a phenomenon where event observers capture events on their video phones and podcast the footage on a blog. I described how the the resulting aggregation of content will lead to live event coverage by bloggers that is more in depth than can be captured by mainstream media. This tragedy demonstrated of power and potential of this concept.

Unfortunately, there was dubious information also being created. There has already been media debate about the accuracy of the information that was contained on these sites. Of course, traditional media outlets have processes they use to vet information before it is released. While this verification of information takes time it is not flawless (Dan Rather, Jayson Blair). The trade off is that is one wants to have information faster it may not be as dependable or reliable.

Still, I think there's a great potential for the ability to connect individuals that are there on-the-ground during events as they unfold and using blogs, RSS feeds, and Facebook as tool for publishing their personal experiences. While some can argue the result may not be as accurate as mainstream media, the coverage is significantly more complete. Sphere: Related Content

Monday, April 16, 2007

Five Characteristics Of A Functional Team

In an attempt to figure out how libraries can become more innovative much or my reading and postings of late have focused on the characteristics of innovative organizations. I have come across several works detailing the characteristics of unhealthy and dysfunctional organizations as a way to uncover those traits we do want.

To this end, I recently had the chance to read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable by Patrick Lencioni. Now, I have the tendency to avoid non-fiction works that have titles with numbers in them since they are generally of the self help variety. So, I read it against my better judgement. I skipped over the fictional leadership story at first and went right to page 187 to get the message:

"building an innovative organization is possible, but very difficult since human behavior tendencies corrupt and breed dysfunctional politics within them. "

If you scan your environment you may find one or all of five following characteristics of a functional team at work:

- Focus on the achievement of collective results. In a functional team the team results are the most important goals. Successful leaders will focus on the results and make them clear for all to see, rewarding only the behaviors that contribute to the team and correcting those that don't. There will be problems when individual needs (ego, career development, or recognition) are put above the collective team goals. When team members focus on individual needs there is often a failure to:

- Hold one another accountable for delivering those plans of action. Team members that are close to one another will also hesitate to make them accountable since they do not want to risk personal relationships. The failure to call their peers out on actions and behaviors that seem counterproductive to the good of the team leads to a lack of accountability. The enemy of accountability is ambiguity.Leaders need to make it clear what the standards are, what needs to get done, by who and by when. The lack of accountability results in a lack of:

- Commitment to decisions and plans of actions. Teams that do not have accountability spend much time “off-line” making decisions that the group does not commit to. Many times team members will feign agreement in meetings or creating ambiguity about their particular direction and priorities. Leaders can facilitate building commitment by reviewing all key decisions and making responsibilities and deadlines clear. There can be no commitment if team members do not:

- Engage in unfiltered conflict around ideas. One can tell how healthy an organization is simply by attending a meeting and observing how open the debate is (or isn't). Healthy and productive teams accept that conflict is a normal part of being in a team to learn to deal with it productively. All meaningful relationships require productive conflict for them to grow. Teams become dysfunctional when they are unable to productively deal with conflict or replace conflict with an artificial harmony. Leaders need to understand the importance of conflict and help team members learn about and develop positive conflict resolution skills. There can not be open conflict if team members do not:

- Trust one another. The key to overcoming a lack of trust is through shared experiences. Yet, too often team members are simply not genuinely open with one another and so not open up since doing so may result in the loss of some political advantage or being as seen as vulnerable. The primary role of the leader in building trust is to lead by example and create an environment where it’s safe to be vulnerable.

So, in summary, when team members make decisions based on their own interests there grows a lack of accountability. When there is a lack of accountability for decisions it is difficult for team members to become committed to those decisions. Without commitment team members may be unwilling to engage in honest debate and compromise. Without open debate it is almost impossible to build trust; the foundation on which all functional groups are built. Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

On the Internet Everyone Knows You're a Dog

I have a confession to make. I have knowingly used 'misleading' information when prompted for personal details by web site registration systems. With this admission I am probably now on the watch list for many commercial Internet companies.

Well, the days of being able to use misleading information may be over. Soon, everyone will know if you're a dog or not.

On March 29th, 2007 Xerox submitted patent application 20070073681 entitled "User Profile Classification By Web Usage Analysis." The application covers a method that can either eliminate the need for web sites to request personal information or invalidate the information provided. The application itself is an algorithm communicated though 16 figures consisting of flow charts, vectors, and plots. The application's detailed description states:

"When accessing a set of web pages, Internet users that share a common profile attribute, such as a particular demographic characteristic, may choose to access similar or identical pages within the set. For example, some web pages may appeal to persons having a particular gender. However, a user having the particular gender will not necessarily access all web pages that are of interest to other users sharing the same gender. Thus, the fact that a user has accessed a particular web page can be informative, but the fact that the user has not accessed other web pages may not necessarily be as informative. In accordance with the present invention, the set of web pages accessed (or "visited") by a user comprise a web page access pattern which can be analyzed to predict profile attributes "

Essentially, what Xerox has come with a method to determine demographic information such as age, sex and maybe even your income anyway by analysing your web page usage pattern and comparing it to a database of usage patterns from other users with a known background. My take on the application is that it doesn't matter if you use misleading information or choose not to reveal who you are, they have come up with a way to find out something about you simply by your information seeking patterns.

The application does not address privacy concerns. Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Scanning Bar Codes with Cell Phones: A Smart Materials Technology?

The house next door to us is for sale. As is the common real estate practice, attached to the For Sale sign is a box which holds printed marketing materials. As is also a very common occurrence, the box is usually empty. Someone wishing information about the house then has to write down the agent information, go home, access the network, search Google, and navigate to the listing. There has to be a better way.

Recently, I have been hearing alot about a technology that is already in place in Japan which allows a cell phone cameras to scan bar codes. By pointing the camera phone at a code and taking a photo, the customer can download information related to the item on which the code is attached. The customer can bypass long URLs, search engines, and phone menus and go straight to the associated network destination. The bar code can connect directly to different web sites based on time, day of week, or customer preferences (age, gender) and presented in a preferred language or time zone (e.g. EST or PST).

In the case of the house for sale next door, the sign could have printed on it a bar code that contains all the information about the house. The potential buyer could use their cell phone to scan the code and immediately access all the pertinent information, including a link to the listing. They could also take a virtual tour.

An example of these bar codes are QR codes. While conventional bar codes can store about 20 digits of information, qrcodea single QR (quick response) code is capable of handling 7,089 characters including numeric and alphabetic characters, symbols, and binary data. One can store just about anything as a QR code, including images. You may have seen routing QR codes on packages from the 'brown' delivery service. QR codes are apparently quite durable, allowing up to 30% of the code to be obscured or removed by dirt, marks or damage and still readable. QR codes can be printed as a graphic image by any printer. The QR code is an established ISO (ISO/IEC18004) standard.

One of the technologies used to link the code to content using mobile devices is being led by the company qode. Their web site provides some examples on how the technology works.

As I think about their potential in libraries many things come to mind:

- Smart codes on materials could link customers directly to bibliographic information, reviews, or additional networked support materials.

- codes on devices could lead customers to help and tip sheets.

- codes on promotional and marketing materials could lead customers to the library web site.

- codes on handouts could direct customers directly to databases, a journal article or a current bibliography.

I think there is great potential here. What other ways could these smart bar codes be used in a library setting? Please comment away! Sphere: Related Content

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."

Sphere: Related Content