Monday, April 21, 2008

Tossing Technology Eggs

I had a chance to chat with Richard Akerman over lunch at the NISO conference last month.

During our conversation he made mention of the various position / white papers he has created over the years. What caught my ear was when he said he experiences about a two-year time delay between the time when he poses an idea and the time the same idea emerges from elsewhere in the organization. It is not until it reemerges that it gains organizational buy-in.

This made me feel good since this is the same idea lag time I generally experience. As I talked to other technology-oriented librarians this does seem to be the general trend. Add on another 6-12+ months of working through the logistics and politics of getting an idea off the ground the technology concept-to-release gap is about three-years.

Three years!? I can't think of another part of a library organization that such a delay is acceptable. For some reason with technology it is OK. But I digress.

In my Why Someone May Hate Your Ideas post I point to an egg and bird analogy, which I shared with Richard.

When technology staff tosses out half-baked ideas to library staff it is like tossing them an egg when they are expecting a bird.

Technology staff can look at the egg and see what will happen; the egg will hatch, the hatchling will grow and eventually learn to fly. It may eventually have eggs itself and the cycle is repeated. Since the library staff expected a bird they simply let it drop and splatter on the floor. Unless the library environment is very forgiving, an egg (a premature technology idea) will simply not survive.

At the same time, libraries can no longer wait two-years for an egg to hatch. As library technologists, we need to do a better job of tossing our staff and customers hatchlings (prototypes). The time has come for libraries need to carve out a part of their organizations to focus on creating Library Labs like the one at the National Library of Australia. It is a place in which prototypes and emerging ideas can be made available and tested. Sphere: Related Content


Owen said...

The egg tossing analogy brings to mind the Mork and Mindy episode when Mork throws an egg in the air and says 'Fly, be free...'

Richard Akerman said...

Thanks for the mention. I've also described it as like the architect being a time-traveller.

the Enterprise Architect as time traveller