Doing More With Less

Each year LAUNC-CH (Librarians’ Association of The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) sponsors a one day educational conference for librarians.  The presentations this year examined how libraries and librarians can engage, innovate, and assess: doing more with less. With the current economic climate, the theme of this year’s conference applies to so many libraries with increasingly limited budgets.

Dr. Dick Blackburn, Associate Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Kenan-Flagler Business School presented an entertaining keynote address focusing on implementing creative ideas as one way to accomplish more with less.

Although everyone can contribute to creativity, his message was particularly targeted to those librarians who have a leadership role in developing a climate that fosters creativity. He first highlighted a book by Jerry Hirshberg entitled The Creative Priority. He then reviewed the creativity/innovation myths that need to be overcome even before starting the creative/innovative process. Those myths include the following:

  • Few people are truly creative.
  • Creative people are super-intelligent.
  • Creativity/innovation is a solitary endeavor that occurs best in isolation from the real world.
  • Creativity/innovation means original creation occurring as the result of “divine” intervention.
  • If it “ain’t” big, it “ain’t” creative.

Getting beyond the myths, one can begin the creative/innovative process:

  1. Motivation: “ You really gotta wanna!”
  2. Preparation:   Making the strange familiar!
  3. Manipulation:  Making the familiar strange!
  4. Incubation:  The occasional need for disruption, distraction, distancing, and/or disengagement from the problem.
  5. Illumination: That “Aha! moment.
  6. Verification/Evaluation: Testing the acceptability of the creative idea.

Dr. Blackburn proceeded to give ideas on how those in leadership positions (i. e. library managers) can foster a creative/innovative culture at different stages of the process.

Motivation.  Leaders need to realize that the organization’s culture actually impacts creativity.  Leaders can then match individuals to the appropriate job, make creativity a part of performance plans, reward success and failure, punish inaction, and learn from mistakes to move on. The aspect of recognizing creative ideas, even the failures, was echoed by others during later presentations of the conference.

Manipulation.  Leaders should encourage information sharing, collaboration and “meddling” across departments; foster playing with the rules; re-define problems; and support divergent thinking.

Verification/Evaluation. Leaders in creative cultures learn to expect and accept criticism, implement promising ideas to test them early and often, and “PIN” new ideas. PIN stands for positive, interesting and negative.

With this creative/innovative process and a culture of fostering creativity and innovation, librarians and libraries will be able to do more AND do it with less.

~Betty Thomas~

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