This week I read The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman. To spoiler the book a little bit, the 10 faces are anthropologist, experimenter, cross-pollinator, hurdler, collaborator, director, experience architect, set designer, caregiver, and storyteller. We see that the 10 faces are all social types; there does not seem to be an innovative type that creates alone or quietly contemplates. These 10 types of innovators are getting together with other people, brainstorming with other people, and generally selling themselves and their product.
I propose that we need more than 10 faces of innovation. How about the person who no one knew played piano until they came out with the perfect Liszt piece or created a brand new product by themselves? They could be the solo-tinkerer. How about the quiet type who thinks things through by themselves and when they finally speak, everyone listens? They could be the contemplator. There is so much more to innovation than just bouncing ideas off of people. Let’s not let sociality blind us to other types of innovation.
We see in Quiet by Susan Cain that not all people are built like the 10 Faces authors would lead us to believe—super social and ready to talk at a moment’s notice. Cain speaks of Steve Wozniak building a computer at home by himself. She also cites studies showing that performance usually decreases as group size increases. Interestingly, this effect is only shown at in-person sessions. If brainstorming is done online, even with a lot of people, the result is better than one individual person’s ideas and vastly better than ideas generated by in-person brainstorming. So, what does this tell us?
It tells us that the best part about the internet, and by extension hyperlinked libraries, is that people can use them in their own time and in a way that they feel comfortable with. Work graveyard? That’s ok! Click into Wikipedia and learn something. Curious about a very specific historical object or experience? There’s probably a locally curated website for that. Would you like to learn how to crochet? YouTube has you covered. The asynchronicity of the internet is its strong point. People can learn almost anything they’d like in this timeless setting.
How do we as library students (and soon to be librarians) help all of our patrons? Sure, some people will want to come and participate with us in any activity we can think of. But what about the people who can’t or don’t want to participate, for whatever reason? Some students will love the Unquiet Library, but I guarantee that there is at least one kid who heads straight for the back of the stacks to find a quiet place to study.
We could make a video and post it to the website to show what’s available. We could write blog posts about what’s new at the library. We could host asynchronous art shows or have other ways to participate that aren’t linked to a specific time. We could provide studios with specific technology that would encourage people to come to our building or add this sort of thing as a service on our website. We could have one librarian on call after hours for reference questions or even let certain patrons have open access after the library is officially closed (or is it?). Our jobs are to include people how they would like to be included and help them to innovate however we can.
Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Broadway Books: New York City, New York.
Kelley, T. with Littleman, J. (2006). The Ten Faces of Innovation. Profile Books, London.
Mathews, B. (2010, June 21). Unquiet Library Has High-Schoolers Geeked. American Libraries Magazine. Retrieved from https://americanlibrariesmagazine.org/2010/06/21/unquiet-library-has-high-schoolers-geeked/
Mathews, B.; Metko, S.; and Tomlin, P. (2018, May 7). Empowerment, Experimentation, Engagement: Embracing Partnership Models in Libraries. Educause Review. Retrieved from https://er.educause.edu/articles/2018/5/empowerment-experimentation-engagement-embracing-partnership-models-in-libraries