In a lecture at the Galileo Symposium, Richard Feynman once said “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” It was in that spirit that keynote speaker Steve Denning asked a provocative question:
Are libraries the next Radioshack?
The comparison is apt for a couple of reasons:
- Many people seem genuinely surprised that either one is still "in business"
- Both are primarily serving niche communities (including makers)
- Both have struggled to orient themselves in the rise of the internet
It may not have been the joyous hurrah people were expecting, but it did call attention to the purpose of the conference: to sync up technology and libraries for community success. And the first step in that, per Feynman, is to not fool ourselves into thinking we're ahead of where we are. Denning followed up with encouragement to pursue "creative management" and customer development as opposed to the traditional hierarchy, citing books like Lean Startup, The Great Reset, and The Leader's Dilemma.
The most important question we took away was:
How do we create a self-reinforcing system for change?
Note that the question is not "What do we change?" or "How do we change?" Both questions are helpful, but we need to be adapting constantly—not just for this year's strategic plan. Otherwise, we'll just be asking the same questions again next year. Continuous improvement—that is the central principle of Denning's talk, and one plenty of organizations, private and public, could learn from.
Open question for the comments: What's the first step for the library to foster continuous improvement?
Click the logo below to view and download many of the presentations from Day 1 of CIL. Stay tuned for more!