Instead Of Picking Model A Or Model B Create Model C

To gain some additional perspectives on design thinking take a look at this video interview with Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman Business School at the University of Toronto. In the video Rotman answers questions about integrative thinking, which is a term Martin uses to describe design thinking. I’ve written about Martin before, especially in wanting to share ideas about his “opposable mind”, and how it is a way of using design thinking to identify new solutions when existing models may not be appropriate for a given situation. Martin talks more about this in the video, which only runs about five minutes.

One of the reasons I seek to further explore the development of the opposable mind is because the library profession presents a good number of complexities and situations for which standard models and solutions are ineffective. One of the most challenging elements of my job is trying to develop good solutions when a simple option A or B won’t work. At those times I think back to Martin and his stories about thinkers who were able to see new solutions that others didn’t see. And being a design thinker doesn’t mean being a lone creative genius who gets hit with lightning bolts of great ideas. Coming up with Model C requires involving one’s colleagues and exploring multiple dimensions of a problem situation.

In the last few months I’ve come across a number of different reports, blog posts, e-mail news items and discussion board entries that all, in one way or another, suggest the demise of libraries. Most will conclude with something along the lines of “libraries have got to change the way they do business or they won’t be around long” but without saying much about what to do. I think similar concerns about turmoil in the world of business lead Martin to develop and share his approach called integrative thinking, and to make design thinking a core educational value for MBA students at the Rotman School. Librarians who will successfully lead their organizations through these challenging times may well be the ones who use integrative thinking to develop Model C.

Additional video to watch: A few months back I shared news about an interesting article in a magazine called Seed. Written by Paolo Antonelli, this article described the idea of the elastic mind. Those with elastic minds are moving past adaptability. Turns out Antonelli spoke about the elastic mind at TED and they have made the video available on their site. She talks more about the interaction of scientists and research scientists.

Library User Experiences Are About More Than the Website And Building

It’s always good to come across projects involving libraries that may provide good examples of the benefits of design thinking for better library user experiences. Michael Magoolaghan, an information architect with the Vanguard Group, writes that he first got involved in a library experience design project when as a trustee for a small public library he and other board members realized both the library facility and its website needed overhauls. He writes that one of his first major realizations about the project was that it was about more than just making the library look good:

As it turns out, I soon found myself engaged with one of the major challenges facing small public libraries today: rethinking the user experience to help bridge the digital and physical realms while enabling library administrators to better respond to patrons’ changing needs.

A good observation to be sure but I wonder if someone who is a public library trustee will have a sufficient grasp of the totality of the library user experience. A good decision by Magoolaghan is to go back and study Maya Design’s work-practice study at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh (a featured case student in Academic Librarianship by Design). Further analysis leads him to state that”

The problem with proceeding along separate tracks, however, was that we risked developing two distinct, uncoordinated user experiences. As the board assessed the work submitted by the building consultant and architect on the one hand and the Drexel students on the other, we gradually realized that we needed to approach these two projects in a more coordinated way. In short, we needed to redesign not just the building and website, but the end-to-end library experience.

So he realizes that the library user experience isn’t just focused on the website or the building, but that when you start talking to the community – users and non-users alike – it really starts to broaden the understanding of what the library can really accomplish and what it needs to do to set the stage for the experience that moves the library forward. So what’s next in this user experience design project? According to Magoolaghan:

Once the board and architect settle on a preferred approach to the building renovation, we’ll begin working with a graphic designer to develop a branding strategy, integrate the physical and online wayfinding systems and (most importantly) design the materials for our fundraising program. ..If they can keep the end-to-end user experience in focus, I have no doubt that small libraries will weather the storm and remain a vital part of our communities for decades to come.

I like that he describes it as an “end-to-end user experience” because that points to the totality of the user experience. It’s not just about the website or building, he comes to understand, but that users want an an overall experience at all library touchpoints. So take a look at this article. I think you will notice, if you’ve read it previously, that the author draws on the Maya Design activity – and he makes no secret of that. Maya’s work on that project still inspires others involved in redesigning this library

Design Thinking Goes Mainstream

If a high profile article in the New York Times is a sign of mainstream acceptance of an idea, than design thinking just went mainstream. In an article titled “Design is More Than Packaging” author Janet Rae-Dupree writes:

Properly used, design thinking can weave together elements of demographics, research, environmental factors, psychology, anthropology and sociology to generate novel solutions to some of the most puzzling problems in business.

Yes, the article does appear in the business section and the tone of the article is that design thinking offers businesses a better process for decision making and achieving creative solutions. I suppose that it would be asking too much for an article that portrays design thinking in much broader terms.

Overall I think the article does a reasonably good job of communicating what design thinking is – not always an easy task. Good examples always help but I was disappointed by the one featuring Saturn and the refurbishment of their showrooms. I understand the author was trying to point out how the design process emphasized creating an environment that was far more interactive for the buyer, but it comes off sounding a bit too much like the big change was in the design of the showroom interior. The design process was underplayed. One thing that I did like was what Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO has to say:

“Design thinking is inherently about creating new choices, about divergence,” says Tim Brown, the chief executive and president of the design consulting firm IDEO, based in Palo Alto, Calif. “Most business processes are about making choices from a set of existing alternatives. Clearly, if all your competition is doing the same, then differentiation is tough. In order to innovate, we have to have new alternatives and new solutions to problems, and that is what design can do.”

So despite some ups and downs I think it’s great that the New York Times gave attention to design thinking. Now maybe next time they’ll want to explore how design thinking can help us make our libraries better.

Better Sleep On That

One of the roadblocks to designing better libraries can be our inability to creatively explore ways to achieve goals in non-traditional ways – or with radically different ideas. As past research has shown, as decision makers and idea generators we humans tend to rely on methods that have worked well for us in the past. The problems is that our old, reliable ways of getting things done may no longer be suitable for new times and new situations. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a simple way to open up our minds to fresh and untried strategies that would offer creative solutions.

A technique for doing just that may be closer at hand than we think. It’s called sleep. According to a recent NYT article, new research is showing that sleep – or the period directly after sleep – is one in which creative ideas and solutions can bubble up to the surface from the recesses of our minds. According to the article:

While traditional stories about sleep and creativity emphasize vivid dreams hastily transcribed upon waking, recent research highlights the importance of letting ideas marinate and percolate. “Sleep makes a unique contribution,” explains Mark Jung-Beeman, a psychologist at Northwestern University who studies the neural bases of insight and creative cognition. Some sort of incubation period, in which a person leaves an idea for a while, is crucial to creativity. During the incubation period, sleep may help the brain process a problem. “When you think you’re not thinking about something, you probably are,” says Dr. Jung-Beeman, who has a doctorate in experimental psychology.

Scientists are learning more about the function of sleep. Once thought to be mostly about resting the body, current theories suggest that our bodies could move endlessly as long as we had the necessary energy but that it’s the brain that needs regular rest in order to process information and help us integrate it in ways that enable us to manage our existence. We could all likely share a story of waking up and just having a great idea pop into our heads in the shower. We may think it’s the shower but it may actually be our sleep refreshed brain feeding us the solution to a problem. Then again, there are other creativity theorists who believe that any period in which our mind is set free from routine activity and allowed to roam freely we may experience a bolt of genius – or just a simply good idea. My preferred method is a visit to the campus fitness center where I think about anything but work-related matters. It’s the post-workout shower where my best ideas are likely to emerge. Some of the toughest challenges are the type where an opposable mind is needed to develop a good solution to resolve two conflicting ideas that stand in opposition to each other. I can recall several instances where potential ideas emerged either right after sleep or an afternoon workout.

All this new knowledge about the value of sleep for priming our creativity should change our thinking about sleeping on the job. As the NTY article suggests, it may actually benefit organizations to promote daily naptime for staff. Some companies are even investing in hi-tech napping pods. It is ideas such as these that influence my thinking about how to create a library organization that is constantly engaged in the design of a better library. Encouraging library workers to take a 15-minute nap may sound outrageous, but it may just be the sort of radical thinking we need.

Latest IN (Inside Innovation) Now Available

The latest edition of BusinessWeek magazine’s design and innovation supplement, IN – Inside Innovation, is now available online. The focus is quite timely – how can America use “innovations economics” to restore and achieve sustainable global competitiveness. Despite nearly $5 trillion dedicated to research and development since 2000 the country is experiencing economic stagnation. Of course there are the usual charts and articles about innovation. It’s worth taking a look at.