Since I’ve previously written about David Kelley of IDEO, I suppose it’s only fair that I dedicate a post to his brother and fellow IDEO legend Tom Kelley. But whereas I shared David Kelley’s insights into how design thinking is changing the way business operates, it’s one of Tom Kelley’s ideas about innovation that I want to promote in this post. Kelley was recently interviewed at IdeaConnection, and I recommend you give the entire interview a good reading. But Kelley’s mention of “trigger points” captured my attention, and got me thinking about how this ideas can apply to our libraries.
The idea behind the trigger point is pretty simple. According to Kelley it is:
the one or two essential elements in a product that are important to your customers. Sometimes you gain a competitive edge by fixing a problem or designing a great customer experience around those trigger points. If you make everything about your product or service continuously better and add more features, you may end up with a product or service that customers can’t afford and don’t understand.
So the trigger point is the one thing, or maybe two things, that really makes the difference for the potential library users – or as Kelley puts it – the offering that gets the person past whatever threshold was keeping them from using the service. What might that threshold be for the typical library, and how do we make this trigger point easier to navigate or how might we build a better experience around it?
It might not be the same for each library. In my own library a trigger point would be the web site and the access it provides to electronic resources. Our 2009 LibQual survey results clearly indicated that for our faculty and students it is highly important to easily find and connect to those resources. If we can do only one thing to create a better experience and loyal customer it would mean a better web site that allows for easier navigation and location of resources. On the other hand, it only tells us what it is important to the user, not the obvious solution. It may be that the solution isn’t a better website in terms of finding and connecting to e-resources. The solution may be creating simpler and more convenient paths to the e-resources from wherever the end user is most likely to begin their navigation path. So we also need to do a better job of learning and understanding how our users want to find and connect to the e-resources they need. It may be we need to better integrate the paths to the e-resources into course management systems or social networks.
And although some might suggest the library building itself is no longer that important, we are learning that our faculty and graduate students currently avoid our building because it is an unpleasant experience for them. They find the undergraduates too noisy. They want dedicated study and research space that better serves their needs and the way they work. For these community members the building and its available study space is clearly another trigger point. We need to create improvements that will get the faculty and graduate students past the threshold that presently serves as a barrier to their coming to and using the library facility.
Thinking more about library trigger points strikes me as one good way to begin a process of understanding the library experience beyond just fixing a series of things that are broken. Yes, it is important to fix what is broken, but no combination of small fixes is likely to tackle the challenge of identifying the one or two trigger points and developing appropriate solutions that will turn a non-user into a library user.