The Faintest Ink Is Better Than The Best Memory

You can have the greatest idea ever, but if you fail to capture it then there is no chance it could ever come to fruition. So one of the most important steps in moving from idea to implementation is to have a good system for capturing ideas. This topic has come up before at DBL.

At my library we recently had a follow-up to our summer retreat. It was both an opportunity to keep the conversation going about customer service and user experience in the library, and take on a new project to help ourselves get better at improving our user experience. This particular segment of the retreat follow-up program was titled “Capture An Idea.” It introduced an initiative in which all staff would focus on recording ideas about the library and our services. To help get us started, four categories of ideas were recommended:

* Community member’s user behavior
* Things that are broken
* Complaints and compliments
* Whatever – ideas that pop into your head about the library

The Capture an Idea project was introduced and everyone received a well-designed notebook for capturing their ideas:

This is the notebook for ideas distributed to staff

The notebook was designed and produced by Aaron Schmidt, best known for Walking Paper blog. Schmidt also provides a number of nifty library-oriented creativity supplies through his online shop. To capture ideas you need a good notebook, and I thought the inspirational message on the cover would be a good reminder of why we want to capture them. I think my colleagues enjoyed receiving the book. In fact, it didn’t even take 30 minutes for the first good idea to emerge: get more books for our student workers because they are often the eyes and ears of the library when we are not present. See, we can make a difference. I will look forward to all of the ideas we collect during the spring semester.

A Reference Service User Experience – Tell Me More

Back in August 2010 I had the pleasure of participating in the Reference Renaissance Conference. I participated in the closing plenary as part of a panel presentation and discussion about the reference service user experience. The gist of my presentation was that delivering reference service in a library could be more than just a series of transactions, many mundane and some quite challenging – but transactions just the same. If you have read my posts here at DBL in the past, you would have a pretty good idea of what I’d had to say about this topic in my presentation. But just in case you’d like to have more detail, you can read the article I wrote “Fish Market 101: Why Not a Reference User Experience” based on my presentation. It was published in a November 15, 2010 issue of Library Journal.

I hadn’t thought much about that piece until recently when I received a question from Lisa Reuvers. Lisa is a Library Technician at the Buckham Memorial Library in Faribault, MN. Here is what Lisa asked me:

I am from a library in Minnesota, and have just read your article on the “Reference User Experience”. You speak of having a memorable reference experience and I am curious what your ideas might be? How can we make such a formal process more inviting and fun? It is intriguing to me to make the experience memorable, other than just giving them some information and then call, “Next!”.

I think Lisa poses an excellent question, and it’s the exact type of thinking I like to see. I know that some of what I have to say about user experience doesn’t always translate to the front line of the library, and library workers should challenge me to come up with better ideas and examples. I suspected that Lisa was asking me for specific actions she and her colleagues could take to transition a reference encounter from a transaction to an experience. Should I tell her to be more entertaining? Maybe juggle a few books while taking a question? So what did I have to offer as an answer. Here it is:

One of the points I make in that piece is that it would be a real challenge to turn a reference or circulation transaction into something more inviting and fun – as you say. I point out it would be a bad idea to throw books to patrons the way the Pike Place Fish Market throws fish.

That said, what we often think of as a mundane transaction could be – if not more memorable – a better contributor to the holistic UX library experience. By that I mean that you want to be thinking about your library experience as a TOTAL experience – of which the reference UX is one part of a larger design for a great library experience. In that piece I describe some of those components – being different, service that inspires loyalty, etc.

In other writings I have discussed how library transactions can focus on being memorable by exceeding user expectations. Have you tried things such as starting transactions by asking the person how their day is going, by introducing yourself, by asking them what their name is and letting them know how much you appreciate them using the library. Do staff remember frequent users and greet them by name? Have you followed up with patrons on occasion to ask them about their experience using the library? Did you let them know that their opinion mattered? All of these things can send a message to the community that the library cares about them and values their use of the library – and that we see each community member than more than just a number on a library card and a transaction. These are the types of actions that help build relationships and loyal library users who tell their friends about the great community library.

As I have stated in other writings and presentations on UX, many individuals do not like coming to the library or have a great fear of research which intimidates them. So they already come to us with low expectations of having a good experience. So anything we can do to make them more at ease, more relaxed, and more aware they have people who are there to help, already exceeds their expectations and contributes to a great and unexpected experience.

But if we just see ourselves as personnel who answer questions, check out books, maintain the stacks – and not as important components in delivering a well designed experience – then it won’t happen. This begins with a staff conversation to figure out what the experience is now – and what it could be and needs to be.

Lisa wrote back to tell me that she found my answer helpful in providing more insight into what I meant by a reference user experience. In fact, she asked me for permission to share it with all of her library colleagues. I was glad to hear that, and I hope that both the article and the follow up sent to Lisa will be at the center of a discussion at the Buckham Memorial Library to begin a conversation about what their desired library experience is and how they will go about designing and implementing it.

Design Thinking vs. Hybrid Thinking – Do They Differ?

In the last post I wrote about the relationship between UX and CX. Next up, what’s the relationship between design thinking and hybrid thinking? Are they one and the same? Is it just a matter of phrasing, semantics or preferences? In a post I wrote a few weeks back I mentioned an article about the Arum Engineering firm, and in that article a member of the firm makes a very clear distinction about hybrid thinking as a better way of describing Arum’s innovation process. Beyond a hint of what hybrid thinking is, and that it’s not the same as design thinking, the article says little about the difference between the two.

Then I came across an article about hybrid thinking in which the IT consulting firm, Gartner, discussed why they believe hybrid thinking will be of value in enterprise architecture. This one provides a fuller description of hybrid thinking:

Nicholas Gall, VP and distinguished analyst at Gartner said, hybrid thinking is the concept of melding design, IT and business thinking to produce strategic changes. “We are seeing several leading companies combining design and other thinking methods, including more traditional approaches, to drive transformative, innovative and strategic change…By integrating design thinking, which is already very popular in business circles but is virtually unknown in IT circles, enterprise architects can focus on the right tempo of operations, enabling them to centre their outcomes on influencing people, rather than systems.”

Based on this quote, hybrid thinking is something broader than design thinking – and it has a specific, intended outcome – strategic change. I would say that design thinking could result in strategic change, but that it more broadly provides a process for approaching problems and creating thoughtful solutions, strategic or otherwise. Also, hybrid thinking appears to have more of an IT component, although it’s not exactly clear how essential that is to a hybrid thinker.

Then I came across this Fast Company design blog post on hybrid thinking as the logical progression to the “next new thing”. In his essay “Beyond Design Thinking” Gadi Amit’s discusses why design thinking may not be enough, and how hybrid thinking improves upon it by doing more than just providing a process for idea generation and innovation. According to Amit, “Having a great idea is a nice first step; making the idea a reality is better and ultimately, making an idea successful in the marketplace is the pinnacle achievement of any designer.” He goes on to say that “hybrid design” is to design what “design thinking” was to “innovation.” While I can’t say Amit provides the accepted definition and perspective on hybrid thinking, it certainly adds to the conversation.

One thing that these articles appear to want to suggest is that design thinking is nice, but that there’s more to design than just the thinking and that hybrid thinking focuses on actually creating something. That leads me to question if those talking about hybrid thinking are missing something about design thinking. Based on my reading about it (starting with Tom Kelley’s seminal book on design thinking, “The Art of Innovation”) the “thinking” in design thinking is but one stage of what I might refer to as the IDEO approach to design thinking. It really encompasses five stages: understand the user, identify the problem, deep dive, prototype, implement. I think it would be difficult to make a case that design thinking doesn’t lead to actual products, when IDEO and other design firms are contributing to the product development process as an essential part of their business. That’s what the implement stage is all about. Hybrid thinking calls to mind the Roger Martin school of thought on design thinking, and his integrative thinking model. Hybrid means combining different people, different ideas, different talents – and merging them to produce something that’s better than the any of the components.

What’s next? How about design thinking and future thinking. That, I think, will need to be a topic for a future column.