Strayed “outside the box” once too often? Occasionally been nicked up out on innovative “cutting edge”? If so, this article by Rick Anderson will strike a chord.
First off, Rick is not saying that innovation and bright shiny new things are bad. Far from it. He’s a big fan – as long as they accomplish something. He readily admits that “innovation will indeed be an essential component to any real and lasting solution to our biggest problems” and goes on to point out when he and his library have been at the forefront of innovation. However, he draws the line at invoking “innovation as if it were a solution in itself.” In fact, one of Rick’s main points is that innovation is not always “synonymous with “improvement.” Nor, he goes on to say, “is innovation like wisdom or integrity or diligence.” It is not “intrinsically good” and can not always be relied on to improve things.
One of his other contentions is that innovation while it “may in many cases be essential, … it is never sufficient.” And perhaps even more convincingly, he points out that “the link between innovation and value is tenuous: a genuinely innovative new library program or product feature may represent little or no increase in actual value despite the fact that it represents new or increased supply-side investment.” In short, innovation is all well and good but how it impact users and customers is the real question. Librarians and publishers, need to ask themselves if the innovations they are pursuing truly add to the quality of the services and products they offer.
Innovation is a means to an end – not an end in itself.