Startup Culture - Value Creation in the Academic Library
Presented at Loyola Marymount University, April 12, 2011
User Experience as the Lens
How disruptive technologies shift our expectations, and make user experience even more important in the innovation equation. UX practices help build a lens through which to understand how to innovate.
Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the Learning Revolution!
Habits and Anti-Habits
This post comes from thinking of B.J. Fogg’s ideas on habits and behavior. He runs the Stanford Persuasive Tech Lab, focusing on persuasive tech and behavioral change. Very cool stuff.
When I travel (especially overseas), my creative output usually far exceeds anything I would be able to accomplish at home. So much so that I like to contemplate the idea of flying for 30 days continuously, just to see how it impacts my productivity. This has led me to wonder exactly why I can be more productive, outside the stable patterns of my habits.
Habits are interesting because of how we build up these sequences of patterns in our mind/body over time, and how they become encoded as repeating actions. My morning habit of toast, juice, coffee, email, has comfort and utility. Of course habits can be utilized in a positive manner, or they can also render us pathetic little creatures just following a trail.
But what happens when you “constructively” break your habits for a time frame?
Have you ever had a spontaneous thought like this at 5pm Friday:
"I could book a flight to Hawaii right after work out of LAX, write an article while on the plane, rent a moped early sat morning, and be boogie boarding at sandy beach with my pasty white farmers tan, eating from local lunch trucks".
While this is an extreme, Tim-Ferris-type-of-act-of-free-will, it is a good example of what I would call an anti-habit. It is a willful denial of the power of habits that can make you feel locked in to a particular behavior pattern. You know you could take that flight, and exercising the thought alone makes you revise your perspective.
The reason why I think this anti-habit is interesting, is due to the effect it can have on restructuring how you interpret yourself (passionate versus lack of interest; leader versus follower, etc.), and how you access your encoded thoughts.
Taking music as an example, if you have practiced a piano piece, you will have physically encoded the actions of keying the music into your hands, so you instinctively “reach for the music”. The habit of practicing reinforces the muscle memory. But music of course is not just a remembering of notes. It is about a connection and the ties between notes and phrases, and emoting music.
In this music context, if habit gives you a repeatable and structured experience, then what is the free will inspired anti-habit? It is the joy of what the habit has enabled and structured. As is often said in music…you learn the music theory, but you need to forget it once you have learned it, in order to get to musicality.
We are part of a knowledge ecosystem
My answer on Quora to: Is crowd sourcing just a fad?
User Experience and Collaboration in Academic Libraries
Driving back to LA from San Diego after presenting at the ALA Elsevier Digital Library Symposium, I found myself thinking more about the question of collaboration between academic libraries. The questions that came from the audience triggered me - not enough resources and skillsets, lack of funding for UX, etc…It really is an opportunity for building and scaling better experiences for our users, by sharing great work among our campuses.
An example of collaboration can be found in the layers of interaction that involve mashup environments, and interface frameworks. Libraries have generally purchased interfaces from vendors, with the result that the user experience is pretty much determined by whatever interface the vendor delivers. On top of that, there are many vendors, all with their own interfaces. It is not the vendors fault. They just want to create and control the user experience of their product, as any company would want to do. But our poor users are left with all these different experiences to hurdle through.
But with a bit of ingenuity, new work culture oriented around expertise and flexibility, cool design/development folks, and some APIs, all of a sudden new possibilities exist for our institutions to start controlling layers of the user experience on our campuses in very interesting ways. The key point here is a shift toward expertise-driven groups, and the idea that disruptive web/mobile applications are developed via disrupting work culture.
As a first step in this direction, we need to actually produce new sources of value for our users, functioning in groups that incentivize innovation. We did this at UCLA Library by creating an entrepreneurial group with student developers/designers (thanks in no small part to our UL, Gary Strong). I would encourage this model as a step into the direction for creating new interactions, and will offer my experience to those interested.
In the coming months I will be working with our innovation group and others on campus, to start a process of pushing out valuable online contributions for other institutions to utilize. While this depends on some clearances for IP, I am confident it can happen. Consider this a call for collaboration.
Please contact me if you are interested in joining a collaborative environment, or have ideas that would serve to help build out better user experiences.