image courtesy of Flickr user H GruberOver the past couple of weeks as a part of the 30 Days of Innovation series I’ve written about the importance of embracing failure and the need to breed a culture of innovation in libraries. Last week I had some people ask me what happens when you understand the value of failure and innovative culture in the workplace, but your colleagues and administration do not? People wonder how they can feel safe in failure and get the innovative juices going when those around them aren’t supportive. Some ideas:

  • Ask Yourself Why: Why are your colleagues and/or administrators against innovative practices? Is it because they are scared of looking bad to others? Do they not know how to articulate the ideas of innovation so that they are understood by elected officials and other town administrators? Have they never really had a chance to understand what it takes to be innovative? Do they think that innovation means throwing out everything, even what works really well, and starting from scratch? Ask yourself where the barriers to innovation are and then find ways to break through them. For example, If fear is an issue then come up with low-risk innovative opportunities to get things going so that colleagues and administrators can gain a track record of innovative success. Then build from there.
  • Be an Innovation Advocate: In order to serve teens successfully in libraries we need to be constantly trying new things and advocating for the value of innovation. Since you should be advocating regularly as a part of your teen services job, then make sure to add talking points, stories, and examples that advocate for innovation in teen library services. Explain why a program or service is important to teens and also why you needed to innovate (and why the innovation was successful) in order to provide that program or service. Don’t just explain the what of the innovation get into the why it was required too.
  • Read Together: In some libraries staff all read the same book and talk about it. Suggest that you do just that in your library and read a book like Where Good Ideas Come From by Steven Johnson or The Innovator’s Dilemma by Clayton M. Christensen. Volunteer to facilitate the discussion and help to make the conversation a positive one by coming prepared to talk about the ways the ideas discussed in the selected title are possible to achieve within your library.
  • Be a Role Model: While it is definitely hard to do it alone, someone has to start. That means if you are ready to innovate and use innovative practices in your library then do what you can to lead the way in order to demonstrate how it’s possible to achieve innovation success in your library. Let others watch what you are doing without saying too much. Just do it. You’ll set an example that will help others feel more able to take your lead and try and support innovation themselves.
  • Be a Mentor: As people in your library start to see you succeed in innovation and want to try their own hand at being innovative, help them in their efforts. Let them know what you have learned about being innovative and support them as they learn what does and doesn’t work. Make sure to help them understand that if the idea doesn’t go off as planned, and perhaps is a failure, that that’s OK.

It is never easy to go it alone and be the first to try new ideas. That’s actually why an organization like YALSA can be helpful. If you are feeling alone in your innovation desires then talk with others in YALSA via the association’s social media platforms, lists, and other online communities. Get inspiration from the books and professional development opportunities provided by the association. Check out the Competencies for Librarians Serving Youth to get some ideas. You may feel alone, but actually you aren’t. There are a lot of others trying to move forward just like you.

If you have used methods to garner support for innovative practices in the workplace, tell us about them in the comments.

Image courtesy of Flickr user H Gruber.

About Linda W Braun

Linda W Braun is a YALSA Past President, the YALSA CE Consultant, and a learning consultant/project management coordinator at LEO: Librarians & Educators Online.

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