Posts Tagged ‘Creativity’

A tool, according to my favourite cheap and cheerful reference source is “an entity used to interface between two or more domains that facilitates more effective action of one domain upon the other.”


Here’s a clarifying example:

“A hammer typically interfaces between the operator’s hand and the nail the operator wishes to strike.”

OK, I get that.

I’ve always had an interesting relationship to the world of entities-created-to-facilitiate-action-between-domains, and for a very basic reason – I’m left handed. Many tools are designed for an orientation to the world that is simply less natural for me.

It gets even more complicated than that. I’ve largely adapted to this aspect of the world, so that in most cases I’ll use a right-handed tool in a right handed way if that’s required, and not if not. As I said to a musician friend recently, it’s possible to get your guitar strung left handed, not so easy to do so with a piano. I make do, I adapt and I’m generally not conscious about those times when I’m being a left hander or being a right hander.

This has backfired on me historically. I clearly remember being young and struggling with setting the table – my mother suggested I should put the utensils as I used them, and then swap them around because I was left handed. I did so – and got them the wrong way round. I eat the same way as a right hander does, so using “the opposite to what I do” as a guide to setting a table just didn’t work. I still have to sometimes think the double step through that one…

This may or may not have been a formative moment, but now I am somewhat more grown up I often look at how we relate to our tools, particularly this wonderful tool called the internet. (Or is it a collection of tools?)

I look at libraries who run a blog. I see a lot of blogs that get updated with news about the library, with events and so on, but one think I’ve rarely seen (and I’ve looked at a fair few library blogs in my time) with an active community of responders. (Let’s not mention the NZ library blogs I know of whose comments are populated by responses from their own staff… most amusing…)

It’s very hip and cool to have a blog – but what’s the difference between a blog with no comments and a news page, which we’ve had on our websites for years?

I look at libraries putting out content with feeds, and I (who adore them) wonder if a wide enough sector of the population is engaged with managing feeds to make it worthwhile. Admittedly here I am thinking as a public librarian.

I look at our flickr accounts and wonder if we’re connecting directly through them, or if they’re simply taking the place of local hosting – not that I think secure remote hosting is a bad thing at all.

When we are looking for a hammer, we are concerned with our intent (to insert a nail) and the object of our intent (the nail). Once we have located the hammer, we’re only conscious of it if we hit our thumb.

I’d like to see more library professionals using social media think about their intent (to communicate with an audience) and the object of their intent (the audience) rather than become preoccupied, as we sometimes seem to be, with the tools.

To go back to handedness – we’re a natural profession for left-brain (right-handed) thinkers. Orderly, organised, procedure oriented. Let’s actively work on being librarians from the right side of the brain. The tool that is the internet is most efficiently intuited because it’s too big to be structured. If us lefties can adapt to a world of right handers, you guys can take on this challenge.


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Creative Mess

I was reading an article by Alan Briot called Exercising your creativity as part of my interest in how one promotes the occurrence of creativity.  Outside of work hours I pursue various hobbies that could be classed as creative, but I  was struck how much of what he said could be applied to my experience of trying to be creative in the workplace.

Briot lists a number of factors that limit creativity and I’d like to pull out some for special attention.

1. Fear of failure

Nobody likes to mess up.  Librarians are good at finding what others have done successfully and tweaking it to suit their situation.  It’s low risk and we know what the outcome is likely to be.  Taking a risk to introduce something new can seem too much effort for low return and *gasp* what happens if it didn’t work?! It’s sometimes easiest to be the follower than the leader.  There is little risk in that.  Librarians are great at copying what other libraries do.  But someone has to be the brave initiator.

2. Fear of moving outside the comfort zone

Briot says

you must be willing to take a risk to learn these things and to eventually enlarge your comfort zone and reach a higher level of experience, success and achievement. If you continue to stay within your current comfort zone you will remain at the level of experience, achievement and knowledge that you are currently at.  To expand both your knowledge and your achievements, you must leave your comfort zone and take a risk.

The thought of moving outside the comfort zone of what we’ve always done well is daunting.  Yet it might not be because we lack talent or we can’t succeed but rather because we often lack the knowledge, a technique or the support to seek out these things.  Having the “space” to play or experiment can mean the difference between stagnation and innovation.  I make the assumption that people are interested in growing, learning and reaching a higher level of experience.  Growth comes from allowing imagination to have free rein.

3. Time – who has enough of it?

I have yet to meet a librarian who has plenty of “spare” time.  Unlike Google, in our organisations we are rarely given time and space to work on projects outside of our core job description.  But small pieces of time dedicated to learning something new can result in big projects.

Some of my learning opportunities have come from outside the library-oriented world where I’ve taken workshops offered by the staff development unit.  Others have been through blog writers from higher education backgrounds.  Even podcasts like the TED talks have been like attending a conference session for me.

4. Fear of critique

It seems that all creative endeavours will have their critics and it can be have a real dampening effect on any potential for imaginative solutions or growth within an organisation.

I confess I’m an experimenter and a messy creator.  I like to try things out.  If they flop I’m disappointed but I don’t see that there is anything inherently wrong about finding something didn’t work.  Maybe it wasn’t the right time.  Maybe it wasn’t the right product for the audience.  Why cover it up and feel bad about it?  It helps to have an environment where innovation is encouraged, where there the “one-chance-to-get-it-right” attitude is not ruling.  I know some workplaces don’t have that luxury.

Does your workplace encourage creativity?  If so, how?  I’d be interested to know.

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