Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Innovators, Game Changers, and The Bleeding Edge, Or, Buzz Words Gotta Buzz

Let me be up front about this: I loathe buzz words. I hate them even more than I dislike jargon (and I'm not the only one who hates jargon) - which is saying a lot. Whenever I hear someone rattling off a long string of buzz words - something that happens almost daily in librarianship and in academia - this is all I see:

"a bee at work"
This dislike is especially pronounced when people start talking about "innovation." The thing that it describes - trying new stuff - is a passion for me. If you've ever read this blog before, you already know that about me. I've got all these "crazy" ideas, and making them a reality is one of my favorite things about being an academic librarian.

The point is that I see a gap or a problem or an opportunity and I try to address it. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Want to get students, faculty, & staff to care about the library's image? Try a tagline contest. Want to get students in the library who wouldn't normally set foot in there? How about Humans vs. Zombies? I've also tried plenty of things that didn't work. I tried to get a book review blog going, the point of which was for it to be a blog by my community for my community. It ended up being way more work than it was worth. Then there was that board game event that sort of flopped. Perhaps I was being obtuse, but I didn't even realize I was engaging in that fabled activity - innovating - until someone shoved that fact in my face.

The thing that's bothering me lately, though, is that with all the buzz words people use to describe this particular activity - innovation, game changing, bleeding edge, entrepreneurial mindset, etc. - it has made it so that the activity is becoming an end in and of itself. Even worse, the focus isn't on the reason for innovation and experimentation. Instead it's on the label.

In my own practice, it's the opposite. I try to fill the needs of my community, even the ones of which they are unaware, with whatever means seem most apt. I love finding new and exciting things to try, but there are also times when the "old fashioned" approach works best. There's no getting away from buzz words, but I've started ignoring them as best I can. I suggest you do the same.

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