Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries

Innovation, Dispositions, and my love for JSB

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I have a confession.

I have a huge girly intellectual crush on someone. I just can’t stop thinking about John Seely Brown. I was introduced to him last month at Internet Librarian, where he gave the first keynote (embedded at end of post) and set the tone and theme for the whole conference. He brought together notions of play, innovation, 21st century learning and skills, and introduced me to a word I’ve been looking for for years (dispositions).   I can’t tell you how many times I’m thinking about something else, and suddenly, I’m thinking about JSB.

Just now, I was thinking about a conversation I’ve been taking part in about innovation, and realized that JSB’s dispositions are the answer!

So, in this conversation, someone said they didn’t always think innovation was the answer, since it was somewhat unaccountable; constant change without reference or viability or cost-effectiveness or even whether or not the new things were appropriate for users and audience. Maybe somethings shouldn’t change? The proposed alternative was to support creativity. And while I certainly think creativity should be supported, I’m still pretty hung up on innovation as an organizational good.

The conversation spun off into another thread, where Dean Dad’s recent post about the cutting edge and retaining desktop computers was recommended as a thought piece about why innovation isn’t always a good.  Sometimes the old clunky tried-and-true needs to stick around for a reason.

Dean Dad is absolutely right. And, while I might be inclined to say that there is an innovation impulse behind his assertions, I realize that I may be defining innovation idiosyncratically.  I think I mean a willingness to explore every opportunity, to be willing to let go of what’s familiar and comfortable, to be willing to buck trends and step out in front, to think out of the box, to try new ideas (even if the new idea is an old idea), to not accept “because we’ve always done so” or “let’s form a task force to investigate” as acceptable answers. To lead when  you have a new thing to try, to follow only when following suits your users needs. To do whichever for good reason, not because or for knee jerk or unexplored reasons.

I think I mean a disposition.

JSB lists 3 dispositions essential for success.

  • Curiosity.                Amplify it.
  • Questing.                 Probe, seek, uncover
  • Connectivity.          Learning with & from each other

JSB points out the half life of skills has radically shortened, and that learning new skills is not something that we will be able to manage by returning to school. We need to develop certain dispositions, and foster them (not teach, they can’t be taught) in our users/patrons/learners. We have to foster these dispositions in ourselves, our colleagues, our students. And doing so comes from supporting play, tinkering, and learning.

I think that’s a big part of what I mean when I think about innovation. Not always just new for new’s sake. But the disposition, and the environment, that affords the possibilities.

Here’s the keynote. (If you  like it, he’s got 130 video talks on Youtube)

Video streaming by Ustream

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2 thoughts on “Innovation, Dispositions, and my love for JSB

  1. Have you read JSB’s Social Life of Information? IIf not, I think you’d like it. I remember really enjoying it and found it much more substantial than his more recent Power of Pull.

    • ‘Social Life of Information’ has been on my to-read shelf for a while. I bought his ‘A New Culture of Learning’ last week and have to read it in the next 36 hours or so and integrate it into the paper I’m giving on Thursday.

      So many books and great thinkers, so little time!

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