One of my academic friends (Katie Brown from Oklahoma City University) forwarded me this article written by Virginia Tech’s Library Associate Dean, Brian Mathews, titled “Thinking Like A Startup: a white paper to inspire library entrepreneuralism.” Although it is written from the perspective of an academic librarian, there are many parallels for the law firm library.

I’ve adapted some of the headlines to fit the law firm library environment. If you read the white paper (and I strongly encourage you to do so), I’d suggest thinking of how these ideas play out in our environment:

  • Is Your Law Firm Library Too Big To Fail?
    Our jobs are shifting from doing what we have always done very well, to always being on the lookout for new opportunities to advance teaching, learning, service, and research.
  • Innovators Wanted
    There is a huge demand for librarians who “think different.” The environment needs to foster these different ideas or we’ll be stuck in the status quo. The environment should be one that challenges the status quo and is ready for disruption.
  • Think Like a Startup
    What can we create today that will be essential tomorrow? This type of thinking gives us a way to analyze what we do, why we do it, and how we might implement change.
  • Most Startups Fail; Learn From the Ones that Didn’t
    Look at examples of peers that succeeded. “Get a Plan/Goal that Works.” Setting goals that you can tick off, and meet deadlines, doesn’t necessarily make them good goals. Setting, and accomplishing Goal “A” should help get you to Goals B, C, and D.
  • Build, Measure, Learn: The Methodology
    This is how it works: you take your initial concept and develop it into a shareable format. Test it and analyze the reaction. You then use this insight to build a better prototype. Repeat the process. Iterate forever.
  • Three Essential Qualities of Inspiring Products:
    2. Feasibility
    3. Value
    “Entrepreneurship is a lot like to a science experiment; you’re constantly creating and testing new theses and seeing what works.”
  • Too Much Assessment, Not Enough Innovation
    We invest a lot of time, money, and effort into metrics… but does it work? matter? produce something useful? encourage innovation?
    Ask this question: If we stopped all of our assessment programs today would those that use our services notice anything different tomorrow?
    Innovation needs to be in everyone’s job description.

  • A Strategic Culture (Instead of a Strategic Plan)
    Instead of building a strategic plan that reads like a “to-do” list, they should discuss how we will:
     – develop three big ideas that will shift the way we operate
     – transform how our lawyers work
     – think BIG, and ask BIGGER QUESTIONS
  • Microscopes & Telescopes
    Stop looking at what we’ve done under a microscope and start looking through a telescope at what we should be doing next and work to see, plan and implement the transformation together.
  • Innovating Means Getting Your Hands Dirty
    Coming up with an idea doesn’t take a lot of work, and it doesn’t change anything. The goal is to build something that doesn’t exist; to make those ideas tangible; and to create something that is absolutely essential.

Perhaps my favorite (although probably the hardest to actually follow through on) is the “Too Much Assessment, Not Enough Innovation” heading. Not that metrics and statistics aren’t important, they are, but rather the idea that metrics for metrics sake is not enough. Metrics are “Plan A” and should therefore lead us to Plans B, C, and D. Many of us stop at Plan A (show someone how important we are by the results of the metrics.) What metrics should be enabling us to do is to look at what we are doing, and then improve, remove, redirect, or supplement the information buried in these metrics.

Do any of these topics spark an idea for you?