Organizational Innovation: C-EBLIP Journal Club, August 20, 2015

by Virginia Wilson
Director, Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice

The first C-EBLIP journal club meeting of the 2015/16 academic year took place on Thursday, August 20, 2015. Despite many librarians being in full-on holiday mode at the time, six participants discussed the following article:

Jantz, R.C. (2015). The Determinants of Organizational Innovation: An Interpretation and Implications of Research Libraries. College and Research Libraries, 76(4), 512-536.

This article was chosen by me with the idea that innovation was a light and exciting topic and that the article would be perfect for an August journal club meeting. While the article did have some redeeming qualities, the club meeting had a bit of a rocky start: this article is long and slightly unwieldy! Jantz conducted a research study which focused on innovation as a specific type of change and he determined five factors that had a significant impact on how well libraries innovate. The research method consisted of a survey distributed to 50 member libraries of the Association of Research Libraries.

The discussion opened up with some problems around the methodology of the research. The details of how the research was conducted were sketchy. There was no word on how Jantz coded the data, no talk of analysis or collection methods in detail. The survey instrument was not included in the paper, nor were the raw survey results, which, one journal club member commented, would have been the interesting part! In terms of the instrument, it would have been helpful to have a look at it as club members wondered if the author defined the complex terms he used. How can we be sure that all the respondents were on the same page? The author also did not list the specific institutions surveyed, causing us to wonder if they were perhaps skewed to the sciences? Would liberal arts universities/libraries have R&D departments?

Club members found it problematic that the surveys were only administered to senior leadership teams, as views could be quite different down the organizational hierarchy. As well, as the responses were said to have come from senior leadership teams, members were interested in how this might have logistically happened. Did the teams get together to fill out the surveys? Did each team member fill out a survey and were the results of those collated? This is an example of insufficient detail around the methods employed for this research and the problems could have been alleviated with more attention to detail. It was a good takeaway for my own research: be detail oriented, especially when it comes to methodology! If the research is to be useful, it has to be seen as valid and reliable. That won’t happen if the reader is questioning the methods.

Another issue about the paper was that in several instances, the author stated things as established facts but did not cite them. Perhaps the author made assumptions but as we are attuned to the idea of providing evidence for claims, we weren’t buying it. Another take away: in terms of evidence, more is more! Or at the very least, some is vastly better than none. As well, in the conclusion of the paper, the author used the terms vision and mission interchangeably, which particularly irritated one journal club member and was another example of imprecision.

The discussion moved from the particulars of the article to innovation in general with some observations being made:
• Innovation is not dependent on age: people across the age spectrum can be innovative.
• We are overwhelmed by choice. The more choices we have makes making a choice more difficult. Decision-making is difficult.
• Is there a type of innovation on the other side of radical, i.e. useless? Change for change sake?
• One participant felt that innovation of all types can be useless. Innovation doesn’t necessarily create more viable choices.
• Libraries are always playing catch up…it may be innovative to us but not elsewhere [depending of course on the library].
• Difference between innovation and library innovation. Is there a difference between innovation and implementation?

At the very least, C-EBLIP Journal Club members felt that reading about innovation could be valuable when heading into a state of change. And let’s face it, we’re generally dealing with change more often than not these days. To conclude, although the article had some methodological gaps and members felt that the author could have been more selective when transforming his PhD dissertation into an article, the article did give us the basis for a fruitful discussion on innovation and the first meeting of 2015/16 was an hour well spent.

This article gives the views of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of the Centre for Evidence Based Library and Information Practice or the University Library, University of Saskatchewan.