We are all busy, right? Working to keep things moving like services, getting the stuff done, and keeping on top of the workload. It therefore seems a luxury to allow some time for experimentation with our products, our services, our users.
But I believe we should stop to consider this time as an essential and allow some ‘safe to fail’ time in our businesses.
I have been reflecting on the last five years of my work where safe to fail has been a positive element. This is something I didn’t learn from library school but I wish I had. This post is a reminder to myself and to anyone who cares to hear it – sometimes it is better to stop being busy doing stuff and start being better. Warning – that usually involves an element of failure.
One of my interests has been Trojan Mice, first discovered by me in a Euan Semple blog, ten ways to create a knowledge economy. It involves giving people some time and small amounts of money that they take develop and take ownership of small side projects. If the pilots are successful then scale them up in the business; if not abandon them.
Safe to fail is a liberating experience. In my field of health the National Health Service in Scotland has been supporting this financially through project funding. Some pilots have been successful and have gone on to become real services and others though not services have ignited other ideas, changes and developments.
The idea for this week’s post was sparked by the Dan Slee blog. He works in PR and communications specifically in the public sector – a million miles away from the work I do, yet I am constantly amazed how much his writings resonate with my work in health information. He reminded me of the brilliant Elvis impersonator snow gritter video for a UK council public service – a Trojan Mouse that paid dividends and sent the right message to users at the right time.
I am reminded that often we don’t need more time, just a better use of our time. Time to adjust our concentration onto something new or different; even just for short bursts. Taking ownership, could be that win win for employees and the employer. Even if a project is not scaled up I’ll take a bet that you and your service will be better for it. It is not about taking your eye off business as usual ball, because that has to happen, but it is about taking your eye off the where are we going ball?
Start to fail is a pragmatic approach – it could be the start of something really good for you and your service.
Tom is originally from Brooklyn N.Y but has spent his entire professional career in South Carolina, most recently as Head of Reference Services at the College of Charleston. As part of the Against the Grain and Charleston Conference team, he serves as the associate editor of the print ATG as well as the co-editor of the webpage. Tom’s conference duties include coordinating the Penthouse Suite interviews as well as the conference poster sessions.
He received his MLS from the University of Buffalo, SUNY and a second master’s in public administration from the College of Charleston and the Univ. of South Carolina. His wife Carol and he live in downtown Charleston and she is an artist and a tour guide offering historic walking tours of the city.