Do you feel the fear?

‘Tis the season to be scary! Halloween is a time for ghosties and ghoulies and things that go bump in the night. It’s also a time for taking on monsters and making them yours; for having fun with your fears.

Innovation is often faced by three main fears; fear of the unknown, fear of change and the fear of failure. So let’s have a look at these fears up close.


Fear of the Unknown

If you are innovating you are going to be stepping into new territory and this takes some people well out of their comfort zone. It’s not necessarily that these people especially like the current situation, but it takes a bit longer for them to adapt to a new one.

Other people are more comfortable with new things than others, so getting them on side can be really helpful in exploring the unknown. Another trick (or treat) is to sandwich any new material in between bits of familiar routine to help accustom people to new ideas faster.

Fear of change

Unlike those above who are just worried about the new and unknown, those who fear change (metathesiophobes) are also reluctant to let go of the old. If you’re introducing a new system or work practice it may be worth identifying what exactly about the old or current system appeals to the ‘phobes.

Starting working with new things can be terrifying, if only because you lose your sense of competence. You knew how the old ways worked, and the disorientation of starting anew can be daunting. It may help to remember how disorientating previous changes have been, and how soon you became accustomed to them.

Fear of failure

Innovation is built on a solid foundation of the failed ideas that went before. If you want innovation, you need to be willing to experiment and to fail. Failure is increasingly being recognised as vital to the processes of Innovation, and that it can be as important to celebrate failure as success. There is even an International Day for Failure (which also happens to be the International day for Natural Disaster Reduction.)

But just because we know it is important, doesn’t mean we are going to want to do it. We’ve all been taught to try to avoid failure, to minimise mistakes and to stick to the tried and tested rather than forge new paths. But these things are part of Innovation and many companies are trying to make risk a more acceptable option. After all, you won’t get anywhere if you are afraid to try.

Happy Halloween.


Innovation from the cradle

I recently visited our Collection Care department over at John Rylands Library and got interested in the Innovation Process behind Project Cradle- using technology we were already using elsewhere to refine a long standing process. I asked Elaine Sheldon, the Conservator behind the project about how the Project came to be.

Project Cradle

What kicked off the Innovation process that led to Project Cradle?

I studied at the Royal College of Art, and worked as a designer prior to working in Conservation. Designing a flat, adhesive free cradle struck me as a great opportunity to use my skills. I put the idea forward at an away day organised by the Collection Care manager (at the time) Caroline Checkley- Scott. Caroline supported the idea which allowed us to progress it. 

The idea was developed in collaboration with my colleague Mark Furness. Mark had received  training  on writing parametrics for the library’s ‘Kasemake’ box making machine. Mark has developed the parametric that we are currently using.


The box making machine used to make the new cradles

What sort of innovation processes did you use in Project Cradle- brainstorming, horizon scanning etc? Did you get any input from outside the Library?

 I applied the design process I always use – I wrote a brief, I did some research which included looking at other cradles and I made some models.  I also created a mini  presentation to explain the idea to colleagues and a set of instructions so that other people can draw book profiles which can be sent to us. This has allowed us to work on a pilot project with the Wellcome Trust creating cradles for one of their current exhibitions.


How much time do you save using the new cradles? Any other major benefits?

A cradle can take a few hours to make by hand, cradles made using the new system take much less time (approximately thirty minutes). The cradles can be laid out together on a sheet of museum board, this keeps material waste to a minimum. 

The cradles pack flat allowing them to be transported Internationally when books go out on loan. No glue is used in the cradles assembly so there is no drying time, cradles can be put together and put straight into the display case with the book.

Are there any difficulties with the new cradles?

Designing a flat cradle was my initial brief. I don’t like angled cradles for a variety of reasons – mainly because books are generally better supported flat. We do have some older display cases at the library (in the Rylands gallery) that require angled cradles/mounts. The mounts that are used in these cases are currently still made by hand.

Did you have to “go back to the drawing board” at any point and if so why?

The design process produced lots of ideas, one of the reasons we decided to use the box making machine was because Marks parametric knowledge.

Other ideas  included using air drying materials and 3d printing. I also wanted to explore the potential of  making a cradle from an uploaded photograph of an open book profile. The direction the  project eventually took was based on the resources and equipment we had in the department.

Startling Shelving!


Although the old adage of never judging a book by its cover is worth bearing in mind, what about judging or not judging a book by the shelf or furniture on which it sits?!

I was reading a blog post about a book shop in Australia. They reported that they’d replaced two aisles of cheap metal bookshelves with wooden shelves and interestingly found that there was a twenty percent increase in sales from the stock on the wooden shelves over the six months following the change. The blog post suggests that the timber has a particular warmth that made people feel comfortable when browsing in those aisles and so they spent more time there and ended up buying more.
This got me thinking about the importance of our surroundings and how something as simple as shelving in libraries or bookshops can have such an impact on how people feel in those spaces. What subliminal messages do tired, old and frequently wonky shelving send to users of libraries? Obviously there are cost implications in the kind of shelving a library can invest in but there’s nothing to stop us using shelving imaginatively rather than in straight and predictable lines. I found some wonderful photos of innovative use of shelving that inspired me to think about my heaving bookshelves at home and how space can be used creatively and attractively to invite people into libraries and make them exciting places to spend time in –  and that’s before you even get to picking up a stimulating book!