This Week in LIS - 27 July 2012

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Headline of the Week: Innovation and Negotiation

Study over the last couple of weeks has focused on negotiation. The motivation for this is the maturing of the cloud computing concept and an anticipation that there will be negotiations associated with any thoughtful consideration of “cloud.” A number of such services are used at Luther today. In fact it is getting to the point that it is not obvious when “cloud” is being used and sometimes when asked folks have to check to see whether a function is being hosted here at Luther or in the cloud (this is especially true if the service has been procured outside of LIS.) For those unfamiliar with the terminology, let’s back up a bit on “cloud.” (Those familiar may jump to the section “INNOVATION & NEGOTIATION” below.)

One of the trends we have been watching in the IT industry for the last few years is the “Cloud.” Cloud computing refers to the delivery of computing (and storage) as a service over a network. The label “cloud” comes from the frequent use of a cloud-shaped diagram used to represent the complex infrastructure that is required to manifest such a computing service. Cloud computing entrusts a service provider with a user’s data, and it provides software and computation over a network for a fee. Like most IT buzzwords, it is an overloaded term that can mean many things to many people. Generally if one looks at the cost of a local server and some level of management for the infrastructure and the application in play, doing it yourself would be much cheaper than using a cloud service. So what’s the fuss?

The big (promised) value in “cloud” is that anyone (e.g. smaller institutions) can get enterprise level quality computing services. The long list of required experts to deliver enterprise class computing services (and the associated costs of secure, highly available and reliable infrastructure) can be shared across many institutions. Through sharing one can leverage pools of expertise they would not be able to afford on their own.

Concerns remain. It does not matter if the costs of enterprise level cloud services are cheaper than delivering enterprise classes services on your own if they are still unaffordable, period. Further, one must get to a sufficient position of trust and risk awareness to entrust another firm with your business critical data and process enabling computing.

Nevertheless, it is expected that these services will mature. Through innovation, standards and scale these services will fall in price while service quality improves. Experience and successful references will lead more of us to put these services into our consideration set when we evaluate how we deliver computing services to our institution.


Therefore, it seems like skills in negotiation, contracts and trans-organizational project management become more important and valuable. I tend to start with reading what experts and aggregators of information have to say as a starting point on a learning journey. So off from the shelf came a couple books on negotiating.

William Ury in his book Getting Past No talks in the author’s note about how cooperation and collaboration are becoming more and more important in the workplace. As a service providing organization surely this is true for our case. Further he goes on to say, “Negotiation is the pre-imminent form of decision making in personal and professional life.” This seems especially true if the decisions are controversial.

Here is the connection to innovation and manifesting a culture receptive to the conversations (and associated costs) of an innovative culture. Decisions about innovative ideas within LIS by nature have both a collaborative/cooperative dimension (e.g. applies to those who work together to make a new innovative idea work and it applies to those for whom the service innovation applies) and a decision-making dimension. Negotiation applies to both. My “ah ha” moment was that skills in negotiation are important within LIS and the Luther community as part of our ongoing cooperation and decision making in addition to dealing with outside service suppliers and contract negotiations for possible “cloud” IT projects.

What were some important takeaways regarding our interests in innovation and Ury’s treatment of negotiation? He describes five barriers to cooperation and the first barrier lies within each of us. Humans are reaction machines. When we see change we naturally react. One can imagine pouring the new idea over our mental models to see if it resonates or not. One is naturally drawn to all the reasons we can imagine that explain why an idea might not work, or why the idea hadn’t surfaced earlier or why it didn’t work in the past. Some might imagine that an idea for change reflects poorly on them if they are the keepers of the status quo.

The key is to control that initial response and instead focus on preserving the relationship. Ury encourages us to think about the underlying motivations and interests of both the idea contributor and the idea processor(s) and to work towards joint problem solving. Imagine participants moving from a position opposite each other with a controversial idea between them, to a position of sitting side by side with the problem on the table both participants are collectively working to solve.

All the issues that were part of the initial reaction will need to be dealt with at some time. They are valuable and essential for successful proposals. They are not to be thrown away. Time is everything. One can’t get to thoughtful proposals if ideas are crushed with (albeit natural) reactions.

There is another consequence as well. Permission and encouragement for new ideas for innovation are dampened when they see others’ innovative ideas squelched reactively. To the degree that teams tend to “norm” in behavior and over time ongoing behavior becomes culture, the desired culture of innovation is compromised.

For the leaders on our team consider how you might contribute to innovation by championing interactions that give permission and make room for the conversations about underlying interests and joint problem solving. Facilitate interactions by recognizing that something that didn’t work in the past might now work because either different people are involved or the environment might have changed. Try to tease out of an earlier failure the specifics and test them against the new idea and the problem solving skills of the team.

Finally, for those putting out new ideas. There is some pioneering that comes with innovation and new ideas. Pioneering is hard work and is not without risk. Consider how especially controversial ideas might be intentionally socialized so the idea matures and issues are overcome before shared more broadly. Seek out the contrarian point of view in the spirit of negotiating compromise that meets interests. One should not expect to always agree but, with courage and straight talk, leveraging relationships grounded in trust, we can get to high levels of mutual understanding. Adjudication is another tool useful at that point.

Collaboration, cooperation and joint problem solving; sitting side by side working on how to make something work as a first response to a new idea – that seems like a characteristic of an innovative culture and characteristic of an organization that is more likely to find the opportunities in change and less likely to be victims of change.

Suggested reading:

“Getting to Yes” – Negotiating Agreement without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury.

“Getting Past No” – Negotiating Your Way From Confrontation to Cooperation by William Ury.

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LIS Blog Highlights from the Week

The following articles are sampled from those available on the LIS Blog:

Notes from LIS Council

LIS Council is the leadership team within LIS. Among the topics discussed the past two weeks were:

  • LIS Operational Agenda
    • Council members will be reporting on LIS operational views (metrics for processes and status of projects) regularly at LIS Council meetings. The past two week’s reports included the following: Archives, Network & Systems, Library, Software Development.
    • Archives Operations
      • Collection – Luther’s Processed Collection contains 2400 total linear feet, 20 record groups, and 483 separate collections. Current Accessions include 127 linear feet, approximately 100 record transfers, and 7 outside donations. We are looking into potential reporting options for Archon.
      • Outreach – Archon Day was held at Luther on July 17, 2012, with 31 participants from Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Missouri in attendance. Archon is the software used to support the archive. The group met to share experiences and provide mutual support.
      • Efficacy of Policies – We are waiting for a billing report in regard to Confidential Destruction.
      • Special Projects – Updates were given on the Journeys to America and Postville Projects.
    • Network and Systems Operations:
      • Network Registrations – Registered devices that are added to our network are tracked.
      • Total Wireless Connections – In terms of total wireless connections, there is not much change over 24 hours, but showing a full year displays how connections change over the course of the school year.
      • Internet Speed – Our ICN capacity is increasing to 200 Mbps from 70 Mbps. We discussed bandwidth capacity and cost. We are exploring what it would take to get a dark fiber route to a Gigapop.
    • Library Operations Highlights from Library meeting
      • Ryan relayed that Jennifer gave a report on the Better World Books pilot. They are a firm that takes shipments of books, sells them and returns part of the proceeds to the provider of the book (15%) and part to a charity of our choice (5% and we selected a charity that provides books to Africa). We intend to learn about the process, the costs to engage the process and economics of re-purposing books in this way as compared to our ongoing annual book sale.
      • The Social Media Team is putting in place a steering committee to focus on decision making. Platform experts and content developers are being identified.
      • Two collection database projects are underway. For the Fine Arts collection, content is being added to the database (leaders are Kate Elliott and David Kamm). There is an LIS sub-project to provide a Reason-based web interface and website. The second project just getting underway is for the Anthropology collection. A grant was secured to fund this project. Additionally the Whirl-i-gig company will provide support for moving data from the existing MS Access based system to the new database.
    • Software Development Operations
      • Marcia provided highlights on a number of projects underway within Software Development including:
        • KATIE
        • Faculty training related to Morsle
        • VoiceThread and Moodle integration
        • Door access for residence halls. A design change has been made to put the readers on the inside doors vs. the outside doors (in Olson, Larsen, and something else)
      • In regard to metrics, Marcia showed:
        • A graph of closed tasks for last 90 days (from KBOX data)
        • A graph of UniData license usage over three times of day
        • Examples of web page load times; Bob is installing a tool to provide additional tracking of KATIE usage (Apache modstatus for KATIE?)
  • New Items
    • Energy Office Visits
      • Sustainability would like to talk with LIS in regard to office comfort and saving energy in the work environment. Meetings will be scheduled by Jordan Burkhart.
    • Downtime Log
      • Adam shared a Google spreadsheet “Log of Unplanned Downtime”. There was discussion regarding the value of knowing the availability or unavailability of our services. Planned downtime is included in a LIS Norse Calendar already and will be updated with additional planned items.
    • LIS Website into Reason
      • We discussed the process of moving the LIS website from Drupal to Reason, content types involved, and potential scenarios for the migration. Details of implementation and the timeline are still under consideration.
    • Top Vote Getting Objectives
      • Separate meetings have been scheduled to knit the objectives from our strategy day into a comprehensive list of LIS Objectives for 2012-13.
    • Support for HHMI Grant
      • We discussed the HHMI Grant awarded to Luther College and how LIS can be of assistance. A meeting was held 7/23 where the grant overview was shared and LIS shared ideas for support.
    • Aquatic Center
      • LIS has been invited to a meeting regarding the new Aquatic Center (8/6). Dennis is taking the lead and making a list of conversation points, inviting input from other LIS members.
    • Online Calendaring
      • There will be a “big picture” conversation about campus-wide calendaring with campus programming (target September), reviewing the calendars currently in use and determining how to maximize clarity and management efficiency.
    • LIS Emergency Response Plan Update
      • We discussed the LIS Emergency Response Plan, considering expanding it to include all servers and services. Discussed other possible ways in which the plan might be changed and how to determine what changes to be made.
    • ACUTA Membership
      • We discussed whether or not to become members of ACUTA.
      • We discussed future of the software license for the “ideas” software. We are investigating the possibility and impact of cancelling the subscription.
    • Preus Leaks
      • A meeting regarding water leaks that have occurred in Preus Library over the years and how to prevent future leaks was held with Facilities.
    • Educause Core Data Survey
      • LIS is working on completing the survey. The deadline is August 3, 2012.

Upcoming LIS Training, Instruction, and Professional Development Opportunities

Click on the event below for specific information and for a link to register. More information on training and development events is available.

Course Format Date Location Enrollment
Creating a Faculty Website Using Reason Workshop Aug 9 2012 – 9:00am 12:00pm Olin 301 – Round Table Room Open
Senior Projects: Creating Meaningful Culminating Experiences in the Major Faculty Development Aug 16 2012 – 9:00am 1:00pm Dahl Centennial Union – Nansen Open
Luther College as a Community of Faith and Learning (Day 1 of 2) Faculty Development Aug 20 2012 – 9:00am 3:30pm Loyalty Board Room Open
Paideia 111/112 New Instructor Workshop (Day 1 of 2) Faculty Development Aug 20 2012 – 9:00am 12:00pm Main 114 Open
Updates for Academic Advisors Faculty Development Aug 20 2012 – 9:00am 12:00pm TBA Open
Luther College as a Community of Faith and Learning (Day 2 of 2) Faculty Development Aug 21 2012 – 9:00am 3:30pm Loyalty Board Room Open
Paideia 111/112 New Instructor Workshop (Day 2 of 2) Faculty Development Aug 21 2012 – 9:00am 12:00pm Main 114 Open
Writing in the Disciplines Faculty Development Aug 22 2012 – 1:00pm 4:00pm Main 112 Open

This Week in LIS is published most Fridays by Paul Mattson, Executive Director of LIS at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.

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