Title: Being an Information Innovator
Author: Jennifer Rowley
Publisher: Facet Publishing
Place of publication: London
Publication year: 2011
Innovation and entrepreneurship are subjects that one rarely finds in information science literature. Being an Information Innovator is aimed at information professionals who may not have had much formal contact with literature on innovation but are faced with the need for innovation in their organizations. As such it is a book that was long overdue and may yet become standard reading for all forward-looking information professionals.
The book provides a summary of different theories on innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity, some coming from the information professionals, but mostly business-based. The text is readable and arguments are well made. There are also plenty of tables and some graphics for further illustration.
Each chapter provides the reader with plenty of food for thought. Most of the (sub)sections end with a short question that tries to stimulate the reader to think of the newly learned concepts in the context of their own experience. At the end of the chapters there are review questions (to test readers' knowledge), challenges (to widen readers' horizons), as well as potential questions for group discussions. The references for each chapter are well-chosen.
The first chapter introduces some key concepts discussed in greater detail in the rest of the book, such as innovation, entrepreneurship and creativity. It also provides an explanation of the differences between innovation and change.
Next, innovation is presented from various aspects, including a closer a look at the nature (radical vs incremental) and type (e.g. product vs process) of innovation. This chapter was co-authored by Anahita Baregheh.
The following chapter, written with the help of Siwan Mitchelmore, focuses on entrepreneurship. Distinction is made between entrepreneurs, who make their own rules, and intrapreneurs, who work within established settings. Much concern is given to public sector corporate entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship, which are both of interest to library and information professionals. Entrepreneurial competences are also discussed.
Having these two crucial pieces of the innovation puzzle in place allows the author to dedicate the next chapter to the organizational aspects of innovation. These are important as, without full organizational support, even the most innovative ideas cannot be fully realized in an established setting.
The last chapter is the most practical as it focuses on problems of putting innovation in practice. The idealistic ideas presented in the previous chapters are viewed through the lenses of real-life problems. Some essential advice is given in the last part of the chapter. Here the view suddenly changes from the narrow focus on being innovative to helping others being innovative. This is an area where information professionals should feel more at home.
If there is one thing that is missing from this book, it is a broader discussion on the motivation behind innovation. If one does not realize why and when innovation is necessary, much of the good advice on how to be innovative, creative and entrepreneurial is wasted. On a similar note, some of the ideas are presented in isolation. It is for instance dangerous to claim that innovators must take risks, without at the same time mentioning that it is only reasonable to do so in an appropriate context. Also, the modern notion that entrepreneurial behaviour can be learned is important. However, the explanation of the related entrepreneurial competences lacks the clarity of the otherwise well-written text and the point does not come across as sharply as it could have.
As the key concepts and ideas deserve the attention given in Rowley's book and there is a distinct lack of dedicated literature on innovation in the information sector, the book ends up being well-suited for use in any part of the public sector, and large parts could come in handy to anyone with a general interest in these topics. On the other hand, this unfortunately means that, apart from the closing pages, the information sector is not often in the forefront, although examples of good practices in the sector are given throughout the book.
While a newcomer to literature on innovation and creativity might expect a more colourful approach, the book takes these topics very seriously and provides a good starting point for those who are prepared for changes. As this book shows, being an information innovator can be rewarding, but it takes a dedicated individual and a supportive environment.
This review previously appeared in Program: electronic library and information systems, Vol. 45 No. 3, pp. 356-357.