Knowledge Bank Workplace Innovation

Best practices and other information about Workplace Innovation and Smart Working

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  • Publication date: 2010
  • Date added: 2010
  • Organisatie: Vereniging van Openbare Bibliotheken
  • Homepage:
  • Telefoon: +3170 - 30 90 500
  • Postadres: Postbus 16146
    2500 BC Den Haag
    The Netherlands




Rating: Bottum -up innovation at Public Libraries

Bottum -up innovation at Public Libraries

2010 - In 2009 the ‘Vereniging van Openbare Bibliotheken’  (The Public Library Association), started the innovation program, named: Goudklompje (nuggets of gold). Employees started considering the question of what role they want to play in the information society and encourage each other and think and participate in innovating  the library. The directors and managers were given explicit command not to interfere at all.
During a period of nine months 160 librarians from 22 libraries came together regularly with a guide. Each team brought his innovative ideas in the process. Motto: The future has already begun, only not yet distributed everywhere. They made the other teams share their insights, surprising ways to look at the reality, new ways to get influence on the innovation process and the inclusion of others in the innovation movement; and of course of concrete results from their process.

Why this is workplace innovation
This organizational development comes from the employees themselves. Managers and directors do not interfere with it; they are only "sponsors" in the process. They look for out-of-the-box solutions and inspiration. The purpose of the organizational development program is to start small and decentralized, and to move this enthusiasm  gradually towards a national innovation movement in the Public Libraries.

The aim is to develop the Public Library in such a way that they are aligned with the needs of today's information society in which customers themselves get information more and more easily. The idea is to strengthening the innovative power of the library sector through the qualities of the current employees. The core of the program is that the library staff learn to look differently at a problem and thereby dare to use renewed instruments and other ways of organizing.  This will bring a cultural change, enthusiasm and energy effects. Through starting this change on a small scale and decentralized they want to establish a national innovation movement finally.

Several libraries could  register for the nuggets project in teams. Condition for participation of these teams was that they had carte blanche and the support of their management (the "sponsors") for their participation. Spread all over the country 24 teams of six people, each accompanied by a guide from outside, went  and looked for gold nuggets. Directors and managers ("sponsors") were explicitly commanded not to interfere.
Between February and November 2009 four working conferences were held. These were intensive meetings with all teams where the status quo was shaken briskly while  new insights  emerged playfully. The "sponsors" as a group had separate interviews with coaches one day after work conferences. Between working conferences the teams consulted with their coaches, which came from various agencies. Most teams made inspiration visits to other organizations such as schools, the football club Heerenveen and the Hema (a department store). Gradually ideas were adjusted and refined.
Both the management as well as the teams had to get used to the autonomy for the employees, said Paul Busker, Director of the employers' association for public libraries. Boards and managers learned to keep their hands off of the process and let it go, even when they do not quite know which way it would go. Employees on the other hand had to get used to not getting presented a plan, but had to start themselves. An appeal was made on their ability to innovative thinking  and that was not always easy. When finally they start thinking and acting for themselves a new world opened up to them.

Gradually there something had changed in the process, the manners and the inspiration. Insights and results were shared with the rest of the libraries via the website 'bibliotheek2.0 " and on a final conference for colleagues and other stakeholders. Apart from practical results that librarians can implement in their library,  the change in mentality is the main result. Employees are enthusiastic, tackle things and look for solutions that are not obvious. They take responsibility and indeed within the libraries the climate for that was created. The team members also inspire their colleagues.
The Employers Association for Public Libraries would like to spread this project to more libraries and bring  these changes to national level. The evaluation indicated positive results, but also there are opportunities for improvement. There is the wish to involve the management of the participating libraries more in the program and there was asked for a  stronger connection to the intended innovations in digitization, marketing and HRM.

Example of a Nugget
The team of the library in Vught suggested to do something with social media. The team took looked for applications in contact with the customer of social media like Twitter, Hvves Flickr. Meanwhile we all library staff is eager to join in too.


A booklet (in Dutch) with examples of Nuggets and the article Loslaten! Op de handen blijven zitten valt managers zwaar! (Let things Go! Remain sitting on your hands. This is heavy for managers) (2010) by Linda Huijsmans in Slow Management are attached.
More information about the organization development at WOB can be found through via: and via: