Thursday, March 3, 2011

Assignment 2: The Smart Mob "Makeover"

The Smart Mob “Makeover” by Terence K. Huwe

This article is targeted at librarians and deals specifically with the question of how to integrate and utilize digital libraries. Although the examples provided relate specifically to the author’s experience as the Director of Library and Information Resources at U of C – Berkeley, many of the conclusions regarding empowering smart mobs have broader application.

Huwe’s central example of a smart mob involves Sponsored Bloggers who were invited to comment on a strategic planning initiative at U of C – Berkeley. In this example, the bloggers provided comments on the process as it unfolded, and also commented on various guest speakers who were brought in. Although Huwe considered the blog a success, he notes that “a fair number of staff did not post at all” or asked to remain anonymous. (Huwe, 26). This seems to indicate that some his staff may have still viewed this process as top-down, rather than collaborative, and may not have completely embraced the concept of the smart mob. Huwe’s evaluation may be somewhat biased, as he was directly involved as one of the sponsored bloggers.

Huwe’s experience led him to two conclusions: 1) when introducing new technologies, top-down management styles won’t work, and 2) people will begin using technologies when they become necessary to complete the tasks of their jobs. In order to embrace the idea of collaborative implementation, Huwe makes three recommendations:

1) Empower the smart mobs – here he suggests that implementation group consist of a broad range of users from across the organization with different levels of authority. He then suggests that these people be given “wiggle room” to come up with creative solutions to problems, and that the solutions be implemented without interference from upper management.

2) Take positive steps to ensure open and full dialogue – Huwe suggests here that initially, people who are willing to share information freely must be found, and that no editing or censorship be applied to their posts. This will then encourage others to contribute as well.

3) Establish trust to increase involvement – here the suggestion is that users’ trust of new technologies will take time to establish, but techniques such as frequent polling and surveys, with appropriate follow-up of suggestions, will help build this trust.

Huwe’s interpretation of a smart mob seems limited by existing management structures. Although he speaks about using technology to gain feedback from users and employees, it is not clear that this really occurred in the specific example he provides. The Sponsored Blog group in his example did accomplish its goals, but was there a broader engagement with line-level staff outside of this group? Did the new strategic plan really change the way library staff does their jobs? Huwe seems more focused on implementation rather than the end result. His ideas make sense, but more research would be needed to properly support his conclusions.

Huwe, T. “The Smart Mob Makeover.” Computers in Libraries, v28, no 8. (September, 2008). Pg. 24, 26-27.

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