Here at ITHAKA, we’re a creative, think-y bunch, and there are dozens – hundreds! – of ideas bubbling around. Sit in one of our kitchens and you’ll see idea-bubbles forming with every casual chat. We have a lot of similarly creative and thoughtful partners, and our meetings with them lead to still more ideas floating out of conference rooms and into the hallways. Sometimes the air is so thick with them it can be hard to see.
Sometimes, we select one of these ideas and decide to turn it from a substance-less bubble into an actual thing. New features and programs like JSTOR Daily, Register & Read and, heck, JSTOR itself were all just ideas at one point. The challenge comes when we have to choose which of these bubbles floating around has the most potential to help advance scholarly research, teaching and learning.
So we created a team – Labs – to help us solve this problem. (You can breathe easier now: I’m done with precious bubble metaphors.) Labs seeks out new concepts and opportunities for JSTOR, Ithaka S+R and Portico. We refine and validate new ideas through research and experimentation. Since we have SO many ideas, it"s important that we can evaluate ideas quickly – to that end, we"re using “Lean Startup” methodology. If you’re curious about the methodology, Eric Ries’ book of the same name is a great place to start, but so is Steve Blank’s latest, the Business Model Generation, Marty Cagan’s blog, or a dozen other sources.
We hope that this small team using this methodology will be a powerful combination. We hope that it will open up new forms of partnership with others seeking to learn with us. We hope that this will give us a better way to choose between all these ideas. On this blog, we’ll share what we learn along the way. I hope you’ll join us for the voyage.