CNI Fall 2012 – Student-Driven Innovation: Simul8 group at UCLA Library

Student-Driven Innovation: Simul8 Group at UCLA Library
Kevin Rundblad, University of California, Los Angeles
Todd Grappone, University of California, Los Angeles

UCLA received from grant funding from Arcadia to do innovative library work. This project is about student-driven application development. What they get is that they’re being developed by the people who will use them. Trying to capture innovative startup culture in the Library. Their usual project management process doesn’t really get to the freeform chaotic process that is creativity at the student level.

Innovation Thesis: Great new development projects arise from startup-like cultures.
Qualities of a startup: Small, experimental, feedback loops.

2009: needed to find a way to understand users and build apps. Realized Library is good at defense, maintaining systems and keeping them running. But offense – ability to create new apps for newest devices wasn’t their strength. Students work in a startup mentality by nature. Can we create these types of experiences in a work structure? Working “like them” as much as working “with them”

“If you truly want to understand customers’ wants and needs, you need to remove the distance between you and them.”

Started with 5 students.

Founding concepts – leverage student skillsets. Looking for iOS/Android, PHP/Python/MySql, HTML/CSS/Javascript, Amazon Web Services. Students principle driver towards move to the cloud. Not waterfall – Innovation smeared over time. Requirements found in process. Start off creative. Get closer to user experience – implicit user research.

Focus – Mobile/Tablet/Web apps, iPhone/Android. Experiment with new devices and APIs. Build library value, and build value for students by providing a platform for their skills.

Students work independently on their own laptops. Weekly meeting & flexible hours. Using Github. The flexibility in the group is what gives it the power – have to control it like herding cats.

Kevin is the “glue” in the group – App planning. Prototyping – determine suitable technologies. Testing – detail, detail, detail. Find speed/ui issues, github issues.

This group pushes the Library in directions it might not have taken – like Amazon WS. This activity made some folks in the Library IT department uncomfortable, but it’s been great.


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