JoAnn Hackos, PhD
CIDM Director

I’m pleased to announce the formation of CIDM’s second Innovation Council in Portland, Oregon. Erling Nielsen, publications manager at RadiSys, has brought together a group of 10 managers who are anxious to learn about innovations in information development.

Palmer Pearson provided the inspiration for Erling’s new Innovation Council. Nearly a year ago, Palmer began an Innovation Council in the north Boston area, with 12 managers participating. At the 2005 Best Practices conference Palmer described the Council’s activities and explained how any CIDM member could get one started.

The Innovation Councils are small, allowing for an intimate idea exchange among a small group of interested publications managers. Palmer recommends that when a Council gets larger than 12 members, a new Council should be formed. The purpose of the Council is to enhance the business acumen of publications manager by keeping them abreast of innovations in the field and in neighboring areas. Palmer’s council includes, for example, a representative from a local college that provides a certificate in technical communication management. The managers involved bring new ideas being developed or considered in their own organizations and ideas that come from their ongoing investigation of the business environment.

We are in the process of redesigning the CIDM web site. As soon as the new design is ready to go, we will add a page for the Innovation Council, letting you now where they are located and how to contact the coordinator. We hope to give each Council its personal page to announce meeting dates, agendas, meeting minutes, clippings, and innovations discussed. In this way, the work of all the Councils becomes available to CIDM members.

Anyone hoping to set up an Innovation Council, please let me know of your plans and progress.

Here are Palmer’s recommendations for the logistics to establish your own Innovation Council.

Notification of Meetings—Maintain an email list and notify those on the list of the next meeting. Try to keep the meeting to the same day of the week (Wednesdays) and align dates for about three months. Create a listserv to make this job easier.

Rotation of Duties—So that the burden of traveling long distances is shared among all of the members, try to rotate the venue and the notification duties (setting and sending out the agenda). You might simply rotate the meeting at member sites. Most have no problem having their company (or college) to host the meeting. Palmer’s group meets at 4:00 pm; the host usually provides lights snacks and water/soft drinks/juice.

Meeting Organization—The duty of the host is to present and to maintain (but not necessarily set) the agenda. Ask for input at the end of the previous meeting for ideas for the next. A “call-for-topics” email is also a way to solicit ideas. Consider asking one member to compile a “clipping service” and bring it to every meeting. The list includes articles and ads found since the last meeting that may be of interest to the Innovation Council. If nothing else, it is a conversation starter and a way to set a direction to research innovations that may be useful. Although you have an agenda, always leave time to talk about anything. The open forum includes problems people have, “what ifs” and “here is what we are doing” demos on any topic. The thing to remember is what one writing group thinks is routine may be another team’s innovation.

Membership—The members should be managers or directors, although you may invite anyone you choose. It is the innovative ideas that count. With that said, Palmer recommends not inviting anyone who is looking for sales leads. They may have interesting presentations on their latest products, but we want to keep this group purely a vehicle for new ideas among peers. If someone is thrilled with a new product, they can present their direct experience with it.