Jay Jordan is the fourth president in OCLC’s 43-year history was a featured speaker as part of the TechColumbus 2011 Leadership Series sponsored by Vorys. Jay came to OCLC in May 1998 after a 24-year career with Information Handling Services, an international publisher of databases, where he held a series of key positions in top management, including President of IHS Engineering. Prior to joining IHS, Jay held positions with the 3M Corporation in Europe and the United States.
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As the picture shows the Presidents Jay referenced the foundation and legacy he was building on. I have lived in Columbus for over a decade and had been to meetings at OCLC but had no idea of the service they provide for the world. I am a huge fan of the concept of libraries – they seem to me to be one of the hallmarks of a great civilization – making knowledge accessible to anyone who can show up irrespective of income. OCLC’s purpose is: Furthering access to the world’s information and reducing the rate of rise of per-unit costs. As Jay talked, a few things became clear about OCLC and about him:
- OCLC is a global organization committed to creating a complete inventory of all libraries, museums and historic society documents so they are accessible now and for future generations
- Jay is an innovative leader in many ways- he is designing and building an innovative organization that is meeting the needs of today and of the future. Phrases like this are used often with little meat behind them; in his case the numbers tell the story. This organization represents 72,000 in 170 countries. They are truly serving a global population and governed by global governing councils.
- They own the Dewey Decimal System that classifies information using numbers – it is universal across the globe.
- They have cataloged over 2.1 billion items (books, periodicals, music scores, sound recordings, computer files and other documents) with 57.5% being in languages other than English.
- They are innovating by leveraging their technology and also what they deliver and how they deliver it to stay relevant in a very dynamic business. For them the adage, innovate or die is a mandate. On the right is the image of an ap they provide that helps find parking spaces on the OSU campus real time.
After listening to his presentation about the rate of growth and his commitment to serve future generations by making this massive body of knowledge available and accessible, I wondered what set him apart from other leaders and what lessons we could learn from him. Here are a few of the ideas he shared:
- Understand what the future will require of us and build our technology and services to intersect that future.
- He talked a great deal about engaging younger folks (digital natives) – bringing kids to work. Asking questions of young people in high school who see the world differently (young people have always had an internet like many of us have had television)
- Get out of your comfort zone – remain curious
- Hang out with crazy people – those who want to change the world and leave a legacy. Even if they miss the mark, they are still making an impact
- We live our values
- Failure is expected if you are learning and growing – keep experimenting
- Collaboration is critical with other organizations and around the world
- Hire diverse people with different strengths to ensure a well-rounded team
- Measurement is important but so is realizing that there are important things that cannot be measured – stay open and aware of the value and the limitations to measurement
OCLC is a non-profit corporation. One phrase he started with and ended with was you cannot “do good” unless you “do well”. I took this to mean that you cannot meet your mission and help the world if you are not well run and financially sustainable.
OCLC is doing good and is doing well. Because of their work, many generations in the future will have access to the treasures we have created during our lifetimes. Additionally, he is leaving a legacy of an organization that is visionary – setting the bar high for leveraging technology and remaining relevant in a very dynamic world.
After reading what Jay is doing at OCLC, is there any quality he demonstrates that you might consider integrating into your own leadership approach? What is your legacy as a leader?
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