In 2005, Tom Kelley published The Ten Faces of Innovation. In the book the author of the previous bestseller The Art of Innovation revealed the strategies IDEO, the Silicon Valley based world-famous design firm, uses to foster innovative thinking throughout an organization.
For us in Bearing, the book is central to how we work with our clients when it comes to corporate innovation. It has helped us understand our customers organizations capabilities and how we can develop solutions that they actually really want.
It has also helped us to observe the right things and discover some real insights in our projects. The stories in the book just make you look for unusual things.
In our experience, a reinforcing and positive corporate culture is the key to successfully developing a company through innovation and keeping a company ahead in todays world of hyper competition. How one go about doing it in practice has never before nor since been described in a more accessible way.
The book is important and even though it is seven years since it was published, we wish to present a review in this blog as it is still the state of art text in understanding the innovation enabling personas.
Drawing on 20 years of experience managing IDEO, Kelley identifies the ten roles or personas which people can play in an organization to stimulate innovation and new ideas while offering an effective counter to the ever present naysayers.
Among the personas are the Anthropologist—the person who goes into the field to see how customers use and respond to products, to come up with new innovations; the Cross-pollinator who mixes and matches ideas, people, and technology to create new concepts that can drive growth; and the Hurdler, who instantly looks for ways to overcome the limits and challenges to any situation.
Filled with engaging stories of how companies like Kraft, Procter and Gamble, Cargill and Samsung have incorporated IDEO’s thinking to transform the customer experience, the book is an extraordinary guide to nurturing and sustaining a culture of continuous innovation and renewal.
The book provides a prescriptive approach to building successful design teams by focusing on the key roles that members can play in the overall design process. Kelley defines IDEO’s successful design process as a team activity that includes participants with very diverse interests, talents, and backgrounds. He makes the design process more accessible to the non-design professional by the roles that people can readily identify with.
The personas are structured into three separate groups, focusing on the common features of their roles.
The Learning Personas
The Learning Personas are constantly looking for new insights to expand their knowledge. They understand that the world is changing rapidly and that companies need to be attentive to input from anywhere it can be found. The Learning Personas keeps the team from being too internally focused.
Seeing with fresh eyes may be one of the hardest parts of innovation. You have to put aside your experience and preconceived notions. The Anthropologists are skilled and interested individuals who actively seek out an authentic experience to observe. They observe how people interact with products, services, and experiences and identify the core problems to be solved.
The Experimenter is someone who makes ideas tangible by pushing them into a visual form as quickly as possible, they prototype over and over again. Experimenters love to play, to try out different ideas and approaches. They work with teams of all shapes and sizes
The Cross-Pollinator can create something new and better through the unexpected blend of seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts. They are T-shaped individuals with wide interests, a voracious curiosity and an aptitude for learning and teaching. Cross-Pollinators stir up ideas by exploring worlds that may at first glance seem to have little relevance to the problem at hand.
The Organizing Personas
The Organizing Personas understand and master the often counter-intuitive process of how organizations move ideas forward. They keep focused, stay on the track while handling the processes of budgeting and resource allocation without losing sight of the main goal.
The essence of a Hurdler is perseverance. They are tireless problem-solvers who overcome obstacles so naturally that sometimes it seems as if they weren’t even there. They often turn an obstacle into opportunities and approach problems from new perspectives.
The Collaborator truly values the team over the individuals, and the project accomplishments beyond individual achievements. In the interest of getting things done, the Collaborator pushes people out of their work silos to form multidisciplinary teams. They champion the process as much as the project and by doing so they give the team the opportunity and skills to complete the tasks at hand.
The role of the Director is more complex and nuanced than any other in the world of innovation. The Director understands both the big picture and the flow, pulse and culture of the organization. Their main purpose is to inspire and direct other people, setting objectives, developing chemistry in teams, targeting strategic opportunities and achieving innovation momentum.
The Building personas
The Building Personas apply insights from the learning roles and channel the empowerment from the organizing roles to make the innovation happen. People in these roles are highly visible, and often you will find them right at the heart of the action.
The Experience Architect
Experience Architects fend off the ordinary whenever they find it, fighting against the forces of entropy and commoditization when it comes to their team or their organization. They focus relentlessly on creating remarkable individual experience not only for customers, but also for their fellow employees.
The Set Designer
Set Designers constantly tweak the design and layout of the office. Every day is a chance to rearrange the workplace. Set Designers balance private and collaborative space, giving people room to collaborate but also providing sanctuary of privacy for intensively individual work. In doing so, this person makes space itself one of an organization’s most versatile and powerful tools.
Through empathy, Caregivers work to understand each individual customer and to extend the relationships. Caregivers shift from telling to showing, from serving customers to helping individuals. The Caregiver is less about transmitting knowledge to customers and more about sharing insights, a seamless blend of service and expertise. They make customers feel more confident about their choices.
Stories persuade in a way that facts, reports and market trends seldom do, because stories makes an emotional connection. The historic fabric of a company is a potent way to communicate values and objectives across a widely dispersed and multicultural organization. A Storyteller weaves myths, stories and events to heighten reality and draw out lessons. This person goes beyond oral tradition to work in whatever medium best fits their skills and message.
The practical experience
To give depth to the description of the 10 personas, the book is filled with stories about how IDEO works to create new solutions for their customers and Kelly’s experience from organizations and businesses he has served. The examples vary over a broad range of products and services. In the process, Kelley convinces us that organizations should nurture and cherish playing with ideas.
This is not a book based on academic research on innovation, or a broad cover of experience from a number of different sources. The Ten Faces of Innovation is a book based on Tom Kelly’s personal experience from IDEO. In addition to the focus on personas, the book also covers common “IDEO-tools” such as brainstorming and prototyping, known from Kelly’s previous book The Art of Innovation.
A professional designer, business developer, project manager, architect, urbanist or engineer, may see the ideas as amateurish and inappropriate for traditional design projects like developing plans for a new building or preparing a place branding project, but this book is addressing innovation processes that are trying to find new solutions to often everyday problems and engage the people that may be best equipped to relate to the needs of end users. In this way it shows us how to think in generic terms on the composition of successful teams and organizations, and in a hyper competitive world, this can be invaluable.
We believe, as Seth Godin wrote in his review:
"Essential reading for every single person in your organization–even the CEO should read it! Each page contains a nugget that’s worth the price of the entire book. Wow."
—Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow