The Ten Faces of Innovation

I just finished reading The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Beating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization.

There are some books that I only need to skim to come away with a thorough understanding of the author’s point, bypassing paragraphs of superfluous verbiage. This is definitely not one of those books; I borrowed it from the library and immediately wished I had my own copy to highlight and bookmark. In this rich work, which was recommended to me by a graphic design student, author Tom Kelley presents ten “roles” or personas for innovation. They are:

  1. The Anthropologist: Brings insights by observing human behavior and interactions.
  2. The Experimenter: Constantly prototypes new ideas, learning by trial and error.
  3. The Cross-Pollinator: Translates findings from one industry or culture to another.
  4. The Hurdler: Has a knack for overcoming or outsmarting obstacles.
  5. The Collaborator: Brings diverse groups together to create new combinations and solutions.
  6. The Director: Gathers a talented crew and sparks their creative talents.
  7. The Experience Architect: Knows how to design compelling experiences to meet customers’ needs.
  8. The Set Designer: Focuses on transforming physical environments to enable team members to perform their best work.
  9. The Caregiver: Anticipates customer needs and is ready to look after them.
  10. The Storyteller: Builds morale and awareness by designing narratives that reinforce a cultural trait.

Kelley spends one chapter on each persona, describing what they look like and how they foster innovation within an organization. The examples are fascinating, taken from more than 20 years of his experience with IDEO, a design and innovation consulting firm.

In addition to learning more about the ten roles, I highlighted the following ideas and takeaways:

  • An “idea wallet:” a simple card or electronic list to jot down innovative concepts or ideas.
  • “Strive for inspiration but never shy away from perspiration.”
  • “Make it culturally acceptable to show off ideas at their rough, early stages and you’ll see a whole lot more ideas.”
  • When presenting ideas, always present at least two options. That way, the respondent can focus on the pros and cons of each option and is not forced into a charged situation where “no” equals rejection of the person presenting the idea.
  • Hire “T-shaped” individuals who have expertise in one area but breadth of knowledge in many fields.
  • “Regular brainstorming is as critical to an organization as regular exercise is to your health.”
  • Design your work spaces to foster creativity and collaboration. (Down with cubicles farms!)
  • Be aware of the “Doorbell Effect:” the uncomfortable lag between when you push a doorbell button and the door opens, or doesn’t open. Don’t leave customers hanging.
  • “In the long run, flexibility is more important for your organization than size or power.”
As you can tell, I think The Ten Faces of Innovation is well worth your time, a must-read for any organizational leader.

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