books - business 2008

The Ten Faces of Innovation

The Ten Faces of Innovation

by Tom Kelley with Jonathon Littman

IDEO’s Strategies for beating the devil’s advocate and driving creativity throughout your organization.

The Learning Personas (humble enough to question their own worldview, open to new insights every day)




The Organizing Personas (complex game of chess, play to win)




Building Personas

Experience Architect

Set Designer



pg 2 ”Let me just play Devil’s Advocate for a minute.” …. the Devil’s Advocate may be the biggest innovation killer in America today. What makes this negative persona so dangerous is that it is such a subtle threat. Every day, thousands of great new ideas, concepts, and plans are nipped in the bud by Devil’s Advocates. Why is this persona so damning? Because the Devil’s Advocate encourages idea-wreckers to assume the most negative possible perspective, one that sees only the downside, the problems, the issues, the disasters-in-waiting. … innovation is the lifeblood of your organization and the Devil’s Advocate is toxic to your cause. 

pg 7 By developing some of these innovation personas, you’ll have a chance to put the Devil’s Advocate in his place. So when someone says, ”Let me play Devil’s Advocate for a minute,” and starts to smother a fragile new idea with creativity, someone else in the room may be emboldened to speak up and say, ”Let me be an Anthropologist for a moment, because I personally have watched our customers suffering silently with this issue for months, and this new idea just might help them.”

pg 8 So who are these personas? Many already exist inside of large companies, though they’re often underdeveloped or unrecognized. They represent latent organizational ability, a reservoir of energy waiting to be tapped. We all know plenty of bright, capable people who would like to make a bigger contribution, team members whose contributions don’t quite fit into traditional categories like ”engineer” or ”marketer” or ”project manager”. In a post disciplinary world where the old job descriptions can be constraining, these new roles can empower a new generation of innovators.

pg 13 We have too many people out there playing Devil’s Advocate when they should be in a learning role like the Anthropologist, when they should be invoking an organizing role like the Collaborator, when they should be adopting a building role like the Experience Architect. The innovation roles give you a chance to broaden your creative range, with the flexibility to pick the right role for the right challenge.

pg 16 The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but in seeing with new eyes.  – Marcel Proust

pg 25 After seeing the video and talking to Roshi, I’m convinced that we’re just scratching the surface for this novel technique. Digital video technologies have greatly advanced in the last few years, opening up many previously high-end capabilities to people without deep technical expertise. Through Roshi’s media training helped her conceive, capture and edit her time-lapse film, you don’t need Steven Spielberg on your team to turn out evocative minivideos. … The next time you’re looking for new discoveries, instead of holding a focus group, why not focus a lens on real customers…

pg 34 Jane has helped me to see how anthropological fieldwork can be a disarmingly simple source of innovation ideas. Why do so few organizations practice this technique? Perhaps many just fail to act on the insights received. Good observations often seem simple in retrospect but the truth is that it takes a certain discipline to step back from your work routine and look at things with a fresh eye. I think organizations would send a lot more teams out into the field if they understood just how many business opportunities or cost savings simple observations can bring.

pg 36 Any good architect, engineer, designer, or machinist could come up with a host of simple solutions, but if and only if someone took the time to notice the problem in the first place. I only hung around for five minutes of field research and general entertainment (turnstile at Charles de Gaulle airport), but presumably there are people who’ve been working near those turnstiles many hours every day for years. I’m sure most of these people have witnessed this calamity hundreds of times. I suspect it’s just considered to be ”the way things are”, something they’ll fix in a decade, maybe when they expand the station or put in new electronic turnstiles. If only they’d first done a prototype – or even considered that international travelers carry suitcases. Take the time to watch people or anticipate their needs, and I daresay they are less likely to get stuck.

pg 37 ”If I had asked my customers what they wanted,” said the inventive Henry Ford, ”they’d have said a faster horse.” Don’t expect your customers to help you envision the future. Make that mistake and you’re likely to get lots of suggestions for ”faster horses”.

pg 47 I encourage the executives of the companies we consult with to ”squint” a little – to ignore the surface detail and just look at the overall shape of the idea. The informal communication system will spread the word quickly. If the ”people who matter” in your organization learn to squint in this way, it will send a message to all the budding Experimenters that it’s OK to try new things. In a culture of prototyping, you get previews of lots of ideas – even those not quite ready for prime time.

pg 51 The lesson of this story applies to all kinds of companies – from finance to manufacturing and retail. If experimenting is part of your culture, you can respond in hours or days, changing your offerings to meet market shifts and customer demands. Quick reflexes and fast turnaround can be part of what sets you apart from the pack.

pg 55 Experimenters believe that more is always better when it comes to prototypes. One prototype is like having a single rabbit: it has some value, but two can be more interesting, and can start you down the path to more and more. …. Battle– hardened Experimenters know that a variety of options makes possible a much more frank and positive discussion about the pros and cons of a prospective idea.

pg 57 That’s the heart of an Experimenter, someone who loves to prototype. London-based IDEO designer Alan South calls it ”chunking risks”. Breaking down seemingly large problems into miniature experiments to the point where – lo and behold – you’ve generated system change without even knowing it. The power is in making lots of little steps at the same time, building momentum and optimism, the sense that one or a combination of approaches will deliver the necessary improvements.

pg 69 In the corporate world, you can usually spot people in Cross-Pollinator mode if you look   for. They’re the project member who translates arcane technical jargon from the research lab into vivid insights everyone can understand. They’re the traveler who ranges far and wide for business and pleasure, returning to share not just what they saw but also what they learned. They’re the voracious reader devouring books, magazines, and online sources to keep themselves and the team abreast of popular trends and topics. Well rounded, they usually sport multiple interests that lend them the experience necessary to take an idea from one business challenge and apply it in a fresh context. They often write down their insights in order to increase the amount they can retain and pass along to others. They’re dedicated note-takers, capturing insights in notebooks or electronic form. Cross-Pollinators have eclectic backgrounds and develop a distinctive point of view by combining multiple strengths and interests.

pg 75 Cross-Pollinators retain the childlike ability to see patterns others don’t, and to spot key differences. But they’ve also honed the very adult skill of applying those subtle differences in new contexts. They often think in metaphors, enabling them to see relationships and connections that others miss. The act as matchmakers, creating unusual combinations that often spark innovative hybrids. Cross-Pollinators frequently approach problems from unusual angles. They sometimes make a practice of ”doing without” – tackling a problem by considering solutions without some key element popularly considered standard or essential.

pg 78 To create something new, you may have to take something away. For example, MTV does what they call ”deprivation studies” where they get there most frequent viewers to go ”cold turkey for thirty days of no MTV, just to see what clever alternatives they come up with. So try your own version of scarcity. Spend a day generating and communicating ideas without the aid of technology. Pass an afternoon prototyping without conventional tools. The next time your ideas seem stale, challenge a team to come up with something on the cheap. It can be a great innovation exercise.

pg 87 Could you benefit from a reverse mentor? Be one yourself? The best part of this cross-humanization technique is that everyone gains. Consider opening a new line of communication, adopting an attitude that frees you to learn from the youngest members of your staff. David calls it the eggs teaching the chickens. (Amanda’s note – love this!!)

pg 89 Those who practice cross-pollinating, perhaps more than any other persona, intuitively understand the role of serendipity and chance. By actively seeing and connecting with more ideas and people, the Cross-Pollinator becomes a bit like the unlikely bumblebee. Many have wondered how the bumblebee flies at all, with its bulky body and tiny, fragile-looking wings. Perhaps the answer lies, as it does with so many things hard to comprehend, in the sum of the parts. And so it is with the Cross-Pollinator, a sometimes unsung role in the business world, the person who tirelessly spreads the seeds of innovation.

pg 92 ”We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.” – John F. Kennedy, 5/25/61

pg 100 With that insight and his drive to solve  the auto painter’s dilemma, Drew  experimenting with vegetable oils, resins, chicle, linseed, and glue glycerin to create a superior adhesive. When the president finally caught on to what Drew was up to, he ordered him to drop his quest and get back to making better sandpaper. Drew appeared to listen to his superior’s request for about a day. As the weeks went by, the president learned that Drew had returned to his passion, but this time he said nothing.  Finally, Drew asked for company funds to purchase a papermaking machine to make his tape. The president considered his proposal and then turned him down. But Drew was far from finished. As a researcher, he was authorized to approve purchases of up to $100. So he paid for the machine with a series of $99 purchase orders that slipped under the radar. The result? In 1925, Richard Drew successfully produced the world’s first masking tape, a two-inch wide tan tape with pressure-sensitive adhesive backing. Fittingly, the first customers were Detroit automakers. Far from getting him fired, Drew’s insubordination in expensing the prototype equipment he needed to develop new products came to be seen as a hallmark of the 3M can-do mentality.

pg 131 (talking about the men’s American relay team in Barcelona Olympics) Each of them runs the 100-meter dash in about 10 seconds, so you might guess that their combined time would be about 40 seconds, right? Sounds logical. Yet these four remarkable men, each running 100 meters and passing the baton three times, put together a combined performance of 37.4 seconds for a world record – averaging more than 26 miles an hour! But how is that possible? It’s possible because at the moment starter Marsh executed a smooth-as-silk handoff to Burrell, his teammate was already nearing top speed. When the legendary Carl Lewis took the final handoff, he blew by the competition – hitting 28 miles an hour at the finish and helping his team take home Olympic gold.

Relays are won or lost in the handoff. …We’ve all seen botched baton passes – on the track and in business. They’re invariably due to a lack of coordination and communication. (Amanda’s note – what about our handoff in our process? hmmm)

Passing the baton in a modern organization can be even trickier than in a relay, but the metaphor still applies. Success depends on picking the right team and casting them in the proper roles. All participants strive to achieve their personal best while thinking of the team’s performance throughout. If you work on those exchanges to the point where they become smooth and fast, you’ll be amazed at how much you can achieve together. (Amanda’s note – remember coaching the beach team – writing down their personal goals? good idea for project teams too?)

pg 132 So how do you pull off an international project? Start with some genuine face time (video conferencing doesn’t count). Going out for coffee or lunch is how you make the personal connections that build the kind of relationship to enable you to phone someone an ocean away and ask for a favour asap. Humans are still hardwired to believe that breaking bread with one another matters. (Amanda’s note… project team ‘coffee’ excursion after kickoff meeting?)

Once you’ve made that initial human connection, you can better maintain the momentum by establishing multiple lines of communication. E-mail is not enough. At IDEO, we build e-rooms, virtual spaces dedicated to projects carved out on the company’s digital network. Team members make and manipulate a project-specific Wiki (an extremely malleable form of Web page). We often do Web-enabled meetings where we are all looking at the same presentation or documents. We’re not in love with any one technology, but we are willing to adopt whatever tools increase the human bandwidth of team interaction. (Amanda’s note: C – we HAVE to pilot a wiki. How?)

pg 140 It’s a wonderful lesson in co-opting your opposition. Instead of being offended by their arguments, why not listen and respond to their concerns? They often have valid points. The payoff can be extraordinary. There’s nothing like the conviction of a convert to boost team momentum.

On another collaborative project with an architectural firm, a senior partner at the firm told our team up front that we were wasting his time. In turn, we requested that he give us a chance and join our team. Not only did he embrace the process, but midway into the work, he asked if he could write a case study about our process for an architectural magazine. And just like that, a onetime critic morphed into a passionate advocate.

pg 248 In preparation for that kickoff meeting, Jane asked each member of the group to do a little personal homework: recalling a really bad or good health care experience they had witnessed firsthand. Something personal.

Within minutes of going around the room, people were laughing. And crying. One nurse recounted an intense day when a dying man asked her to call his wife, but in spite of all her efforts, the nurse couldn’t locate her. She was frantic. The patient was slipping away. She had to find his wife. The man grabbed her arm. ”It’s OK,” he told her. ”Now we’ve got something to do together. You’re going to teach me about dying, and I’m going to teach you about living.” The wife never arrived, and the nurse realized that some part of her role that day wasn’t just about trying to save this man. Instead, she could offer him a priceless gift, letting him share his last moments on earth with another human being. …. There’s nothing like stories to connect you with a subject, to pull a team together to work on human issues in a human way.

pg 249 (about the storyteller) No, we aren’t always working to save lives or comfort the dying, but most of us believe in the value of what we do. Go out and find some real people. Listen to their stories. Don’t ask for the main point. Let the story run its course. Like flowing water, it will find its own way, at its own pace. And if you’ve got patience, you’ll learn more than you might imagine.

 pg 255 Seven reasons to tell stories:

  1. Storytelling builds credibility.

  2. Storytelling unleashes powerful emotions and helps teams bond.

  3. Stories give ”permission” to explore controversial or uncomfortable topics.

  4. Storytelling sways a group’s point of view.

  5. Storytelling creates heroes.

  6. Storytelling gives you a vocabulary of change.

  7. Good stories help make order out of chaos.

pg 262 I’m a firm believer in the galvanizing power of personas.  Adopting even one new role can bring both cultural and business benefits to your organization. But the real payoff comes when you gather several roles together and blend them into a multidisciplinary team. Innovation is ultimately a team sport. Get all the roles performing at the top of their game and you’ll generate a positive force for innovation.

pg 265 The message is that it is possible – even desirable – to blend a traditional, discipline-based role with an innovation persona. You can be an Anthropologist even if your business card calls you a systems analyst. You can be a Cross-Pollinator in the Marketing Department. You can be a Hurdler in Accounts Payable. A Set Designer in Human Resources. A Storyteller even if your degree is in finance. Don’t let a title or job description hold you back. Show me a list of people who changed the world, and I’ll show you a group of people unconstrained by traditional roles.

additional flags missed in my blogging:

pg 146 You are not just in charge…

pg 149 You could sponsor lunchtime brainstorms once a week…

pg 156 I’d like to say… J

pg 157 At every step… (Amanda’s note: idea – take a picture of all the people within our organization who have expressed interest in helping us and put them up on a wall with their interests/talents)

pg 162 Years ago when IDEO thought of itself…

pg 168 When you’re in the “zone”…

pg 171 Wise experience architects know…

pg 190 Many gen x’s…

pg 197 Some workplaces are so dull..

pg 205 Not only…

pg 206 Look around your organization…

pg 209 I’d argue… (Amanda’s note: think of our floor. Where is there dead space? Can we use that for impromptu meetings?)

pg 217 We saw… (Amanda’s note: new employees… can we give them a card/map like this?)

pg 220 Best…

pg 234/235 I call it the poor… (Amanda’s note: map for ID/PM tool with images)

pg 242 The universe…

pg 245 In books like…

pg 247 Jane doesn’t… (Amanda’s note: ID idea here – how do we gather stories, not just content?)


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