Notes from The Ten Faces of Innovation

Tom Kelley’s book The Ten Faces of Innovation defines ten personas (thankfully not “named”–Bob, Sally, etc–just titled) that exemplify roles in an innovative team. They aren’t job titles or exclusive positions, and people can work across roles as well.

  • The Anthropologist, who observes people and discovers ways to help them

  • The Experimenter, an expert in prototyping and testing, probably the classic “innovator”

  • The Cross-Pollinator, with broad interests who enjoys connecting different cultures

  • The Hurdler, who champions projects and carries them over beaurocratic obstacles

  • The Collaborator, who brings people together to work cooperatively

  • The Director, encouraging, inspiring, supporting, organizing and championing innovators

  • The Experience Architect, a specialist in designing full “experiences” that transcend simple products or services

  • The Set Designer, creating spaces that inspire and support innovation

  • The Caregiver, who improves the subjective, emotional aspects of products and how they relate to us

  • The Storyteller, who tells stories about people and products in creative and interesting ways

I most enjoyed the Set Designer persona–in fact it was the reason I read this book in the first place–and it solidified for me my desire to build tools to help other people work better. I sometimes feel like that’s a copout–the whole “those who can’t do, teach” joke comes to mind–but it’s of course possible to design tools for direct use on a large scale. But also, if a secondary role means tools will be created that otherwise wouldn’t be, then direct ownership of the design isn’t as important to me. Finally, it could just be that the Set Designer is the only role that definitely involves creating physical things; I may just be starved for that after five years of mostly digital design.

The book is heavily IDEO-centric, and most of the examples are from Kelley’s own 20-year career there. Not really a surprise for a book subtitled “IDEO’s strategies…” but worth mentioning; this is basically IDEO in book form. It includes several weird asides that are clearly IDEO/Kelley quirks, for instance his long tangents into the power of napping at work, comfortable hotel beds, and (ugh) T-shaped people. The IDEO focus gets pretty old after a while, and makes you wonder about the broader applicability of the ideas. What works in a design consulting company that works almost exclusively on short-term projects may not be the best structure for others.

But the personas are broad and–as mentioned above–not exclusive to people’s job roles, so they are good signposts for anyone interested in developing their own innovation skills. I suspect it would be less interesting for a sole inventor/designer, but for people working at companies they are especially applicable.

Raw notes follow…

Raw notes

“Life isn’t typical” – always look for specific examples, not generalizations

In the process of generalizing, human nature causes people to idealize, which defeats the purpose of the observation in the first place. On this project, for example, she asked people what they ate that morning and the morning before. Says Patrice: “It’s amazing how often people wil say, ‘Well, today was unusual.'” Today is always a little unusual. (22)

How to interview kids for research (with parent permission, of course) (30):

  • Ask them about their shoes

  • Offer something about yourself

  • Ask them to invite their best friend along to talk

  • Remind them (only if it’s true) that the project is “top secret”

  • Ask for a house tour

  • Ask kids what they would buy with ten dollars–or a hundred

  • Make them laugh

Consulting is kind of like journalism–you’re paid to learn. I guess inventing could be too, especially if you’re willing to switch fields/areas once you’ve become an expert in one (of course, that’s just when it gets lucrative…). How can I make a “regular job” in product development a place where I’m paid to learn?

Brendan Boyle found out that by charging parents for their kids to play with prototype toys (instead of making it free), they showed up more promptly (because parents wanted to get their money’s worth)! (38)

The name WD-40 came from the words “Water Displacement, 40th attempt”. The formula in the can was the 40th try at making the lubricant work right–a good lesson for perseverance and prototyping. (42)

When your goal is to get other people to share your vision, it’s key to get them involved in creating the designs.

Pressuring people to adopt outside approaches can stir up hostility and resistance. Instead, we invite the locations to prototype key concepts. We prototype two or more approaches for each solution, to make it abundantly clear that there’s no single solution. (50)

MTV does “deprivation studies”, where their most frequent viewers stop watching for 30 days to see what alternatives they turn to. (78) Eating your own dogfood is good, but sometimes it’s good to try another brand too.

I dream for a living. – Steven Spielberg (142)

The “Deep Dive” is one of IDEO’s famous strategies, to get everyone on a new team completely focused on a project for a few days. Can that be something encouraged at other companies too, perhaps as an alternative to months of research done by a few members of the team? Would it work with web apps? What would you focus on? Worth trying out. (163)

Just like bringing services to people in their physical location (184), information providers need to bring data to people in the virtual places they need it. Push is back, baby!

David Kelley gives “experiences” to his friends and family–often all at once in a big group event. (189) Some examples: concerts, monster-truck shows, cooking lessons, magic tricks, go-karts, hockey skybox.

Merit badging – The pursuit of extreme and novel experiences in an attempt to fill one’s lifetime experience “merit badge sash”. Coined by Iconoculture. Design your products for merit badging–related to “finding out why the people already using your product are doing so and giving them more reasons”, and “usage, not users”.

Pick out your best, most loyal customers, and help them become connoisseurs of your product and service. (192)

Dreariness, from the reception area to the research lab…destroys the spirit. It’s utterly impossible to imagine people laughing in such settings, or weeping, or frolicking, or producing anything interesting! – Tom Peters (195)

One school headmaster set up his office in the middle of the hallway to ensure students knew he was approachable and so he knew the feel of the school at all times. (213)

A great moment of authenticity in an infomercial when George Foreman candidly grabbed a burger off the grill and started eating it. Is this on YouTube? (253)

Even if you win the rat race, you’re still a rat. – Lily Tomlin (255)

I believe this is true for workspace and products as well as companies; it’s also the benefit of a very broad corporate mission which allows you to change methods without losing your goal:

In the long run, flexibility is more important for your organization than size or even power. (263)