Sunday, May 20, 2007

Remarks on The Ten Faces of Innovation

I'm reviewing another favorite book, The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley. Kelley is the general manager of the design shop IDEO. This is a thoughtful book about the innovation process that is different from any book about innovation on the market today. I read this one two years ago, and I still go back to it occasionally.

The book describes the 10 personas, or roles, that designers can play on a project. These are not job categories, but describe the different tasks that need to be performed in order to move an innovation effort forward. The Anthropologist is the field worker who looks for insights about consumer behavior by observing people and collecting qualitative data. The Experimenter creates prototypes of potential products and tests the prototypes with potential customers. The Hurdler is the person who is able to overcome obstacles in order to get the effort completed. The other roles include: The Collaborator, The Director, The Experience Architect, The Cross-Pollinator, and The Storyteller. Each role description is backed up by case studies that illustrate the role in action.

Some of the role descriptions require education and training to perform properly. For example, The Anthropologist and Experimenter tasks are part of most Human Factors analysts’ education and training. Other roles described in this book, such as The Hurdler, reveal an approach to getting work done that is not specific to any discipline. The book stresses the need for collaboration and describes what effective collaboration looks like. The author cautions against relying on a single expert or guru to deliver an innovative solution; something that seems to me to occur in companies far too often.

The author spends a good deal of time abusing those who play the pernicious role of The Devil’s Advocate. These are the people who attack others’ ideas during brainstorming sessions without taking responsibility for their actions. Kelley claims that The Devil’s Advocate is the single biggest innovation killer. It appears to me, having watched people play this role in so many project meetings, that there are more people playing this role effectively than the other 10 roles combined. Kelley offers practical suggestions for overcoming the negative effects of The Devil’s Advocate.

BusinessWeek carried an article about the IDEO innovation process in its Nov. 7 2005 issue that is derived from some of the advice given in the book. If you subscribe to BusinessWeek, you can access the article by clicking the provided link. I should say, as someone who has participated in and facilitated brainstorming sessions, that some of the ideas presented in this article seem obvious on their face but are often extremely difficult to put into practice.
If you can't follow the link I'll excerpt part of the article in my next blog entry.

No comments: