The Ten Faces of Innovation: A book review by Bob Morris

The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Defeating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization
Thomas Kelley with Jonathan Littman
Doubleday (2005)

I recently re-read two books written by Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman, this one and The Art of Innovation. In both, Kelley provides a wealth of information and counsel which can help any decision-maker to “drive creativity” through her or his organization but only if initiatives are (a) a collaboration which receives the support and encouragement of senior management (especially of the CEO) and (b) sufficient time is allowed for those initiatives to have a measurable impact. There is a distressing tendency throughout most organizations to rip out “seedlings” to see how well they are “growing.” Six Sigma programs offer a compelling example. Most are abandoned within a month or two. Why? Unrealistic expectations, cultural barriers (what Jim O’Toole characterizes as “the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom”), internal politics, and especially impatience are among the usual suspects. That said, I agree with countless others (notably Teresa Amabile, Clayton Christensen, Guy Claxton, Edward de Bono, Peter Drucker, W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, Michael Michalko, Michael Ray, and Roger von Oech) that innovation is now the single most decisive competitive advantage. How to establish and then sustain that advantage?

In an earlier work, The Art of Innovation, Kelley shares IDEO’s five-step methodology: Understand the market, the client, the technology, and the perceived constraints on the given problem; observe real people in real-life situations; literally visualize new-to-the-world concepts AND the customers who will use them; evaluate and refine the prototypes in a series of quick iterations; and finally, implement the new concept for commercialization. With regard to the last “step”, as Warren Bennis Patricia and Ward Biederman explain in Organizing Genius, Apple executives immediately recognized the commercial opportunities for PARC’s technology. Larry Tesler (who later left PARC for Apple) noted that Jobs and colleagues (especially Wozniak) “wanted to get it out to the world.” But first, obviously, the challenge was to create that “it” which they then did.

In this volume, as Kelley explains, his book is “about innovation with a human face. [Actually, at least ten…hence its title.] It’s about the individuals and teams that fuel innovation inside great organizations. Because all great movements are human-powered.” He goes on to suggest that all good working definitions of innovation pair ideas with action, “the spark with fire. Innovators don’t just have their heads in the clouds. They also have their feet on the ground.” Kelley cites and then examines several exemplary (“great”) organizations that include Google, W.L. Gore & Associates, the Gillette Company, and German retailer Tchibo. I especially appreciate the fact that Kelley focuses on the almost unlimited potential for creativity of individuals and the roles which they can play, “the hats they can put on, the personas they can adopt…[albeit] unsung heroes who work on the front lines of entrepreneurship in action, the countless people and teams who make innovation happen day in and day out.”

Because organizations need individuals who are savvy about the counterintuitive process of how to move ideas forward, Kelley recommends three “Organizing Personas”: The Hurdler, The Collaborator, and The Director.
Because organizations also need individuals and teams who apply insights from the learning roles and channel the empowerment from the organizing roles to make innovation happen, Kelley recommends four “Building personas”: The Experience Architect, The Set Designer, The Caregiver, and The Storyteller. Note both the sequence, interrelatedness and, indeed, the interdependence of these ten “personas.”

What Kelley achieves in this volume is to develop in much greater depth than do von Oech and de Bono what are essentially ten different perspectives. He does so, brilliantly, by focussing the bulk of his attention of those who, for example, seek and explore new opportunities to reveal breakthrough insights…and while doing so wear (at least metaphorically) one of de Bono’s hats (probably the green one). Kelley devotes a separate chapter to each of the ten “personas,” including real-world examples of various “unsung heroes who work on the front lines of entrepreneurship in action, the countless people and teams who make innovation happen day in and day out. |


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