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On TheTen Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley February 25, 2012

Posted by Hilde Roald in Uncategorized.


Tom Kelly’s book “The Ten Faces ofIinnovation” articulates his ideas about the types of roles people in organizations need to play in order to nurture and sustain a culture of innovation. The book has ten chapters each describing a people-centric tool developed at IDEO. Kelly calls them personas. The personas are structured into three groups, focusing on the common features of the roles.

The Learning Personas

The Learning Personas are constantly looking for new insights to expand their knowledge. They understand that the world is changing rapidly and that companies need to open up for input from anywhere it can be found. The Learning Personas keep the team from being too internally focused.

The Anthropologist

Seeing with fresh eyes may be one of the hardest parts of innovation. You have to put aside your experience and preconceived notions. The Anthropologists are skilled and interested individuals who actively seek out authentic experience to observe. They observe how people interact with products, services, and experiences and find the core problems to be solved.

The Experimenter

The Experimenter is someone who makes ideas tangible by pushing them into a visual form as quickly as possible, they prototype over and over again. Experimenters love to play, to try out different ideas and approaches. They work with teams of all shapes and sizes

The Cross-Pollinator

The Cross-Pollinator can create something new and better through the unexpected juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts. They are T-shaped individuals with wide interests, a voracious curiosity and an aptitude for learning and teaching. Cross-Pollinators stir up ideas by exploring worlds that may at first glance seem to have little relevance to the problem at hand.

The Organizing Personas

The Organizing Personas understand and master the often counter-intuitive process of how organizations move ideas forward. They keep focused, stay on the track while handling the processes of budgeting and resource allocation without losing sight of the goal.

The Hurdler

The essence of a Hurdler is perseverance .The Hurdler is a tireless problem-solver who overcomes obstacles so naturally that sometimes it seems as if they weren’t even there. They turn an obstacle into an opportunity and approach problems from a new angle.

The Collaborator

The Collaborator truly values the team over the individuals, and the project accomplishments beyond individual achievements. In the interest of getting things done, the Collaborator coaxes people out of their work silos to form multidisciplinary teams .The Collaborator champion the process as much as the project and by doing so she gives the team the opportunity and skills to complete the tasks at hand.

The Director

The role of the Director is more complex and nuanced than any other in the world of innovation. The Director understands both the big picture and the pulse of the organization. Their main purpose is to inspire and direct other people, developing chemistry in teams, targeting strategic opportunities and getting innovation momentum.

The Building personas

The Building Personas apply insights from the learning roles and channel the empowerment from the organizing roles to make innovation happen. People in these roles are highly visible, and you’ll often find them right at the heart of the action.

The Experience Architect

Experience Architects fend off the ordinary whenever they find it, fighting against the forces of entropy and commoditization when it comes to their team or their organization. They focus relentlessly on creating remarkable individual experience not only for customers, but also for employees.

The Set Designer

Set Designers constantly tweak the design and layout of the office. Every day is a chance to liven up the workplace. Set Designers balance private and collaborative space, giving people room to collaborate but also providing the sanctuary of privacy for intensively individual work. In doing so, this person makes space itself one of an organization’s most versatile and powerful tools.

The Caregiver

Through empathy, Caregivers work to understand each individual customer and to extend the relationship. Caregivers shift from telling to showing, from serving customers to helping individuals. The Caregiver is less about lording knowledge over customers and more about sharing insights, a seamless blend of service and expertise. They make customers feel more confident about their choices.

The Storytellers

Stories persuade in a way that facts, reports and market trends seldom do, because stories makes an emotional connection. The lore of a company is a potent way to communicate values and objectives across a widely dispersed and multicultural organization. A Storyteller weaver myths, distilling events to heighten reality and draw out lessons. This person goes beyond oral tradition to work in whatever medium best fits their skills and message.


The main message of Kelly’s book is that innovation is a team sport. To be successful in innovation one should ask people to play different roles at different times, or invite different role-players onto the team.

To give depth to the description of the 10 personas, the book is filled with stories about of how IDEO works to create new solutions for their customers and Kelly’s experience from organizations and businesses he has been in touch with.  The examples vary over a broad range of products and services. I especially enjoyed some of the more unexpected ones, like the example of how IDEO put a pregnant woman, an “IDEO-husband” and a plastic doll baby undercover in a hospital to prototype the experience of transitioning from maternity ward to postpartum floor. As their cover was finally blown, a nurse sighted in relief “that’s good, because your baby looks really weird”. Kelly’s point is that anything can be prototyped product, marketing, distribution and sales.

Some of the roles Kelly is describing I find intuitively important in any team project. I immediately recognized, and understood the need for all the three Organizing Personas. After reading the book my conclusion is that those are the roles that I normally play, both at work and in other parts of my life. Even though we all play many different roles every day I do not think I can easily move into some of the personas that are very different from my familiar roles, like the Set Designer or the Experience Architecture. But through Kelly’s articulation of these roles and the part they play in the innovation process, my hope is that I will be able to acknowledge the importance of diversity and look for that when putting together teams for the future.

If you are looking for is a book based on academic research on innovation, or a broad cover of experience from different sources, this is not the book for you. “The Ten Faces of Innovation” is a book based on Tom Kelly’s experience from IDEO. In addition to the focus on personas, the book also covers some of the “IDEO-tools” like brainstorming and prototyping, known from Kelly’s last book “The Art of Innovation”.

I would highly recommend anyone who feel that they could use some innovate inspiration to read this book. Even though not all of us work for companies that have the possibility to, or should I say luxury of, putting together teams as IDEO does, the examples are truly eye opening. The book reminded me that any company is put together by individuals, and that there is a need for a broad range of personas to make any collaborative team projects successful.  We should all be able to find a role we could play in innovation!

Here’s a link to the books web page if anyone wants to have a deeper look into it: http://www.tenfacesofinnovation.com/thebook/index.htm