Tom Kelley is the general manager of IDEO, which is, at this point in history, a highly successful and well-known design/innovation firm that works around the world. His book, The Ten Faces of Innovation, articulates his ideas about the types of roles people in organizations need to play in order to bring new products and services to market.
The book is predicated on a key observation: that the role of “Devil’s Advocate” is one of the most frequently played roles in business (and other organizations) today; in fact it is often played with a mantle of pride. When ideas are being presented, often a participant in the project will proudly say, “I’d like to play devil’s advocate for a moment”, at which point most people smile enthusiastically and play ready to listen and respond.
Kelley presents us with a variety of other roles he feels, from his experience at IDEO, need to be played in order to bring new ideas to market. He presents us with ten roles, or personas, that he sees as critical. He groups these 10 roles into three categories. Essentially the categories and roles are these (Kelley et al, 8 – 11).
- Learning Personas:
- The Anthropologist: observes human behavior and delivers new insights.
- The Experimenter: prototypes ideas quickly and continuously
- The Cross-Pollinator: explores cultures and metaphors outside of the business’ purview and makes new connections which are valuable to the enterprise.
- The Organizing Personas:
- The Hurdler: overcomes obstacles and roadblocks along the path
- The Collaborator: knows how to bring together different people and groups; often “leads” from the middle of the pack.
- The Director: knows how to gather a talented crew and help them be their best
- The Building Personas
- The Experience Architect: builds experiences that connect with consumers on a deep level
- The Set Designer: creates environments that facilitate success
- The Caregiver: anticipates consumer/customer needs and meets them.
- The StoryTeller: builds awareness, morale, interest via compelling narratives.
Kelley has credibility in the business world and his book is highly readably. I was struck by how his ideas link with many of the concepts we read about in the study of applied creative thinking, yet he has re-arranged these ideas in a new way – one that uses personas that become the de facto archetypes needed for innovation.
For example, he talks about playing these roles like deBono talks about his six hats. The six hats represent a thinking style and encourage people to play different roles in the process by thinking in different ways. Similarly Kelley’s personas ask people to play different roles – at different times – or to invite different role-players onto innovation teams.
Similarly, Kelley’s book addresses the different types of thinking that are explored in the FourSight model that defines different thinking style preferences. The Building Personas are “implementers”, the Experimenters and Cross-Pollinators are similar to Ideators. The Anthropologist is a clarifier; and the Director can be compared to a facilitator of creative problem solving. While the models are not tightly aligned, the overlap is noticeable.
On another level, Kelley’s personas provide a new way to bring alive the principles of creativity. Certainly, he builds these personas as a way to illustrate the need - and technique – for deferring judgment. He encourages seeing with new eyes via roles like the Anthropologist and Cross-Pollinator. The Hurdler uses his/her guiles to identify and overcome obstacles. The Collaborator and Director focus on bringing together – and facilitating – diverse teams. The storyteller “makes meaning” of new ideas and builds the emotional/values-level connections.
In fact, without necessarily meaning to, Kelley takes on – and reframes – the 4P model of creativity. He links people and process in the form of a persona; together, the personas address, challenge and re-order the “press” in order to create and bring to life a new “product”. And he accomplishes this without ever (or rarely) using the word “creativity” or “creative thinking”.
In summary, while Kelley’s book is clearly commercial, and has provided him with a brilliant platform from which to deliver his message through multiple media, its message resonates with much of the academic thinking and research that we encounter in the study of creativity. He treads a fine line with a fair amount of ease and grace.