Yahoo! Design Week: Ten Faces of Innovation

by Luke Wroblewski July 23, 2007

Tom Kelley, general manager of IDEO and author of The Art of Innovation, spoke at Yahoo! Design Week about the importance of anthropology in business innovation. Here’s some of my notes from the talk:

  • Innovation is the intersection of design & business.
  • Red Queen Effect: running but not getting anywhere. To get somewhere you actually need to run twice as fast. Companies today need to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation
  • Ten Faces of Innovation: positive innovation-supporting roles that people play temporarily or permanently.
  • The Devil’s advocate is an anti-innovation role. Need people to stand up against the devil’s advocate in innovation-positive roles.
  • If you can outlearn the competition, that gives you a way to stay ahead.
  • Organizing Roles: The Hurdler acknowledges obstacles that come along and figures out ways around them. The Collaborator looks for people from multi-disciplinary skill sets to solve problems through new perspectives. The Director sees their job as letting other people shine by allowing talented & creative people to do good work.
  • Building Roles: The Experience Architect looks at the whole customer journey. The Set Designer tweaks environments to change attitude, behavior, and performance of team. The Caregiver is empathetic to the needs of customers. The Storyteller acknowledges data is hard to store but stories are easy to remember.
  • Learning Roles: Anthropologist goes into the field to examine unstructured problems in the world. The Experimenter models ideas to reach effective solutions. The Cross-Pollinator brings together diverse concepts.
  • Of all these roles, the most impactful is the Anthropologist. They provide the insights companies need to drive innovation.
  • Discovery is not finding new lands but looking at things with new eyes. Set aside what you know using “vu ja day”. Look at everything again. You will uncover insights hidden in plain sight.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of simplicity.