Posted on Aug 31, 2015 in Non-fiction

by Tom Kelley
Currency/Doubleday, 2005

Son-in-law Chris Taylor recommended The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley of IDEO (one of the most creative consulting firms around).  Kelly’s purpose is to help companies and corporations build creative teams and unleash potential.  But whether or not you work in the business world, this book has fascinating insights about how each of us approaches a task and unleashes our inherent (yes we ALL have it) creativity.

As the title intimates, Kelley believes he has identified ten creative personality types.  Though we are most often strongly a particular type, his premise is that we usually employ one or more of the others as well.  What are those types?

The Anthropologist – These folk observe.  They are patient.  They sit back and watch and listen and only then do they draw inferences from their intuition about what works or could work.  To be an Anthropologist takes a willingness to get out in the field, talk to people, collect data in order to help predict “What’s next?” (What they’d say?    “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands, but in seeing with  new eyes. – Marcel Proust)

The Experimenter – You need not be a genius to be an Experimenter, but all Experimenters have curious minds and like a hands on approach.  They’ll want to  “try it out” a couple of ways ,which means they are willing to “fail” – at least in the eyes of others.  But failing doesn’t concern them because, as the IDEO axiom has it, you “fail often, to succeed sooner.”  (What they’d say?  “I have not failed.  I have merely found ten thousand ways that won’t work.  – Thomas Edison)

The Cross-Pollinator – This is what Chris is and why he likes this book.  Cross-Pollinators are people who have the ability to juxtapose seemingly unrelated ideas or concepts from differing arenas/fields/ businesses and see patterns and applications that others don’t see. They make great consultants because of that.  Cross-Pollinators read voraciously, devouring books, magazines and online sources to keep them abreast of trends and topics.  Dedicated note-takers they are always jotting down things that strike them.  Cross-Pollinators can love constraints (as in “ keep this cheap,” or “get it done in less time.”)  Constraints makes them all the more creative.  (What they’d say?  “Leave the beaten track occasionally and dive into the woods.  Every time you do so, you will be certain to find something that you have never seen before” – Alexander Graham Bell)

The Hurdler –  These are the folk that love doing what has never been done before.  But they also know you don’t always have to tackle challenges head on.  Hurdlers are willing to side step or” hurdle” over it if necessary.  And like track stars who run the hurdle they can make it look easy.  Hurdler’s are tireless problem solvers and savvy risk takers.  They break rules regularly, working outside the system if they need to, especially when they believe  the goal is within reach.  We’re not talking criminal here – just determined, and driven by the vision they see.  (What they’d say?   “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard. because that challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win.” – John F. Kennedy)

The Collaborator – Collaborators know how to bring people together to get things done.  These people know how to work in teams and how to build teams.  For the Collaborator it is all about the process, the journey, the shared experience. And they are committed to the concept that several heads are better than one.  (What they’d say?  “In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”  – Charles Darwin)

The Director – There are a myriad of Director styles, but they all like to lead.  The successful ones however give center stage to others, rise to tough challenges, love finding new challenges, shoot for the moon and “wield a large toolbox.”  (in golf lingo – they know which club will get the ball on the green.)  And they are willing to change directions or improvise a new strategy quickly in order to adjust to a new situation.  They also know, as film directors know, that “directing is 90 percent casting.”  Which is why they focus on getting and keeping good people. (What they’d say?    “I dream for a living.” – Stephen Spielberg)

The Experience Architect  – These are the people who “focus relentlessly on creating remarkable customer experiences.”  Whether that customer is one who will walk through your door or the employee customer that you want to retain.  For the customer or for the employee, these folk want to turn “the ordinary into something distinctive – even delightful – every chance they get. “ (What they’d say?  “The ‘value added’ for most any company, tiny or enormous, comes form the Quality of Experience provided.” – Tom Peters)

The Set Designer – I love these types.  They know the value of creating ambience and environment – and they know how to create it.  Their purpose is to keep us from thinking only of price, reminding us of what is priceless.  Whether creating an environment that enhances creative thought in the work place, or an environment that welcomes the customer to the design or feel a product or project, they bring beauty and perspective “pizzazz.”  (What they’d say?    “Every organization(and every new employee) performs a bit better or worse because of the planning, design and management of its physical workspace. – Franklin Becker, Offices at Work)

The Caregiver – We know them most often as doctors, nurses, ministers..  Caregivers are skilled, exude confidence and give well-reasoned answers to questions.  They have empathy in spades, know how to build relationships, show rather than teach and are good at guiding choices.  Whether with customers or employees, these people can be the glue that holds everyone together when there are tensions.   (What they’d say?  “Think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best way you can. – Gary Comer, founder of Land’s End)

And finally – The Storyteller –  Storytellers know that stories can “persuade in ways that facts, reports and markets trends seldom do.”  They can spark action, help teams bond, transmit values, give permission to explore uncomfortable topics, and give people a vocabulary for change says Kelley. (What they’d say?  “The universe is made of stories, not atoms.  – Muriel Rukeyser)

This hardly does justice to the multitude ofl stories and other material Kelley offers.  The Ten Faces of Innovation is a fun as well as informative read.  And a must for those trying to be competitive in an increasingly competitive world.

Which type(s) are you?