South-Western - Management  
The 10 Faces of Innovation
Topic Technology, Innovation and Change
Key Words Innovation, creativity, devil's advocacy
News Story

It's a familiar occurrence at corporate meetings. Someone puts forward a fragile new idea or innovation, only to see their idea shot down by someone in the room who says they are "playing the devil's advocate." Tom Kelley, author of The Ten Faces of Innovation, believes that this seemingly innocuous practice is knocking a lot of innovative ideas down before they have the chance to see if they merit further investigation. The problem is serious because innovation is the lifeblood of most businesses today, and if managers don't learn skills to foster and encourage innovation, they may lose out.

Kelley's company, Ideo, has developed a list of 10 innovation personas that can help teams to express different points of view and to explore new ideas rather than being in the habit of trashing them. The personas are divided into three main categories: learning, organizing, and building personas.

The Learning Personas are driven by the idea that no organization or person, no matter how successful, can afford to be complacent. People who adopt these personas are humble enough to be open to new insights and new experiences every day.

1. The Anthropologist: brings new insights by observing human behavior and developing a deep understanding of how people interact with products, services, and spaces.
2. The Experimenter: prototypes new ideas and learns by trial and error.
3. The Cross-Pollinator: looks to other industries and cultures for ideas and then translates those findings to the job at hand.

The Organizing Personas think about the time, processes, and resources involved before an organization can embrace new ideas and make them happen.

4. The Hurdler: develops a knack for overcoming roadblocks in the way of making innovation happen.
5. The Collaborator: often leads from the middle of the pack and brings multiple areas and disciplines together so they can collaborate better.
6. The Director: gathers a talented crew and sparks their creativity.

The Building Personas are usually at the heart of the action. They apply insights from learning roles and work with the organizer roles to make things happen. They are the highly-visible implementers of ideas.

7. The Experience Architect: designs experiences that go beyond function and get to the heart of customers' needs. 8. The Set Designer: creates an environment in which innovators can do their best work.
9. The Caregiver: anticipates customer demands and make them happen. Products with huge demands are usually under the direction of the Caregiver.
10. The Storyteller: builds awareness both inside and outside the company with compelling narratives or corporate legends that reinforce key ideas.

According to Kelley, experience has shown them that by taking one or more of the roles, you are taking a conscious step toward encouraging innovation at work and bringing more creativity into everyday life.


You are an executive for a new company that is getting into the business of organizing people's lives by helping them to organize their PC files and by creating tools that can help them to streamline their activities and their lives. Choose one role from each of the categories: learning, organizing, and building, and come up with a concrete way in which you could take on that role to make your new business an innovative success. Be prepared to discuss your ideas in small groups in class.


The article says that "playing the devil's advocate" has become a convenient way to excuse the practice of shooting down people's attempts at creativity. Do some research in your text about devil's advocacy. Define it here and then name three scenarios in which playing the devil's advocate might be appropriate for a team.


Look at the ten innovation personas outlined in this article. Which of the roles comes most naturally to you? Which of the roles seems as if it would be difficult for you to adopt? Why? Be prepared to discuss your ideas in class.

Source "The 10 Faces of Innovation," Fast Company, October, 2005, p 74.
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