Ten Faces of Innovation

October’s Fast Company includes an excellent summary of the ten different types of people Ideo considers essential for successful innovation. Given Ideo’s track record, we should pay attention.

Ideo buckets the ten roles into three group

Those with an unquenchable desire to learn:

– The Anthropologist: Great observers of human behavior and how people interact with products, services and situations
– The Experimenter: Continuous (as in never stops) trial and error
– The Cross-Pollinator: Steals shamelessly from other industries – ones no one else would think to look to for lessons and ideas

Those who are savvy about how organizations work and what it takes to get folks to collaborate

– The Hurdler: Can and will get over, under and around any and all company policies and budget limits
– The Collaborator: No two or more people, regardless of how different, will fail to work together with the Collaborator’s help
– The Director: Knows how to make music of all the different roles

Those who convert ideas and collaboration into reality in yourorganization

– The Experience Architect: Designs and makes real undeniable experiences that bring ideas to life for customers, employees, executives and others
– The Set Designer: Integrates all the action into physical spaces that go beyond facilitating creativity to actively assisting it
– The Caregiver: Knows the last mile separating customer service from true and complete customer care. For the Caregiver, it’s all about the customer’s complete experience.
– The Storyteller: Weaves product, service, experience and brand together into a compelling narrative that gives meaning to life.

Any of you who’ve participated in successful innovation will recognize the faces in this excellent list. And, if you’ve seen failures, it’s probable there have been some faces missing. In Xerox’s famous failure to commercialize personal distributed computing, for example, there were not enough Hurdlers or Directors.

Ideo knows what it’s about. Let’s add to their wisdom with these reflections:

– These ten faces of innovation will increase the odds of success. But, don’t read the list mechanically. Don’t demand that these faces always belong to ten different people. Think of them as perspectives and roles more than individual jobs.

– Don’t stop with individuals.  Remember teams: no successful innovation ever happens in an organization without the contribution of one or more real teams.

– Add one more role and perspective: The “Company-risk” Risk Taker. Sorry for the redundancy. All ten of the roles and perspectives take risks. None of them necessarily, though, take ‘company risk’. Innovation at the far end of the spectrum cannot move forward without someone authorizing ‘company risk’ – that is, willing to put something that risks company performance on the limb. The brand, existing customer relationships, a heckuva lot of money, careers, supplier or vendor relationships, shareholder value – these are but some of the candidates that often define the lines between ‘company caution’ and ‘company risk’.

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