The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Beating the Devil’s Advocate & Driving Creativity Throughout your Organization – Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman

Most managers think of innovation as a sport for the young, but I disagree. Wisdom, not just information, is an important ingredient.  This is especially accurate in an industry where it takes years to master the technical aspects of your projects – like design, construction and all the other things that go into getting a building out of the ground – it’s virtually impossible to develop implementable innovation without industry expertise.   So the ability to see context and read a situation is an integral part, but how do you equip yourself and your team with innovation skills?  It’s a little different for everyone, but this book is a great read for understanding your own starting point and for helping others on your team see a place to begin also.  Each person who reads this book will see at least one persona that they already employ in some area of their life and feel comfortable transferring that role to the office.

In the Ten Faces of Innovation, Mr. Kelly presents ten people-centric tools developed at IDEO that you might call talents or roles or personas for innovation. Although the list does not presume to be comprehensive, it does aspire to expand your repertory.  Their teams have been using this framework for more than a decade and have found that adopting one or more of these roles can help teams express a different point of view and create a broader range of innovative solutions.

The Devil’s Advocate is what we think of as a model for criticism in the office. This role is a long-standing tradition, but Kelley talks about the drawbacks.  It allows for the adoption of a point of view that sees on the downside, the problems, and the disasters-in-waiting.  What you are likely to see when this is put into action is how a new and developing (tiny) idea is drowned by a tsunami of negativity before you even really know what the idea is.  The concept described here is how to adopt a role or model that can foster growth of those ideas through the use of 10 personas.

In terms of adopting these personas, I’m sure you are asking, “Is this a new concept that you have to develop from scratch?” No, many of these personas you will find already in your organization. They are often unrecognized and underdeveloped.  Developing them will mean moving into a new definition of your team as an ecosystem that moves beyond the discipline-based roles of “engineer” or “marketer” to creating a perspective–based role.  Here is a quick description of each persona:

The Learning Personas

  • The Anthropologist focuses on insights and learning by observing people in their own environments and understanding their interaction.
  • The Experimenter constantly generates new ideas and uses trial and error to decide where to move next.
  • The Cross-Pollinator brings the intelligence of other industries into the conversation and can translate other methods of success for the team.

The Organizing Personas

  • The Hurdler tirelessly works to get over and around the obstacles that litter the development path of new ideas.
  • The Collaborator guides a team of diverse people, but usually does so from the middle of the pack thereby creating great communication networks within the team.
  • The Director sparks and feeds creativity across a talented group that he curated and guides toward the goal.

The Building Personas

  • The Experience Architect sees the opportunity that a space, place and physical activities bring to the overall experience for the customer.
  • The Set Designer makes sure that the physical environment of the innovation team and their tools are optimal.
  • The Caregiver goes beyond mere service and thinks of the customer care as an opportunity to grow and deepen the relationship.
  • The Storyteller brings us all together around the human impulse to create, document and share our shared narrative.

Taking one or more of these roles is a conscious step toward becoming an innovator in your daily life.

Within the longer descriptions of the personas, Kelley provides some excellent notes on finding a north star (a quote, a motto, etc.) to guide a team; utilizing T-shaped people who are deep in one area and have a wide-ranging grasp of general knowledge; traits of successful directors, secrets to brainstorming; setting expectations in an environment of change; how to support innovation with your space; and strengthening service with particular roles.

The book concludes with some valuable advice on How to put these roles into action. This might be the most important part of the book.

  • Stretch for Strength – Flexibility has proven to be the new strength in a constantly changing landscape. This is how you beat entrenched organizations.
  • Go for distance – Make sure you are adopting a new work lifestyle and training for the changes.
  • Never surrender – Develop a relentless attitude.
  • Embrace the mental game – Eliminate negative views so you can keep going when you are fatigued by the process.
  • Celebrate coaches – Seek out someone you trust and who can nurture the role you are developing.

We all know that your reputation is not built on what you are going to do, but on what you actually have done. So, get busy putting those amazing ideas into action and leading your industry.

IDEO (pronounced “eye-dee-oh”) is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping organizations in the public and private sectors innovate and grow. We identify new ways to serve and support people by uncovering latent needs, behaviors, and desires.


 Tom Kelley is the best-selling author of Creative ConfidenceThe Art of Innovation and The Ten Faces of Innovation as well as a partner at the renowned design and innovation consultancy IDEO. As a leading innovation speaker, Tom addresses scores of business audiences on how to foster a culture of innovation and tap into the creative potential of their organizations. Over the years, he has spoken in more than thirty countries and helped IDEO grow from 15 designers to a staff of more than 600, while leading diverse areas such as business development, marketing, human resources, and operations. Tom is an Executive Fellow at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and holds a similar role at the University of Tokyo. Read more at

 Michelle Morgan is the founder of NEX Atlanta & NEX Labs – together these are a coworking community, learning-by-doing programs and a great space in Grant Park.  Before that she was an architect with a passion for spatial morphology and her superpower was in listening to clients and consultants and translating between all the different people it takes to design and build something.  What’s next?  She’s working on a platform for the film industry, an app for really polite people and a few real estate projects where the aim is to create happiness. 



Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search