The Ten Faces Of Innovation - FocusU

The Ten Faces Of Innovation

the ten faces of innovation masks“Innovation” sometimes comes across as a fuzzy word. In 2005, Tom Kelley published The Ten Faces of Innovation, a book about the individuals and teams that fuel innovation. The innovation personas described in the book, bring their own unique tools, skills and point of views while approaching a problem. Because they are distinct, they complement. How many of these personas do you have in your team? Read on to discover…..


the anthropologist maskA large number of innovations & discoveries (including gravity!) have originated from keen observations. Anthropologists are the ones who venture into the field to observe people & phenonmenon with an open mind. They don’t judge instead they empathize. They strongly believe in applying principles of “Vuja de” (the opposite of Déjà vu) – a sense of seeing something for the first time, even if it has been witnessed many times before. By observing with “fresh eyes”, they arrive upon the most startling insights.



the experimenter maskThe Experimenter is someone who makes ideas tangible by pushing them into a visual form as quickly as possible, they prototype over and over again. Thomas Alva Edison who famously said – “I have not failed. I have merely found ten thousand ways that won’t work” was a classic Experimenter. So were the Wright brothers who prototyped 200 wing shapes, busted and crashed a few planes, before it finally worked.

Experimenters, “fail often to succeed sooner”. Successful entrepreneurs intuitively know that trying a half-baked idea with users refines the idea to something truly usable. The point is to try out many things on a small scale and to focus energy on the few ideas that have potential to make an impact. Google is a company known for innovation. Very few though would have heard of their products like Google wave, Google Searchwiki, Google answers, Google print ads, have you? Unlikely, because these have been the many failures of Google, in their quest to quickly experiment and “fail soon”!



the cross-pollinator maskA Cross – pollinator is one who mixes and matches ideas, people and technology to create new concepts that are valuable to the organization and that can drive growth. A Cross-Pollinator innovates by discovering a clever solution in one context of the industry and applying it successfully to another.

For Example: It was cross pollinator, a Swiss engineer named George de Mestral who invented the hook and loop fastener – Velcro. The idea came to him by having a close look at the burrs (seeds) of burdock that kept sticking to his clothes and his dog’s furs. He observed it had the hooks that caught on anything with a loop, such as clothing, animal fur, or hair and that gave a birth to Velcro.



the hurdler maskThe process of innovation is almost always strewn with difficulties & problems. The Hurdler tackles problems that have never been solved before with perseverance and optimism, clearing hurdles and accelerating successes. Hurdlers are the true fighters and always maintain a never-say-die attitude.

Hurdlers know how to turn an adversity into an opportunity; they can turn an organization’s greatest challenge into its greatest success. One such example is a story of Myra Goodman who lived on a small farm in Caramel valley. She used to sell baby lettuce to Caramel’s popular Rio Grill and then one day the new head chef at the Rio Grill stopped buying the baby lettuce and the Goodmans unexpectedly lost their only customer. So what did these hurdlers do? They were surprised at how long the organic lettuce stayed fresh when properly sealed, so they packaged the lettuce into little box and shipped them to Manhattan. Now they own a 1.5 billion dollar industry and the most recognized organic produce brand.

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the collaborator maskThe Collaborator truly values the team over the individuals and the overall teams’ performance beyond the individual achievements. Their sole aim is bring people together to form multidisciplinary teams and push them out of their work silos, as they believe that “Teamwork succeeds private work”

The story of one such Collaborator is of Sir Edmund Hillary who after failing once in his attempt to climb the Mount Everest soon realized that he couldn’t do it alone. So he partnered with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay who helped him in his goal. Hillary always maintained, ‘We climbed Mount Everest’, without ever mentioning which of them was the first to reach the summit. That’s a quality of a true collaborator who turns the spotlight away from them and on the people around them!



the director maskThe Director takes the big picture view, ‘setting the stage, targeting opportunities, bringing out the best in the players, and getting things done.” Jim Collins in his book ‘Good to Great’ talks about the good-to-great leaders who began the transformation by getting the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. Steve Jobs was a classic example of a Director who had all the qualities of a leader who was brilliant in motivating his team to create something insanely great.

Some qualities of successful directors being:
1. They turn the spotlight on team members and never take credit of successes.
2. They are always looking for new ways of doing things.
3. They are the challengers.
4. They aim high and make others believe in their vision.



the experience architect maskThe Experience Architect is all about the people who relentlessly focus on creating remarkable experiences not only for the customers, but also for their fellow employees.
They don’t settle for ordinary and stay away from the commodity world where price is the only point of comparison.

A fascinating example of creating unmatchable experience for the customers is the Café Florian in Venice, Italy – One of the oldest cafes in all of Europe where people are willing to pay high prices for a cup of coffee and to experience the elegant décor and beautiful sight with soothing music. Closer home, a cup of coffee at barista costs 10 times as much as the neighbourhood chaiwalla, because of the experience that comes with it.

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the set designer maskThe Set Designers constantly tweak the design and layout of the work places in a way that encourages creativity, collaboration and inspiration! This often becomes the ‘X’ factor in an organization for the people in it, giving a message to the staff that they are cared for. It also encourages people to work hard & play hard.

Set designers believe that putting people in great work environments, encourages them to stay around a little longer or put in that little extra effort. A classic example of one such company where set designers have given a big boost to creativity and Innovation is Pixar.



the caregiver maskCaregivers work to understand each individual customer and to extend the relationships. Caregivers shift from telling to showing, from serving customers to helping individuals. The Caregiver is less about transmitting knowledge to customers and more about sharing insights, a seamless blend of service and expertise. They make customers feel more confident about their choices. In a low touch economy, where we bounce from transaction to transaction, sometimes without any human contact at all, the Caregivers remind us that customers are people too. As people, we each like to be treated as unique individuals.

A classic example is Southwest Airlines popularly known for their personalized service to customers. In their words, “We like to think ourselves as a customer service company that happens to fly airplanes”.



the story teller maskThe Storyteller weaves myths, stories and events to heighten reality and draw out lessons. This person goes beyond oral tradition to work in whatever medium best fits their skills and message. When we hear stories, they tend to stick much longer with us. The beauty of the stories is that they teach without ever appearing to do so.

Take for example, the story of Tokyo’s faithful dog Hachiko, who dutifully walked with his master everyday to the train station, watching him leave for work and then waited at the station for him to return from work. One day the owner died suddenly, without returning home. Hachiko continued to wait for him, returning everyday for ten years before passing away in the same spot that he had last seen his master. That station entrance is now named as ‘Hachiko Entrance’. Incredible Isn’t? This small story, though reminds the Japanese people about value of honor, duty and faithfulness.

Hence, why storytelling is important in the process of Innovation is that:
1. Storytelling builds credibility
2. Storytelling unleashes powerful emotions and helps teams bond.
3. Storytelling helps make order out of chaos
4. Stories give “permission” to explore controversial or uncomfortable topics


When we conduct our Innovation workshops, participants almost always see themselves being comfortable in more than one of these personas – and that is the way it should be. But the insights also come when they realize that there are certain personas that are completely absent in their teams.

Does your team have all the ten faces of Innovation?
Think about it!

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