The Shortest Distance to Innovation

People make innovation happen through their imagination, willpower, and perseverance. The only real path to innovation is through people. As Tim Sanders says, “The shortest distance to innovation is between two people.”

Tom Kelley, one of the founders of the legendary design firm IDEO, developed ten people-centric tools in his book The Ten Faces of Innovation. By adopting one or more of the roles, your team can explore a different point of view and create a broader range of innovative solutions. Kelley organized the ten roles into three categories: learning, organizing and building. Beginning today and continuing through Friday, a brief introduction to the personas, as Kelley calls them. For a quick summary of the personas, see here.

The Learning Persona

Individuals and organizations need to constantly gather new sources of information in order to expand their knowledge and grow. Because the world is changing at an ever-accelerated pace, today’s great idea will be tomorrow’s passing fad, and the day after’s history lesson. The learning roles described below will help keep your team from becoming smug about what you know; instead, these roles will keep you questioning your own views and remain open to new insights.

  • The Anthropologist brings new learning and insights into the organization by observing human behavior and developing a deep understanding of how people interact physically and emotionally with products, services, and spaces.
  • The Experimenter prototypes new ideas continuously, learning by a process of enlightened trial and error. The Experimenter takes calculated risks to achieve success through a state of “experimentation as implementation.”
  • The Cross-Pollinator explores other industries and cultures, then translates those findings and revelations to fit the unique needs of your own organization.

As you reflect over these 3 personas, and the seven to follow over the next two days, keep in mind that they are not inherent personality traits or types that are permanently attached to one individual on your team. These innovation roles are available to nearly anyone on your team, and people can switch roles, reflecting the multifaceted capabilities.

Take a look in the mirror – what Learning persona do you need to assume today to help your organization move forward?

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