Friday, November 06, 2009

Recap: Tom Kelley @CCADedu

Tom Kelley is from Akron.

Growing up Kelley witnessed first-hand the extinction of an industry due to the lack of innovation. In a span of less than 20 years, Akron (OH) went from making 100% of the tires used in the U.S. to making 0%. This affected his family, his community, and, of course, the tire manufactures.

Kelley spoke at Columbus College of Art & Design (CCAD) this past Wednesday. CCAD's Business Advisory Council made the event a reality, and CCAD's president, Denny Griffith, gave a poignant introduction that focused on creative economies.

In Kelley's presentation, he focused on 3-out-of-10 personal roles of innovators from his book, "The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO's strategies for beating the devil's advocate & driving creativity throughout your organization." Those roles include the anthropologist, the experimenter, and the cross-pollinator.

Each role has unique characteristics that lead companies to innovate.

The anthropologist sees with new eyes. Doing so allows for the observance of needs--not directing what should be needed. Observing the need(s) and matching with an organization's capabilities leads to empathic design.

This role is Kelley's favorite. He indicated anthropoligists must be in a mental state of vuja de (a play on deja vu). Anthropologists must use new perspectives to look at things that have been witnessed a million times over. By doing so, anthropoligists discover unmet needs.

The experimenter is all about trial and error. Experimenters are given the allowance to fail in a fostered and secure system because with many innovators (Edison, Dyson, etc.) new knowledge comes from failure. Kelley remarked that organizations need to "lower the bar for prototyping." He explained that we do not allow ourselves enough room to be creative, and he indicated that even the crudest prototypes can elucidate ideas, eventually leading to breakthrough products or services (Kelley highlighted a case study from their HBR article, "Design Thinking.")

Cross-pollinators, my personal favorite, are individuals that spread knowledge and ideas throughout the organization. Of course, this directly relates to librarians and knowledge managers. Kelley described cross-pollinators as "unstable elements" until they've spread the new information/knowledge they have. Furthermore, Kelley said that cross-pollinators are infinitly curious and part student, part teacher. He indicated IDEO actively looks for these types of individuals to help their organization remain innovative.

While although a bit like a presentation to sell his book & IDEO, Kelley's talk gave us much to think about. I'm grateful for central Ohio organizations like CCAD, their BAC, and the YPO/WPO/EO collective for bringing luminaries like Kelley to Columbus. I hope that the cross-pollinization between academic, public, and private sectors continues to thrive in Columbus, fostering our own creative economy.

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