Friday, December 02, 2005

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Great minds think alike. By saying that, I can put myself in the same realm of thinkers as Tom Kelley at Ideo and Edward de Bono. In case you didn't know, Kelley has written a book entitled the 10 Faces of Innovation. At NetCentrics, we complete a white paper on innovation entitled "The people you need to innovate" about one month ago. Turns out both address a similar problem.

Innovation, just like any business process, requires more than one person and more than one type of skill to repeat successfully. I have not had the good fortune to read Kelley's book, but I have read excerpts in Fast Company. The identification of the "faces" in his book are similar to "roles" we've defined in our approach and white paper. In our white paper we identify roles such as a "Scout" a person who gains market insight and gathers information about new trends, a "Framer" who decides how a new idea should be evaluated , and a "Prototyper" who builds prototypes to help customers interact with a physical representation of their ideas. While Kelley's approach is more esoteric, our roles and definitions are more tactical. Both approaches make a lot of sense and begin to move the dialog about innovation from "Who's doing what" to "When can it be ready"?

The issue that Kelley's book and other approaches like his seem to miss, (I'm judging before reading) is that there must be an agreed "process" before these folks - Kelley's Faces, de Bono's Hats or our Roles - can work together efficiently. I have concerns about the people within the innovation framework taking on roles before the processes are defined and agreed upon. Also, should people be able to take on several roles? de Bono has six thinking hats - again the emphasis is on "thinking" not implementation or doing. Where's the definition of the process these people taking on these various roles are going to follow?

I am completely on board with an emphasis that the people involved are important - and that there should be a wide range of skills involved in innovation. What's as important, and not as well addressed, is that there should be a defined process for these people to use when they show up in their various roles, otherwise a lot of thinking will get accomplished, but not much action.
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posted by Jeffrey Phillips at 8:08 AM

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