The Innovation Room: Multiple Personalities and Positive Culture

Reading Kelley: The 10 Faces of Innovation – Doubleday, 2005

In 2011, pulling a book off the shelf that is 6 years old might seem like a trip through memory lane. How quaint that the author seems to mention elements of the future like social networks, and mobile devices, that are taken for granted today.  However, the perspectives on innovation from Tom Kelley in his 2005 book, The 10 Faces of Innovation* are durable, and highly relevant to the challenges we are facing with our enterprise clients today.


For many of our Dachis Group clients, the wish for the Connected Company is intimately related to the need for a healthy relationship with innovation. Companies need to change the way they think and relate to one another in order to create an environment that supports collaboration and innovation. The two are intimately interrelated. We’re working with this very information right now with two high-priority tech clients who are seeking to transform their internal processes to better support innovation.

The active process of innovation is a mode, not a one-time act.

Organizations need to adopt an ongoing relationship with innovation and integrate it into everyday thinking/operations.

Innovation does not come from “creative” types alone.

Within the innovative process, there is room for multiple personas… every personality type can fit into this and make a contribution. It’s not just for the “creative” people, but for all types.

Limits on the Creative persona risks negativity

If there is a monolithic view of the “innovative” person, it creates an IN or OUT mindset, and those that don’t identify with their own conception of a creative type might take the OUT point of view, and either resist innovation, or adopt a pointless “Devil’s Advocate” role by default. The Devil’s Advocate role is unnecessarily destructive, and is a way to resist/derail a valuable business process without having to take direct accountability for one’s real thoughts and ideas. Having doubts and issues with change/innovation is healthy… not claiming ownership of those doubts is not.

Method for Inclusion

Find a role that everyone can identify with, and let them assume their temporary persona naturally. Roles can shift over time, or even over the run of a project, but as long as everyone can claim a seat at the table, it can be much more healthy/productive.

Role types


  • Anthropologist – Observes, brings back findings to the group
  • Experimenter – Methodical, attempts new things based on logic and calculated risk
  • Cross Pollinator – Integrates ideas from other environments and disciplines


  • Hurdler – Develops a skill at navigating internal and external obstacles. Works the system to the team’s advantage
  • Collaborator – Brings eclectic groups together, and leads from the middle of the pack
  • Director – Gathers, but also sparks creative interest and energy, maintains and articulates the vision for the group


  • Experience Architect – Designs experiences that connect with people, and their latent needs
  • Set Designer – Creates environments in which innovation can flourish
  • Care Giver – Can anticipate needs, and develops true value by providing resources ahead of time
  • Storyteller – Can create compelling narratives, and builds morale and alignment with story

Summary observations from the book that impact innovation:

  1. There are creative ways to counter-balance the natural tendency to resist innovation (the Devil’s Advocate)
  2. Organizations should honor the skills required for innovation
  3. Flexibility is the new strength – its okay to have to shift direction, accept setbacks or information that seems to bring bad news. Its part of the process
  4. Innovation is a mode, a constant way of thinking in everyday work
  5. Embrace the mental challenge of innovation- the game. It has rules, players, phases, positive and negative behaviors
  6. Evaluate whether coaches or mentors are helping you reach your vision. Are they holding you back? Are they as innovative as you need them to be?

I found this book to be extremely illuminating in terms of thinking about the creative space, and how to begin to equip a team for a truly innovative environment.  As we continue to consult with enterprise clients, we are getting great resonance from these concepts.

* Tom Kelley: The 10 Faces of Innovation – Doubleday, 2005

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