The Ten Faces of Innovation

I was skimming my feeds this week and came across a post by Paul Baker at EducationPR. It was a quote from a book by Tom Kelley called The Ten Faces of Innovation. What caught my eye was this:

“We have too many people out there playing Devil’s Advocate…”

And the only thing I could think was AMEN!

“…when they should be in a learning role like the Anthropologist, when they should be invoking an organizing role like the Collaborator, when they should be adopting a building role like the Experience Architect.”

It was that simple quote that prompted me to find out more and to read Tom Kelley’s book, courtesy of the Inter-Library Loan system. It came in Friday afternoon and I dove right in.

“Having invoked the awesome protective power of that seemingly innocuous phrase, the speaker now feels entirely free to take potshots at your idea, and does so with complete impunity. Because they are not really your harshest critic… They’re removing themselves from the equation and sidestepping individual responsibility for the verbal attack.”

“Why is this persona so damning? Because the Devil’s Advocate encourages idea-wreckers to assume the most negative possible perspective, one that sees only the downside, the problems, the disasters-in-waiting.”

I never really understood why I have always hated those words “The Devil’s Advocate” until I read Kelley’s introduction. It occurred to me that the absolution that comes from playing the Devil’s Advocate is the defensive mechanism for the problem oriented. And whether you are in higher education or the corporate world, allowing problem oriented individuals free reign in this role will eventually kill your organization.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I took away from my time in the Outdoor Education program at the University of New Hampshire is that there are two primary approaches to working through challenge initiatives, whether they are icebreakers, low-ropes or high-ropes elements, problem-oriented or solution-oriented. Kelley takes solution orientation a step further, actually ten steps, in his identification of the ten faces of innovation. These are ten different approaches to solution orientation:

  • The anthropologist
  • The experimenter
  • The cross-pollinator
  • The hurdler
  • The collaborator
  • The director
  • The experience architect
  • The set designer
  • The caregiver
  • The storyteller

I’m reading The Anthropologist now and I have to say that I like what I’ve seen so far.

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