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The ART of Innovation

Lessons in creativity from IDEO, America’s leading design firm
By Tom Kelley (2001, Doubleday, New York)
This is an interesting and informative book – a good read! Tom Peters wrote the
Preface and wrote after a visit to IDEO, ‘It’s finally happened. I’ve seen a company
where I can imagine working!’ Is your workplace one where you could walk up the
door for the first time and say that?
Kelley says that the ‘secret formula’ for innovation, is a blend of methodologies,
work practices, culture and infrastructure. Brainstormi ng is a valuable creative tool
and it is a pervasive cultural influence for making sure individuals do not try to solve
problems alone, but use the collective energy and wisdom of the team (Kelley 2001,
Like and Olympic decathlon, the object is to achieve excellence in a few areas and
strength in many, e.g. ‘if you can paint a compelling visualization of the future,
maybe your partners (suppliers, distributers, consultants etc.) or even your
customers can help you get there (p.6).
The methodology of innovation has five basic steps:
1. Understand the market, the client, technology and constraints, i.e. current
2. Observe real people in real-life situations to find out what makes them tick,
or what works best. Do you know that smaller hands actually need fatter
toothbrush handles?
3. Visualise new-t0-the-world concepts – modeling, brainstorming, scenario
building – or make a video that portrays life with the future product before it
4. Evaluate and refine the prototype (or idea for a product or service). The
first idea will change (so don’t get too attached to it!). No idea is so good that
it can’t be improved upon, and plan on a series of improvements. Watch what
people like, what confuses people, and for what works.
5. Implement the new concept for commercialization. This is often the longest
phase and technically challenging.
Consider these factors when you design an innovative project for your organisation
or department. When you design a project for your assignment , you are to take an
idea and design a new ‘product’ in a few months or maybe a week (if you are a Justin-time type of person!). IDEO, on ABC TV, took on a challenge to design and build a
completely new shopping trolley – from the old and familiar one we all know. Read
about this in The Art of Innovation, pages 9 – 17.


‘When you are stuck with a tough decision or a problem you don’t understand. already would prefer not to be in a conventional workplace – they are not linear in terms of sitting down and working in the one spot in set hours. Like the e-commerce revolution twenty-plus years later. ‘taste the food’ you make. collaborate viewpoints o Hire outsiders – fresh blood. sensory immersion is why people fly around the country and around the world for face-to-face meetings. It is both passive and active. or can you plan for it. Even with all our information and communication technology. both innovative ones and ones who are noncompetitive. Have fun. take (calculated )risks. when they could just look at the digital image in their own homes. it is a time when being old and wise isn’t much of an advantage. mental diversity is just as important ie. talk to all the smart people you know’ (Kelley 2001. To make this part of your workplace (pp. provide food1 o Inspire advocates – while racial land cultural diversity is important. don’t necessarily follow the rules – change them .159-162): o Subscribe to surf i. o Play director – watch people performing small tasks o Hold an open house – invite others. don’t ask the customer who is happy with the current one and can’t think of any improvements (they are not visionaries). p. you’re not going to know the tiger’ (p. someone who imagines – and breaks the rules! ‘New ideas come from seeing.31). 2 . This is why people still go to galleries and museums. just ‘wing it’. You learn more from the person who takes a shortcut. hearing – being there’ (p. Use the ‘bug list’ to turn minor failings into improvements for your organisation. When you have an idea or newly designed product. new ideas o Change hats – get out of your own shoes o Cross-train – learn from other industries. Don’t just write off something which isn’t working.How will your workplace (TAFE) need to look and operate in the future ? What are the ‘customers’ going to be like? What are the teachers going to need to be like? Gen Y we know. It’s the networking approach to problem solving. They want to lead or put forward their views and do it ‘their way’.19). forces the product to do something the manual says it can’t. smelling. those who understand the new product and who will try it out. internet surfing or ‘idea wading’.31). Phone and videoconferencing often ‘doesn’t do it’! ‘If you are not in the jungle. Kelley suggests being a keen observer and keeping a ‘bug list’. You have to track down sources that can help you. Other ideas to innovate:  Cross-polinate – This is something that strikes you out-of-the-blue. and be bold enough to make some educated guesses. They do not particularly like taking directions.e. Seize an opportunity. ask those who have ‘an eye’ for it.

Spatially this helps memory. p.59).60). many companies make the mistake of building dams instead of doing everything possible to increase the flow’ (open the floodgates)(p. It is about opening doors.181 shows a creativity checklist of barriers and bridges (a pilot never takes off before running through a checklist!). o Space remembers. Focus outward on the customer need or service enhancement. Seven steps to better brainstorming are: (pp. Coffee while bicycling approach (shock absorbers so you won’t spill the coffee. rather than the new digital technologies. o Get physical. or on whiteboard (like ‘go for quality’. bring samples to the table. o Playful rules Don’t start with a critique or debating ideas. allows jumping around without losing track.179 ). Table pp. bring the best ideas (IDEO compared visiting a toy shop. The low tech tools are great says Kelley. a good way to get 100 ideas). and a third group who cam in ‘cold’ ). Use ‘show and tell’ sessions. but a ‘warm-up’ exercise if often worth it. ‘there has long been a certain magic between the cocktail napkin and business plans’ (p. o The brainstormer effect. A fast-paced word game to clear the mind and get an outward focus is great (Zen practitioners call it a ‘beginners mind’ (p. Drawing. motivates before and during the session. time is short. Alternatively.180 .5662) o Sharpen the focus (‘have a well-articulated description of the problem at just the right level of specificity’).181).Recognise barriers and build bridges – ‘in the stream of innovation. performing. Do all sorts of things – be active. It is like a handshake to make you feel more comfortable (p.g. deliver more value and weave it into the fabric of the culture. gears to change direction or speed. o Build and jump. o Good design is about meeting people. Put up brainstorming rules so people can see them – huge on the wall. o Evangelism works Make heroes Brainstorm more often. more energetically. ‘encourage wild ideas’) o Number ideas (gauges fluency. o Skill sets – it is not always hard to learn new skills e. People are busy. o Stretch your mental muscles. Those who go out to experience. or hands-free cycling or keep both hands on the handlebars. – the ripple effect after a vibrant session. and building. Scribing is one of the focal points which holds a group together. background reading and listening to an expert speak. o   Six ways to kill a brainstorming session: 3 .182). rather than inward on some organizational goal. Visiting the toy shop produced the best ideas.

Do it off-site . products didn’t have chargers and when they first arrived.250) Refine current products and services – the hands-on aspects require the most design attention.      The boss gets to speak first (try sending out the boss for a coffee!). Arrive at he airport. confirm or get seat number and departure gate. Teams and the passion factor Get rid of the ‘they’ factor – they should fix it.98 – 100).‘the tail wagging the dog!’? Think verbs not nouns (p. Everybody gets a turn –too ordered Experts only please – not experts. check the flight schedule board. Give your workplace a unique look – give your workers a view! Expect the unexpected – including the ups and downs. the entrepreneur.beach resorts may not be the best site to have the buzz of creativity blow through your offices. Prototyping – look up Jeff Bezos’s story of the birth of Amazon.84). great accessories or minor elements can carry a product. the pulse taker. the Iconoc Last i. No silly stuff Write down everything – no not everything as this shifts focus to the wrong side of the brain Other ideas and topics which the book discusses:              The myth of the lone genius. 4 . BUT you have to constantly evaluate what is too far outside the lines (p. and the cross-dresser (energy. for example. but people with insight.296) – focus on the experience. How is the experience? How would you imagine it should be like? Make experiences entertaining Make the human connection Tell a story Take a risk – colour outside the lines. See p. as the basics are a must before you add extra features. clear security.136). someone who challenges the status quo.197. the technologist. locate your gate. Some time ago. ability and personality are the main qualifications – someone who seems to know an awful lot without the formal qualifications) (pp. check in and check luggage in. Make a checklist of the essentials before you begin a project. walk down the boarding gangway to plane. they should do it and so on Technology exacerbates this problem (p. they sold the product . any food etc needed. Hierarchy is the enemy of cool space (p.e. the troubleshooter.. What are the main steps in taking an aeroplane flight? The airport experience. But of course. the craftsman. decipher preboarding Eight crazycharacters to have in hot groups are: the visionary. find the right terminal.

When is the right time to decide to launch your new product? 5 .  Live the future – the future may be hard to predict.293). BUT it has already arrived! ‘Success at innovation is like putting together the perfect golf swing’ (p.