The Ten Faces of Innovation - Tom Kelley

  4 min 5 sec to read
The Ten Faces of Innovation - Tom Kelley


BY Nabin Shrestha


We know introducing new ideas at work is hard, the Devil's Advocate actively opposes it. These naysayers kill ideas early on because they're “too costly”, “no one will buy it”, or “it'll never catch”. These are all subtle attacks to avoid. If given the chance, these ideas could change the world. How can companies foster creativity and innovation? The Ten Innovation Faces.

Proven methods improve problem-solving, teamwork, and innovation. Each personality approaches innovation and problem-solving differently. The ten "faces" are learning, organising, and building. The innovation process is based on the following three categories, and ten personas refine each phase.


The first three personas are learning roles because people and organisations need to constantly learn new things. These personas believe that no company, no matter how successful, can be complacent. Learning roles people are humble enough to question their worldview and open to new insights daily.

THE ANTHROPOLOGIST constantly moves, they go into the field to observe how people use products, services, and experiences to develop new ideas. The Anthropologist is great at rethinking problems and applying the scientific method to daily life. Anthropologists have the wisdom to observe with an open mind, empathy, intuition, the ability to "see" things that have gone unnoticed, a tendency to keep lists of innovative concepts worth emulating and problems to solve, and a way of finding inspiration in unusual places.

THE EXPERIMENTER stresses process over tool, testing and retesting scenarios to concretise ideas. A calculated risk-taker, this person models products, services, and proposals to efficiently solve problems. The Experimenter encourages collaboration while saving time and money to share the joy of discovery.

THE CROSS-POLLINATOR links seemingly unrelated ideas to innovate. The Cross-Pollinator brings big ideas from outside the world to enliven their organisation with a wide range of interests, curiosity, and a knack for learning and teaching. Open-mindedness, diligent note-taking, metaphorical thinking, and inspiration from constraints characterise this role.


The next three personas are organisers who understand the often counterintuitive process of how organisations advance ideas. They recognise it as a difficult chess game and play to win.

THE HURDLER is a tireless problem-solver who enjoys trying new things. The Hurdler gracefully avoids obstacles with quiet, positive determination. This optimism and perseverance can help big ideas change the status quo and turn setbacks into an organisation's greatest successes, despite shortsighted experts' doomsday predictions.

The Collaborator is rare in that they value the team over themselves. The Collaborator encourages multidisciplinary teams to get things done. This role dissolves organisational boundaries and allows team members to take on new roles. The Collaborator, more coach than boss, gives their team the confidence and skills to finish the journey.

The Director has a keen sense of the organisation's pulse. Therefore, the Director is skilled at setting the stage, targeting opportunities, bringing out the best in players, and getting things done. Through empowerment and inspiration, this role inspires others to take centre stage and embrace the unexpected.


The four remaining personas are building roles that use learning insights and organising empowerment to innovate. People who adopt building personas mark your organisation. Due to their visibility, these characters are often in the middle of the action.

THE EXPERIENCE Architect relentlessly creates unforgettable individual experiences. This person creates positive experiences with your company's products, services, digital interactions, spaces, and events. Experienced architects, whether architects or sushi chefs, plan how to make something ordinary into something special and delightful at every chance they get.

THE SET DESIGNER looks at every day as a chance to liven up their workspace. Workplaces that celebrate individuals and encourage creativity foster energetic, inspired cultures. The Set Designer balances private and collaborative work spaces to meet changing needs and encourage innovation. This person makes space an organisation's most versatile and powerful tool.

THE STORYTELLER inspires us with stories of initiative, hard work, and innovation. Beyond oral tradition, this person works in video, narrative, animation, or comic strips to convey their message. The Storyteller can inspire emotion and action, communicate values and goals, foster collaboration, create heroes, and lead people and organisations into the future by telling authentic stories.

THE CAREGIVER is the foundation of human-powered innovation. They empathise with customers to build relationships. Whether a hospital nurse, retail salesperson, or international financial institution teller, the Carer guides the client through the process to provide a comfortable, human-centred experience. 

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