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IDEOs Organizational Personas

February 2, 2007
Related Topics: Change Management, Corporate Culture, Strategic Planning, Featured Article
Over the years, IDEO has developed 10 roles people can play in an organization to foster innovation. They come at "every point of the compass, in all aspects of the business and in every team member," says IDEO general manager Tom Kelly.

The Learning Personas:
   The Anthropologist brings new learning and insights into the organization by observing human behavior and developing a deep understanding of how people interact physically and emotionally with products, services and spaces. When an IDEO human-factors person camps out in a hospital room for 48 hours with an elderly patient undergoing surgery, she is living the life of the anthropologist and helping to develop new health care services.

    The Experimenter prototypes new ideas continuously, learning by a process of enlightened trial and error. The experimenter takes calculated risks to achieve success through a state of "experimentation as implementation." When BMW bypassed all its traditional advertising channels and created theater-quality short films for, no one knew whether the experiment would succeed.

    The Cross-Pollinator explores other industries and cultures, then translates those findings and revelations to fit the unique needs of your enterprise. When an open-minded Japanese businesswoman travels 5,000 miles to find inspiration for a new brand, she finds a concept an ocean away that sparks a billion-dollar retail empire, and demonstrates the leverage of a Cross-Pollinator.

The Organizing Personas:
   The Hurdler knows the path to innovation is strewn with obstacles and develops a knack for overcoming or outsmarting those roadblocks. When the 3M worker who invented Scotch tape decades ago had his idea initially rejected, he refused to give up. Staying within his $100 authorization limit, he signed a series of $99 purchase orders to pay for critical equipment needed to produce the first batch. The perseverance paid off, and 3M has reaped billion of dollars in cumulative profits because an energetic Hurdler was willing to bend the rules.

    The Collaborator helps bring eclectic groups together, and often leads from the middle of the pack to create new combinations and multidisciplinary solutions. When a customer-service manager wins over a skeptical corporate buyer to the idea of brainstorming new forms of cooperation and the resulting new program doubles their sales, he’s playing the role of a very successful Collaborator.

    The Director not only gathers together a talented cast and crew but also helps to spark their creative talents. When a creative Mattel executive assembles an ad hoc team and dubs them "Platypus," launching a novel process that creates a $100 million toy platform in three months, she is a role model for Directors everywhere.

The Building Personas:
   The Experience Architect designs compelling experiences that go beyond mere functionality to connect at a deeper level with customers’ latent or expressed needs. When an ice cream shop turns the preparation of a frozen dessert into a fun, dramatic performance, it is designing a successful new customer experience. The premium prices and marketing buzz that follow are rewards associated with playing the role of the Experience Architect.

    The Set Designer creates a stage on which innovation team members can do their work, transforming physical environment into powerful tools to influence behavior and attitude. Companies like Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic recognize that the right office environments can help nourish and sustain a creative culture. When a business team doubles its usable output after reinventing its space and a sports team discovers a renewed winning ability in a brand-new stadium, they are demonstrating the value of the Set Designer. Organizations that tap into the power of the Set Designer sometimes discover remarkable performance improvements that make all the space changes worthwhile.

    The Caregiver builds on the metaphor of a health care professional to deliver customer care in a manner that goes beyond mere service. Good Caregivers anticipate customer needs and are ready to look after them. When you see a service that’s really in demand, there’s usually a Caregiver at the heart of it. A Manhattan wine shop that teaches its customers how to enjoy the pleasure of wine without ever talking down to them is demonstrating the Caregiver role—while earning a sold profit at the same time.

    The Storyteller builds both internal morale and external awareness through compelling narratives that communicate a fundamental human value or reinforce a specific cultural trait. Companies from Dell to Starbucks have lots of corporate legends that support their brands and build camaraderie within their teams. Medtronic, celebrated for its product innovation and consistently high growth, reinforces its culture with straight-from-the-heart storytelling from patients’ firsthand narratives of how the products changed—or even saved—their lives.

—Excerpts from The Ten Faces of Innovation: IDEO’s Strategies for Beating the Devil’s Advocate and Driving Creativity Throughout Your Organization, by Tom Kelly with Jonathan Littman.

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