The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelly


The Ten Faces of Innovation is the second book on Innovation from design firm IDEOs stable, by author Tom Kelly whose brother was the founder of this California-based company. This book focuses on the human element involved in Innovation. It identifies the 10 roles that various members of the Innovation team may need to play to enable and evoke innovation.

The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelly

The ten faces or the roles identified are:

1. Hurdler
2. Caregiver
3. Collaborator
4. Cross-pollinator
5. Experimenter
6. Anthropologist
7. Experience Architect
8. Set Designer
9. Storyteller
10. Director

Roles are more or less what we commonly understand from these words. And if you think a bit, you would have played most of these roles sometime or the other in your life. If not, there would be someone you would know who plays these roles in daily life. The author relates these to various innovation projects that they have done at IDEO. He actually profiles IDEO employees based on these roles. And for each role, he has one or more examples.

The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelly

Six Thinking Hats

Somewhere while reading this book I got the feeling of these roles being ‘Six thinking hats’ of Innovation. In fact, I think the number of these roles should also be around six. I do not see too much differentiation between experienced architects, set designers, and caregivers. All of these are the roles that make sure that the customer experience is the differentiator for the innovation. Similarly, collaborators and cross-pollinators are not very different, and you need to be one to be the other.

I think putting together these roles that come into play when you are doing an innovation project will bring a lot of clarity to the Innovation teams. And can help them deliver a well-rounded project. The book The Ten Faces of Innovation gives you multiple perspectives that would come in handy while doing innovation projects in organizations. A good read for Innovation professionals.

Buy this book – The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelly. Renamed edition The Art Of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America’s Leading Design Firm at Amazon India.


The central premise of the book is that innovation is not the result of a single creative genius but rather a collaborative effort that involves a diverse group of people with different skills and perspectives

Innovation is not just about having great ideas, but also about having the skills and mindset to bring those ideas to life.

Faces of innovation, represent a different skill or mindset essential for innovation. They are:

  • Anthropologist: Understanding the needs and desires of the people you are designing for.
  • Experimenter: Willing to try new things and take risks.
  • Cross-Pollinator: Bringing together different ideas and perspectives to create new solutions.
  • Hurdler: Overcoming obstacles and setbacks.
  • Collaborator: Working effectively with others to achieve common goals.
  • Director: Providing clear vision and leadership for innovation projects.
  • Experience Architect: Designing products and services that create memorable and engaging experiences for users.
  • Set Designer: Creating the right environment for innovation to thrive.
  • Storyteller: Communicating the value of innovation to others.
  • Caregiver: Nurturing and supporting the people involved in innovation projects.

Full of stories and examples, the book has practical advice on how to develop these skills and mindsets in yourself and your team.

Key Takeaways

  • Innovation is not just about having great ideas, but also about having the skills and mindset to bring those ideas to life.
  • The best way to learn about innovation is to practice it.
  • Innovation is a team sport, that requires collaboration and cooperation from everyone involved.
  • Innovation is not easy. It requires facing challenges and overcoming obstacles.
  • The rewards of innovation are great. Lead to new products, services, and experiences that can change the world.

Read more:

This site is Amazon Associate and may earn a small commission on purchases that you make through the links, without impacting what you pay for it.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here