Developing innovative ideas takes a certain je ne sais quoi, but the company that does know is called IDEO. In Tom Kelley’s book The Ten Faces of Innovation he shares how IDEO cultivates an environment of innovation by defining ten types of personas that catalyze creative ideas into innovative products and services.
He divides the ten personas into three categories:
The Learning Personas, which include The Anthropologist, The Experimenter, and the Cross-Pollinator.
The Organizing Personas, which include The Hurdler, The Collaborator, and The Director.
The Building Personas, which include The Experience Architect, The Set Designer, The Caregiver, and The Storyteller.
“As you get to know the ten personas, keep in mind that they’re not inherent personality traits or ‘types’ that are permanently attached to one (and only one) individual on a team…These innovation roles are available to nearly anyone on your team, and people can switch roles, reflecting their multi-faceted capabilities.” Tom Kelley
Kelley seems particularly taken with The Anthropologist’s persona. He notes that it took him a long time to come around to seeing the value in this persona because the contributions of The Anthropologist are subtle. They are not the nuts and bolts builders of innovated products. They aren’t responsible for organizing data, only for reporting the data they collect.
“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 (8).”
I’d say The Anthropologist is the stunning wall flower of the personas. Much in the manner of a professional in anthropology, this persona takes the time to see a problem with fresh eyes, using intuition to sharpen their deductive reasoning so that they can empathize with the struggles they witness with a particular product or service. In essence, The Anthropologist is a people-watcher, observing how products function and how people interact with those products in order to improve the experience.
The Anthropologist may not hold the magic eight ball, but this persona learns a lot about the future by watching children and teens. Not surprisingly, children and teens drive the technology, services, and products of our future, so something that draws and holds their brief attention can offer great insight on how to move innovation forward.
Kelley admits “the Anthropologist role is the single biggest source of innovation at IDEO (16).” The Anthropologist has the hindsight to see the product in the past tense, the zen-like quality of vuja de (basically the opposite of deja vu) to perceive the present, and the vision to utilize all avenues of information to predict the future of that product. What company wouldn’t value people who can time travel in their imagination, right?