Settings, Smiles, and Stories: Reflection No. 7


Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

The Set Designer, The Caregiver, and the Storyteller

In the final installment of my reflections from The Ten Faces of Innovation, by Tom Kelley, I would like to introduce the Set Designer, The Caregiver, and the Storyteller. These three personas, while last in the book, are definitely not least.

Innovation flows best in an inspirational setting, so The Set Designer becomes involved in the day to day experience of accessing the creative spirit. While this may involve a memorable experience (such as The Experience Architect may create), the main objective of the Set Designer is to “gauge how space behaves and make subtle adjustments to keep it responsive to your shifting needs,” striking a balance between collaborative and private spaces. What if you could endear your employees to a space the way stadiums boost the spirits of their home team? What if you could tap in to the energy and exuberance of a kindergarten? What if your courage could keep up with your imagination?

“Set Designers are dedicated to exploring a different  frontier you might call ‘inner space’             -the work and commercial environments where most of us spend the bulk of our waking hours” (p. 195).

Much like a nurse, doctor, or dear ‘ol mom, The Caregiver is the persona that seeks out and comforts the human aspect of innovation. The care, support, encouragement and love for people and their needs, is how this persona sets new ideas into motion. A large corporation seeking the skills of an IDEO team is likely to have a problem related to people, either working for them or buying goods and services from them. The Caregiver persona understands that you cannot remove humanity from the equation, on either side of the corporate wall. Many times, a product can be lacking, but superior customer service makes all the difference to the patron. Think about a product you use that feels almost perfect, like a great running shoe, and chances are The Caregiver persona is behind the innovation, ensuring the team considers all the needs the shoe-wearer has for a running shoe. In essence, The Caregiver knows how to leverage empathy for the human condition and they do it with an all-important, genuine smile.

“It may seem to be a small thing, but no serious Caregiver should overlook it. I daresay most of us (and most organizations) could do with a few more smiles” (p.240).

The Storyteller is the kind of persona that can make an intriguing story out of buying a loaf of bread. However, it is imperative in business that the story being told is the “right narrative with the right situation” (p.245).

“Business stories have focused purposes like sparking action, transmitting values, fostering collaboration, or leading people  into the future. Before you begin a story, it’s important to know what specific outcome you are hoping to attain” (p. 245).

Storytelling is imperative to innovation. The story of a product not only defines the parameters of the product, but attracts a specific range of customers, and informs the way a product will be branded. Keep in mind, Kelley did not title this persona The Writer. The Storyteller works much like The Anthropologist, stepping out into the field searching for the stories that will help catalyze an innovation. It takes patience and a good ear, not just a talent for captivating an audience, to be The Storyteller. That’s not saying The Storyteller cannot dream up a new way to tell the story. Sometimes in the face of change, it takes an outstanding story teller to propel people into a new way of seeing. Mythology and science-fiction, romance and mystery, even the fortune cookie are all ways of seeing the world. Stories make up our history, reality, emotions, and help make order out of chaos. No wonder this persona is valuable within and without an innovation team.

In conclusion, I would like to reconfirm my business crush on IDEO. On this path to entrepreneurship, I see the value in adopting certain personas in varying business situations. I often recognized myself in these chapters. Each new persona reflected a vision of someone I’d like to have coffee with, and I can see where I would find allies for my own strengths and talents.

8 thoughts on “Settings, Smiles, and Stories: Reflection No. 7

  1. Hey Joy!

    So.. I attempted to guess what each persona you were introducing was for the set designer, the caregiver, and the storyteller. I did alright but going over your persona and the examples you used were excellent. The way that you were able to tie each one to the next was great. I personally feel that being able to take away a lot from a blog article is tough. It’s not very tough with this blog article.

    The persona of the Storyteller really stood out to me. Everything you said really hit home. I’m glad you took such a liking to IDEO!


  2. I enjoyed this one! Have been channeling the Set designer energy in my home recently. Organizing and shifting things around for better flow of energy and creativity.

    On Sun, Feb 25, 2018 at 10:55 PM, Worthwhile Studio wrote:

    > worthwhile posted: ” Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash The Set Designer, The > Caregiver, and the Storyteller In the final installment of my reflections > from The Ten Faces of Innovation, by Tom Kelley, I would like to introduce > the Set Designer, The Caregiver, and the Storyteller” >


  3. Joy,

    As I read your post (and this goes for your other reflections as well), I also could see myself playing these roles. Of course, as you mentioned, which one I play would depend on the situation. What I particularly enjoy are your descriptions on how all three personas are integral to the innovative process and complement each other. The author clearly emphasizes a teamwork approach and seems to look for productive and civilized ways to work through conflicts that might potentially arise. The reason I point that out is because I’ve heard about certain business structures that pit people against each other in order to drive up competition and performance (such as in my chosen movie, Pirates of Silicon Valley, for “At the Movies”). While some friendly competition might be healthy, I find such cut-throat tactics to be stressful and unproductive!

    Particularly, the Caregiver stands out to me as the “mediator” role. They would mediate between the purely business interests and ensure that the customer does not get lost in the mix. Or, if the Storyteller starts coming up with creative but perhaps unrealistic ideas, the Caregiver might bring them back to Earth. Being able to keep the business centered around how it impacts actual people strikes me as particularly important. Though, I try to refrain from playing favorites!
    It’s obvious you really enjoyed this book! Your interest oozes from your reflections. Great job, Joy!




  4. Joy,

    Again, another blog that made me think about which persona I would be! I love being able connect to each persona and assess which one I would consider myself in different situations. All personas you have discussed so far seem imperative to the innovation process, If I build a team in the future, I will look for individuals who hold each of these personas. By doing that, I know I will have a successful group of individuals. Overall, I feel like all of your reflections have been outstanding and I’m sure they are a great representation of what you’ve gained from this book. I can tell you thoroughly enjoyed your reading due to your in depth thinking and writing I see on your posts.

    Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts this semester!


  5. While reading your post I was thinking about how these personas could be paired up in one individual. I could relate to the set designer and the storyteller. In many ways that are linked. Set designers are also story tellers. They tap into that which was and drive the vision with their understanding of what will be most effective. I think it was helpful in reading my book and the posts from your book on the value of the various personas on the team. There so many great things each character brings to the table. I is helpful when approaching my own business as it helped me to identify the types of people I could reach out to when I lack those traits.

    I have enjoyed reading your posts through the course. I hope that we will cross paths again in another course.

    Ellie McIntosh


  6. Joy,
    I really enjoyed your perspective on the final three personality types discussed in your book. The one that caught my eye the most was the caregiver role. Like you stated, often times in business the principles of humanity can be taken out of the equation in pursuit of production. I see this as being a grave mistake since there will always be an inherent need to reach out to people through some form or another. If an organization forgets this side of the process, then it will begin to look impersonal and out of touch with the needs of the average consumer.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, great job this semester!


  7. Great post Joy! I’m kind of sad this series has come to an end, as I’m intrigued by the faces and the their points of intersectionality with each other. The Set Designer reminded me of a StrengthsFinder and the “woo” attribute ( I’m generally not of fan of woos but I think it depends on how and when they cheer people on. The Set Designer is description is much more meaningful than a woo, but is essentially the same thing. I think I would find it hardest to work Set Designers. Thanks for sharing! (I’m going to buy this book!)


  8. Joy,
    I will say I have enjoyed reading everyone of your reflections each week. You have extremely thoughtful and thorough reflections which make me reflect on the different personas and how I may fit into those categories. I don’t think I fit any of these this week, but it was interesting enough to read and think about. Great work over the course of the semester!


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