Experience!Tech closing keynote: Tom Kelley, IDEO

For the closing keynote, we’re back to the live video feed from the IDC conference in Boston to hear Tom Kelley of IDEO. He wrote The Art of Innovation, and is following it up with The Ten Faces of Innovation, which is also the title of his presentation today (alarmingly, scheduled for 1.25 hours at the end of the day).

Not surprisingly, he’s talking about innovation. In theory, everyone is in favour of innovation, but in practice, it falls into Covey’s quadrant #2: important but not urgent. This causes innovation to be put off repeatedly, until someone else starts taking your business because they’re out-innovating you. So even though it tends to live in quadrant #2, it can take on an urgency if you fail to attend to it.

Some thoughts:

  • The type of innovation required in today’s markets is to passionately pursue new ways to serve your customers.
  • Standing still will result in the death of a brand: to quote the Red Queen, “If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.”

Samsung is using design and innovation to outpace Sony: the brand value of Samsung surpassed Sony in 2004 for the first time ever, primarily because Sony thought that their superior brand value would carry them without maintaining a high level of innovation (or increasing their level of innovation): they’re still innovators, just not as innovative as Samsung, and barely enough to keep their brand value from dropping further.

In his first book, he focused on the tools of innovation; in the second book, he focuses on the people side, or the roles and corporate culture required for innovation. He sees several roles that contribute (which are his ten faces of innovation):

  • The learning roles:
    • The anthropologist
    • The experimenter
    • The cross-pollinator
  • The organizing roles:
    • The hurdler
    • The collaborator
    • The director
  • The building roles:
    • The experience architect
    • The set designer
    • The caregiver
    • The storyteller

He then looked at two of those roles: the anthropologist and the experience architect (he actually allowed the audience in Boston to decide between him talking about the experimenter and the experience architect by throwing a little squishy ball that was provided at their seat).

The anthropologist goes into the field to observe people’s experiences with products in order to drive innovation of those products through empathic design. They have the ability to see things that have previously gone unobserved, and have a lot of “a-ha” moments of discovering innovative ideas and unsolved problems. Anthropologists are necessary because when you’re immersed in an environment, you can’t see either the problems or potential solutions. Kelley had a lot of great anecdotes on how anthropologists have improved product design.

The experience architect is focused on creating an amazing experience for each individual consumer of a product: not just creating a great product, but marketing it as such so that people will chose it over the competitor, even paying more or going out of their way to get it. Think Starbucks coffee or Westin’s Heavenly Bed, both of which have built a brand with a very loyal following. Companies are building in features that no one uses, but the key is to build something simple, looking at the entire customer experience to identify the best places to make their experience extraordinary.

I really enjoyed Kelley’s talk: very engaging and lots of great anecdotes about design, making the 1.25 hours speed by. Having been to a lot of conferences where the closing keynote is completely unrelated with anything to do with the conference content, it was great to hear a keynote that’s relevant as well as entertaining.

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