Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman.
The Art of Innovation.

I enjoyed reading the first part of this book, as I felt part of the creative process in establishing new insights into the thinking and processes that have led to the development of some of the most visionary products to be marketed in the last 15 years, including Apple's mouse and Oral-B's Squash Grip toothbrush.

A major aspect of innovation for Tom Kelley is the establishment of teams. He does not believe that great innovations happen in isolation. IDEO believe in establishing hot teams for projects, drawing on the experience of members from diverse fields. A key aspect for success is the lack of formality. This concept is reflected in the way offices are furnished and the way members of staff relate to each other. As an ex-banker, I had a good laugh as he lambasted established companies for their rigidity concerning seniority, office space size, window size, and so forth. He believes that such hierarchy diminishes the possibilities for creativity. Flexibility, informality, and team reinforcement are the IDEO creed.

I found the chapters on brainstorming and observation to be fascinating, and I would certainly encourage all our subscribers to read these sections in order to improve the functioning of their businesses.

In particular, Kelley stresses that brainstorming must be an integral and continual part of the process and not an exercise carried out from time to time without much enthusiasm. Clear pointers to successful brainstorming are advanced.

Concerning observation, Kelley points out that a number of the IDEO's successful designs were accomplished only by visiting the place of final use, observing and understanding the targeted users, and then discussing with them what was really needed. From my own experience in consulting, many innovators assume working practices and desires without actually getting critical hands on experience.

Other aspects of design work such as simplicity and the need to continually build and refine prototypes are expounded.

The book is full of examples of the IDEO's successes and some failures. I found the last 100 pages somewhat repetitive and in need of editing. However, I would recommend this book to all entrepreneurs and senior managers in established firms. I believe this book gives a clear insight into how to obtain and maintain successful innovation.

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