Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Author:

Tom Kelly

Premise:

This book discusses the importance of innovation and how it separates good organizations from excellent organizations.  The Ten Faces of Innovations also details the different personas that can foster & create innovation within an organization.

My Thoughts:

Go out and buy this book today, you will not regret it.  Some books inspire you, others can make you feel something, still others allow you to look at things from a completely different perspective.  This book did all of these things for me and much more.  It validated my views on the importance of constantly trying to improve on what ever it is that you are doing.  Companies that can evolve and adapt quickly to consumer needs will succeed, all others will be left behind.  I am constantly looking for ways to push my company ahead of our competition and this book provided me with many insights on how I can achieve that.

“In the long history of humankind (and animal kind, too) those who learned to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.” – Charles Darwin

For me the book articulated what I have been trying to formalize in my mind for some time now. It provides a language that you can use within your organization.  One key aspect the book highlighted for me is that innovation is what your are, not something that you do.  It is more pervasive than just saying that you have an R&D department that creates cool stuff, it is about how your entire organization operates from executive management to the folks on the ground doing the daily grind.

As the title suggests, the book discusses 10 different personas that push innovation through an organization.  Instead of me trying to paraphrase for Tom Kelly, I’m going to pull a few sections from the book directly that crystalize my thoughts almost exactly.

“So who are these personas?  Many already exist inside of large companies, though they’re often underdeveloped or unrecognized.  They represent latent organizational ability, a reservoir of energy waiting to be tapped.  We all know plenty of birght, capable people who would like to make a bigger contribution, team members whose contributions don’t quite fit into traditional catagories like engineer, or marketer or project manager.

In a postdiciplinary world where the old descriptors can be constraining, these new roles can empower a new generation of innovators.  They give individuals permission to make their own unique contribution to the social ecology and performance of the team.”

Book Details:

The ten personas fall into three categories.  I’m going to be pulling text directly from the book.  Again, I think Tom Kelly is a better writer than I am.  I don’t want to paraphrase and loose some of the meaning in the translation.  Because of this, this section is a bit lengthy.

Learning Personas: These personas are driven by the idea that no matter how successful a company currently is, no one can afford to be complacent.  The world is changing at an accelerated pace, and today’s great idea my be tomorrow’s anacronism.  The learning roles help keep your team from becoming too internally focused and remind the organization not to be so smug about what you “know.”

  • 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.
  • The Experimenter prototypes new ideas continuously, learning by a process of enlightened trial and error.  The Experimenter takes calculated risks to achieve success through a state of “experimentation as implementation.”
  • The Cross-Pollinator explores other industries and cultures, then translates those findings and revelations to fit the unique needs of your enterprise.

Organizing Personas: These personas are played by individuals that are savvy about the often counterintuitive process of how organizations move ideas forward.  Most people believe that ideas should speak for themselves.  However even the best ideas must continuously compete for time, attention, and resources.  Those who adopt these organizing roles don’t dismiss the process of budget and resource allocation as “politics” or “red tape.”  They recognize it is a complex game of chess, and they play to win.

  • The Hurdler knows the path to innovation is strewn with obstacles and develops a knack for overcoming or outsmarting those roadblocks.
  • The Collaborator helps bring eclectic groups together, and often leads from the middle of the pack to create a new combinations and multidisciplinary solutions.
  • The Director not only gathers together a talented cast and crew but also helps to spark their creative talents.

Building Personas: These personas apply insights from the learning roles and channel the empowerment from the organizing roles to make innovation happen.  When people adopt the building personas, they stamp their mark on your organization.  People in these roles are highly visible, so you’ll often find them right at the heart of the action.

  • The Experience Architect designs compelling experiences that go beyond mere functionality to connect at a deeper level with customers’ latent or expressed needs.
  • The Set Designer creates a stage on which innovation team members can do their best work, transforming physical environments into powerful tools to influence behavior and attitude.
  • The Caregiver builds on the metaphor of a health care professional to deliver customer care in a manner that goes beyond mere service.
  • The Storyteller builds both internal morale and external awareness through compelling narratives that communicate a fundamental human value or reinforce a specific cultural trait.

So in conclusion, go out and buy this book.

Authors:

Chip & Dan Heath

Premise:

What is it about certain ideas/stories that makes people remember them?  Made to Stick breaks down a number of different messages/stories and analyzes what makes them compelling enough to remember.  Breaking down the analysis in this way shows you how you can get your messages to STICK, so not only can you learn how others have done it, but how you can do it too.
The book focuses on six principals that help your messages stick.  Interestingly enough the acronym spells SUCCESs.  Leave off the last “S” for savings.  I know a really bad reference to 1-800-Mattres commercial.  Each principle has it’s own chapter.

Before I start, I’d like to say that this post should be not be used as a substitution for reading the book.  I’m not Cliff Notes, I am just trying to create interest so that you will actually go and read the book.

SUCCESs:

So lets discuss the six principals and why they work.

Simple

This principle focuses on identifing the core of your message, the single most important thing.  The core should be simple & compact.  In the book the authors refer to a concept called Commander’s Intent (CI), which is taken from the military.  The following lines are taken directly from the book.

“CI is a crisp, plain-talk statement that appears at the top of every order, specifying the plan’s goal, the desired end-state of an operation.”

“Commander’s Intent manages to align the behavior of soldiers at all levels without requiring play-by-play instructions from their leaders.”

Examples:

Herb Kelleher (longest serving CEO of Southwest airlines).  ”We are THE low-fair airline.”, this was the CI used to make decisions for the company.  If it didn’t satisfy the CI, then it wasn’t done.

James Carville (key political advisor to President Clinton during his campaign).  ”It’s the economy, stupid.”, was the message that would become the core of Clinton’s successful campaign.

Unexpected

This principle focuses on getting people attention and then holding on to it once you have it.  They key aspect the authors talk about is to break peoples mental model of what they think you are going to say or what they think they know.  Surprise gets their attention, but how do you maintain it.  This is done by getting the audience behind the goal/message.  One way is to create some mystery around the message.  It’s in our nature to try and figure things out.  The local news uses this approach extremely well.

“Which local restaurant has slime in their ice machine?”  Find out at 11:00.

Concrete

The more abstract the concept, the less likely people are going to remember it.  Concrete ideas are easier to remember.  Experiments in human memory have shown that people are better at remembering concrete, easily visualized nouns than abstract ones.  People remember things that they can visualize in their heads.  A few exmples:

Abstract:  High-performance

Concrete:  V8 engine

Abstract:  World-class customer service

Concrete:  A Nordstrom representative gift wrapping an item from Macy’s.

Credible

Credibility helps people believe in the message.  There are a number of way to build credibility into your message.  I’m only going to talk about a few of them.  In an Anti-Smoking campaign that ran in the mid-1990s the main spokes person was a woman that had been smoking since she was 10 years old.  She had been smoking for about 20 years.  The campaign followed this woman as she struggled to live while slowly suffocating because of her failing lungs.  The campaign didn’t use statistics or a lot of data, they used what the authors call an Anti-Authority, they put a human behind the message.

Another way to establish credibility is to provide statistics in a way that people understand, in more of a human scale.  As an example:

“Scientists recently computed an important physical constraint to an extraordinary accuracy.  To put the accuracy in perspective, imagine throwing a rock from the Sun to the Earth and hitting the target within on third of a mile of dead center.”

“Scientists recently computed an important physical constraint to an extraordinary accuracy.  To put the accuracy in perspective, imaging throwing a rock from New York to Los Angeles and hitting a $0.50 coin.”

Which statement seems more accurate & impressive?

If you do the math, the scales are both the same, but studies have shown that more people, over 80% think that to achieve the second statement is more impressive.  This is because they can better comprehend the distance between New York and Los Angles than between the Sun and Earth.

Emotional

This principle is geared towards making people care about the message.  Making you feel something.  The beginning of this chapter opens up with a quote from Mother Teresa, “If I look at the mass, I will never act.  If I look at the one, I will do.”  This statement encapsulates the way most people behave.  Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University conducted test to prove this behavior.  You have to read the book to get the details.  The key thing here is to make your audience feel something about your message.

Stories

The final principal focuses on creating stories.  ”Stories are effective teaching tools.  They show how context can mislead people to make the wrong decisions.  Stories illustrate causal relationships that people hadn’t recognized before and highlight unexpected, resourceful way in which people have solved problems.”

The reason why stories are an effective tool, is that when we are listening to a story, out minds are creating a mental model of what is being told.  Our brains are visualizing the objects that are being talked about and how the interactions are being played out as the story unfolds.

Stories can also inspire us into action.  Most inspirational stories have three types of plots, Challenge (to overcome obstacles), Connection (to get along or reconnect), and Creativity (to inspire a new way of thinking).

My Thoughts:

For anyone that has to communicate ideas either verbally or in written form, I think this book is a must read.  This book is for professionals in the consulting industry, teachers in schools, doctors, lawyers, etc.  Basically it’s for everyone, since we all need to communicate in order to function in this world.  Go out and buy the book.