The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman

Several years ago, my dad, Bo Lotinsky, showed me the infamous 60 Minutes special on IDEO–the mecca of innovation. After watching it, I couldn’t help but buy their book The Art of Innovation. I finally got around to reading it, and boy is it good. As always, a bulleted list of ideas and quotes don’t do the book justice. They’re more for me to remember what I read and for you to be intrigued enough to read it yourself. Enjoy!

Chapter 3: Innovation Begins with an Eye

  • Keep a list of what bugs you in products.
  • Ask “why/why not?” to understand and challenge what has already been done.
  • Observe the action–not what people say.
  • “Think of products in terms of verbs rather than nouns…as animated devices that people integrate into their lives–and you’ll become more attuned to how people use products, spaces, services–whatever you’re trying to improve.”

Chapter 4: The Perfect Brainstorm

  • Stick to one hour (one and a half max).
  • “Start with a well-honed statement of the problem…at just the right level of specificity…open-ended.”
  • Play: “go for quantity,” “encourage wild ideas,” and “be visual.”
  • Number each idea. Aim for 100 per hour.
  • Build on ideas with variations. Jump to other trains of thought when the current thread has died.
  • Use giant whiteboards, Post-It notes, or butcher paper. The brain is wired for spacial memory, so move around the room to write and to revisit topics.
  • Start with a mental warm-up exercise if people seem to be elsewhere. One great exercise is to survey products in the same category you’re trying to brainstorm in.
  • Sketch, mind-map, diagram; don’t just write words.
  • Spend much more time brainstorming than writing. You want to stay on the creative side of the brain.
  • Everybody is on the same level. No one is the boss, expert, or auditor.
  • No idea is to be critiqued. Just write it down and continue.
  • Don’t make up any other rules.

Chapter 5: A Cool Company Needs Hot Groups

  • Even the world’s best historical innovators worked in teams. Loners don’t succeed.
  • Build teams around problems to be solved, not a team role.
  • Bring in people from all roles and experiences.
  • Look outside the group for ideas, solutions, and feedback.
  • Team leaders pitch potential project members. No one “owns” people. (Note: movie studios, Google, and Netflix do the same thing.)
  • Don’t mandate attire or business hours.
  • Provide snacks.
  • Have a geek club where people can show off the latest technology or demo something they have built.
  • Play hooky as a team and go on a field trip.

Chapter 6: Prototyping Is the Shorthand of Innovation

  • “A playful, iterative approach to problems is one of the foundations of our culture of prototyping.”
  • “A prototype is almost like a spokesperson for a particular point of view.”
  • “A prototype is worth a thousand pictures.”

Chapter 8: Expect the Unexpected

  • “History teaches that innovation does not come about by central planning. If it did, Silicon Valley would be nearer to Moscow than San Francisco.”
  • It’s almost impossible to predict how the market is going to use a product.
  • Spend time absorbing what’s going on around the world. IDEO has subscriptions to at least 100 magazines.
  • Observe people in the wild accomplishing tasks.
  • Hold an open house to solicit feedback and ideas from people.

Chapter 9: Barrier Jumping

  • Organizational checklist: merit-based, employee autonomy, familiarity among staff, messy offices, lots of tinkering.

Chapter 10: Creating Experiences for Fun and Profit

  • “As you step through the innovative process, try thinking of verbs not nouns.”

Chapter 11: Coloring Outside the Lines

  • “The person who toils endlessly at his desk is not likely the person who is going to hatch a great innovation.”

2 thoughts on “The Art of Innovation by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman

  1. Ian, how do I contact messrs Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman? I would like to seek their permission to make a one-line reference in the book I am writing that has a chapter on INNOVATION. I have their book THE ART OF INNOVATION. WILL BE MOST THANKFUL TO RECEIVE YOUR ASSISTANCE.

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