The Learning Personas
Individuals and organizations need to constantly gather new sources of information in order to expand their knowledge and grow, so the first three personas are learning roles. 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 may be tomorrow’s anachronism. 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. People who adopt the learning roles are humble enough to question their own worldview, and in doing so, they remain open to new insights every day.
1. 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. When an Ideo human-factors person camps out in a hospital room for 48 hours with an elderly patient undergoing surgery, she is living the life of the anthropologist and helping to develop new health-care services.
2. 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.” When BMW bypassed all its traditional advertising channels and created theater-quality short films for bmwfilms.com, no one knew whether the experiment would succeed. Its runaway success underscores the rewards that flow to Experimenters.
3. The Cross-Pollinator explores other industries and cultures, then translates those findings and revelations to fit the unique needs of your enterprise. An open-minded Japanese businesswoman was taken with the generic beer she found in a U.S. supermarket. She brought the idea home, and it eventually became the “no brand” Mujirushi Ryohin chain, a 300-store, billion-dollar retail empire. That’s the leverage of a Cross-Pollinator.
The Organizing Personas
The next three personas are organizing roles, played by individuals who are savvy about the often counterintuitive process of how organizations move ideas forward. At Ideo, we used to believe that the ideas should speak for themselves. Now we understand what the Hurdler, the Collaborator, and the Director have known all along: that 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 as a complex game of chess, and they play to win.
4. The Hurdler knows that the path to innovation is strewn with obstacles and develops a knack for overcoming or outsmarting those roadblocks. When the 3M worker who invented masking tape decades ago had his idea initially rejected, he refused to give up. Staying within his $100 authorization limit, he signed a series of $99 purchase orders to pay for critical equipment needed to produce the first batch. His perseverance paid off, and 3M has reaped billions of dollars in cumulative profits because an energetic Hurdler was willing to bend the rules.
5. The Collaborator helps bring eclectic groups together, and often leads from the middle of the pack to create new combinations and multidisciplinary solutions. Not long ago, Kraft Foods and Safeway sat down to figure out how to knock down the traditional walls between supplier and retailer. One strategy–a way to streamline the transfer of goods from one to the other–didn’t just save labor and carrying costs. The increased efficiency sent sales of Capri Sun juice drinks, for example, soaring by 167% during one promotion.
6. The Director not only gathers together a talented cast and crew but also helps to spark their creative talents. When a creative Mattel executive assembles an ad hoc team of designers and project leaders, sequesters them for 12 weeks, and ends up with a new $100 million girls’-toy platform in three months, she is a role model for Directors everywhere.
The Building Personas
The four remaining personas are building roles that 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.
7. The Experience Architect designs compelling experiences that go beyond mere functionality to connect at a deeper level with customers’ latent or expressed needs. When Cold Stone Creamery turns the preparation of a frozen dessert into a fun, dramatic performance, it is designing a successful new customer experience. The premium prices and marketing buzz that follow are rewards associated with playing the role of the Experience Architect.
8. 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. Companies such as Pixar and Industrial Light & Magic recognize that the right office environments can help nourish and sustain a creative culture. When the Cleveland Indians discovered a renewed winning ability in a brand-new stadium, they demonstrated the value of the Set Designer. Organizations that tap into the power of the Set Designer sometimes discover remarkable performance improvements that make all the space changes worthwhile.
9. The Caregiver builds on the metaphor of a health-care professional to deliver customer care in a manner that goes beyond mere service. Good Caregivers anticipate customer needs and are ready to look after them. When you see a service that’s really in demand, there’s usually a Caregiver at the heart of it. Best Cellars, a retailer that takes the mystery and snobbery out of wine and makes it simple and fun, is demonstrating the Caregiver role–while earning a solid profit at the same time.
10. The Storyteller builds both internal morale and external awareness through compelling narra-tives that communicate a fundamental human value or reinforce a specific cultural trait. Companies from Dell to Starbucks have lots of corporate legends that support their brands and build camaraderie within their teams. Medtronic, celebrated for its product innovation and consistently high growth, reinforces its culture with straight-from-the-heart storytelling–patients’ firsthand narratives of how the products changed or even saved their lives.