Book Review: The Art of Innovation, by Tom Kelley

The Art of Innovation, 3/5 Sparks

[Purchasing link]

Tom Kelley is IDEO’s general manager. Tom has overseen IDEO’s business development, marketing, human resources, and operations. Tom currently has two best-selling books, The Art of Innovation (2001) and The Ten Faces of Innovation (2005). [Company Bio]

IDEO is an award-winning global design firm that takes a human-centered approach to helping organizations innovate and grow.” IDEO specializes in helping organizations “build creative culture[s] and the internal systems required to sustain innovation and launch new ventures.” [About IDEO]

Main Points

  • Aim to create an experience that is valuable to the customer. Good product and service innovations stem from the careful observation of, and empathy for, lead users.
  • “Innovation does not occur in a vacuum”. Effective innovation necessitates an environment that combines specific conditions, cultures, and activities, with a prototyping mindset.


The Art of Innovation is a testimony to successful defiance of hierarchical management styles and to the value of human-centered design. Author Tom Kelley, firmly believes that “sometimes only a real-life story will show you how the process actually works” [114]. The Art of Innovation manifests this notion. The book is read as a narrative of IDEO‘s successful projects that requires its audience to read between the lines to pull out the interlaced methodologies. Due to this structural choice, the majority of The Art of Innovation’s content functions as promotional material for IDEO and lacks counter perspectives, lessons learned from failure, and in-depth tips for implementation. Nevertheless, the book retains its value with five resource-packed chapters; 3-7. These chapters pair procedures and concrete management tools with real-life examples.

Topics covered by these chapters include:

  • Human-centered design
  • The brainstorming process
  • The importance of strong teams
  • The value of prototyping
  • The architecture of innovation-friendly environments

One of the cases referenced in the book is an ABC Nightline broadcast where IDEO is challenged to innovate the traditional shopping cart within a week. This video broadcast by ABC Nightline is embedded at the end of my review. Read more of this post


How to Implement Challenge-Driven Innovation

Delivering on the Promise: An interview with David Ritter [link]

Interviewee David Ritter is the Chief Technology Officer at  InnoCentive . “Since 2001, InnoCentive has helped corporate, government, and non-profit organizations to better innovate through crowdsourcing, strategic consulting services and internal Software-as-a-Service offerings. The company built the first global Web community for open innovation.” [Link]. Some of Innocentive’s clients include Procter & Gamble, SAP, Eli Lilly and Company, SCA, GlobalGiving and the Rockefeller Foundation. David oversees product management, R&D, and IT operations functions.

Main Points:

  • “Open innovation is a way to efficiently take advantage of resources irrespective of where they may be.” [Ritter, 4:00]
  • Successful innovation is not deploying innovation projects or events.  Successful innovation is developing long-term and sustainable innovation capabilities within your company.
  • Idea management platforms and social media tools require clear and concise problem statements, incentives and systematic implementation to successfully drive innovation.


In this  interview by Custom Solutions Group’s Bill Laberis, InnoCentive’s CTO David Ritter shares his experiences with the successes, failures, and best practices of companies turning to IT as an engine of innovation. David argues that while social media, groupware and intranets provide useful platforms for collaboration, without systematic implementation, incentives, and clear and concise problem statements that include solution criteria, these tools are doomed to fail. Read more of this post