Saturday, November 19, 2005
You can read the "exclusive" excerpt of Tom Kelley's new book published in Fast Company. If I were to give Fast Company a persona, it would be a business version of Hello! magazine, fawning over profiled business personalities.
With a judgmental attitude not generally associated with the "California persona," Tom is very harsh on people who play "devil's advocate." He calls them toxic. Rather than allow employees to question ideas, better to trust Tom to tell you what employees should be thinking.
Buried in the article are some worthwhile ideas, but the presentation is so buzz word laden and gratuitous it is hard to take it seriously. Why is the "Hurdler" a necessary persona and not someone let's call the "Magician" or the "Fairy"? Sorry to play devil's advocate, but my intuitive side detects a lot of bullshit, and my logical side isn't persuaded either. There is a Tony Robbins quality when Tom says "the personas are about 'being innovation' rather than merely 'doing innovation.'" Why not "be innovation" by trying fire walking? Is the goal to feel good, or achieve something? Innovation is more toil, and less happy talk, than Tom admits.
Good ideas need articulate champions, not thought police. Kelley's innovation personas liberally borrow from Edward de Bono's Six Thinking Hats. The difference is that Edward de Bono recognizes a role for the devil's advocate (the black hat), while Kelley just wants -- and expects -- everyone to buy in to an new idea. That is not only not realistic (outside a sheltered environment such as beginning art school classes), but it is counter-productive. Even hard-nosed experimentation doesn't necessarily produce clear answers where facts speak for themselves. Facts need to be interpreted, and interpretations will need to be argued over to achieve clarity.