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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A business book for design people. (And vice versa.)
First, let me say what this book is not:
It's NOT a granular, specific, detailed guide to product-design best practices.
Nor is it "Give Your Shop The IDEO Makeover In Ten Easy Steps."
What it is, and what it excels at being, is a genial, fast-paced, reasonably persuasive argument in favor of companies that more closely suit the requirements of creative...
Published on June 4, 2002 by Adam Greenfield

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122 of 130 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less than expected
The Art of Innovation is the story of the famous Palo Alto based design firm, IDEO. The book is easy to read and moves quickly. The author, Tom Kelley, is the brother of founder David Kelley. Tom is the General Manager and is an ex-management consultant. This is important because the book really devolves into a light treatise on business management practices. This makes...
Published on October 4, 2001 by Stephen Funk


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122 of 130 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Less than expected, October 4, 2001
This review is from: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (Hardcover)
The Art of Innovation is the story of the famous Palo Alto based design firm, IDEO. The book is easy to read and moves quickly. The author, Tom Kelley, is the brother of founder David Kelley. Tom is the General Manager and is an ex-management consultant. This is important because the book really devolves into a light treatise on business management practices. This makes sense since given Tom Kelley's responsibilities at IDEO and his background. It also explains the Tom Peter's Foreword. If you like Tom Peter's books, you will enjoy this book.
If you are looking for real insights into the IDEO design process you will be disappointed. Most of the insights are of a personnel management nature, and even those are at a relatively high level. Mr. Kelley pokes more than a few veiled barbs at the slow industrial giants who simply cannot compete with the brain power and management prowess at IDEO. That may sound sarcastic, but Mr. Kelley's pride in his company often crosses that fine line into arrogance.
There are a few actual projects described to point out how valuable a certain IDEO practice is. There are repeated references to IDEO's contribution to the invention of the Apple mouse and follow-up work on the Microsoft Mouse. Also, a great deal of time is spent talking about the redesign of the common shopping cart that was done in one week for a segment on Nightline. I know that IDEO has had many important clients and recent important projects. Perhaps they can't talk about them because of non-disclosure agreements. There are color pictures of some products at the beginning of each of 15 chapters but often there is no mention of those products in the text. Some black & white photographs of products and the IDEO workspaces also accompany the text. There are no diagrams or illustrations.
A great deal of the book outlines the emphasis that IDEO puts on the treatment of their employees and their penchant for quick and frequent prototyping as a key to success. All projects start by assigning a "hot" team and letting them brainstorm and prototype their way into some great ideas. No details are given on how the teams are formed or managed.
This book is for you if you are looking for a light management practices book and just a little insight into a premier design firm. You will probably be disappointed if you want to find out how products are designed or what specific processes are used to manage the design process. You also will not get a great deal of competitive information about IDEO. The book assumes that you have at least a general idea of what Industrial Design is about.
Tom Kelley admits that workshops about the "IDEO way" have been turned into a profit center. They give seminars on how to organize product development at client companies. I could see IDEO including this book with their seminar, or perhaps they could give it to a prospective client to whet their appetite. It definitely leaves you wanting more information. I am left wondering, "How much is that seminar, and will they let me in?"
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49 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A business book for design people. (And vice versa.), June 4, 2002
This review is from: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (Hardcover)
First, let me say what this book is not:
It's NOT a granular, specific, detailed guide to product-design best practices.
Nor is it "Give Your Shop The IDEO Makeover In Ten Easy Steps."
What it is, and what it excels at being, is a genial, fast-paced, reasonably persuasive argument in favor of companies that more closely suit the requirements of creative human beings.
Kelley's logic goes something like this:
- gather insightful, motivated human beings, regardless of disciplinary background;
- put them under intense deadline pressure, yet pamper them in ways that reinforce a sense of community;
- challenge them to do great, creative work;
- and stand back as they blow you away with sideways solutions the likes of which the world has never seen.
This might sound like a recipe for a Montessori for middle-aged hippies, except that IDEO's track record is so impressively studded with design breakthroughs that those of us in the field hold them in the highest respect. Not only that, IDEO's designs have proven to be winners in the market, winning over the hardest-nosed of quants.
Kelley successfully makes the case that design is rapidly becoming critical to success in business; that innovation and creativity are the engines of good design; and that environments like the ones IDEO provides for its workers are reasonably reliable incubators of same. If you find yourself engaged by this description, you'll probably, eventually, want more detail than the book is able to provide, but it's a grand place to start.
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27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Innovation for Fun as Well as Profit, April 21, 2001
This review is from: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (Hardcover)
There are dozens of excellent books which discuss innovation. This is one of the best but don't be misled by the title, "Lessons in creativity from IDEO, America's leading design firm." Unlike almost all other authors of worthy books on the same subject, Kelley does NOT organize his material in terms of a sequence of specific "lessons"...nor does he inundate his reader with checklists, "executive summaries", bullet points, do's and don'ts, "key points", etc. Rather, he shares what I guess you could characterize as "stories" based on real-world situations in which he and his IDEO associates solved various problems when completing industrial design assignments for their clients. "We've linked those organizational achievements to specific methodologies and tools you can use to build innovation into your own organization...[However, IDEO's] `secret formula' is actually not very formulaic. It's a blend of of methodologies, work practices, culture, and infrastructure. Methodology alone is not enough." One of the greatest benefits of the book is derived from direct access to that "blend" when activated.
It is extremely difficult to overcome what James O'Toole characterizes, in Leading Change, as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." He and Kelley seem to be kindred spirits: Both fully understand how and why truly innovative thinking encounters so much resistance within organizations. Whereas O'Toole suggests all manner of strategies to overcome that resistance, Kelley concentrates on the combination ("blend") of ingredients which, when integrated and then applied with both rigor and passion, may (just may) produce what Jobs once referred to as "insanely great." What both O'Toole and Kelley have in mind is creating and sustaining an innovative culture, one from within which "insanely great" ideas can result in breakthrough products and (yes) services.
"Loosely described", Kelley shares IDEO's five-step methodology: Understand the market, the client, the technology, and the perceived constraints on the given problem; observe real people in real-life situations; literally visualize new-to-the-world concepts AND the customers who will use them; evaluate and refine the prototypes in a series of quick iterations; and finally, implement the new concept for commercialization. With regard to the last "step", as Bennis explains in Organizing Genius, Apple executives immediately recognized the commercial opportunities for PARC's technology. Larry Tesler (who later left PARC for Apple) noted that Jobs and companions "wanted to get it out to the world." But first, obviously, create that "it."
Kelley and his associates at IDEO have won numerous awards for designing all manner of innovative products such as the Apple mouse, the Palm Pilot, a one-piece fishing mechanism for children, the in-vehicle beverage holder, toothpaste tubes that don't "gunk up" in the cap area, "mud-free" water bottles for mountain bikers, a small digital camera for the handspring Visor, and the Sun Tracker Beach Chair.
With all due respect to products such as these, what interested me most was the material in the book which focuses on (a) the physical environment in which those at IDEO interact and (b) the nature and extent of that interaction, principally the brainstorm sessions. In the Foreword, Tom Peters has this in mind when explaining why Kelley's is a marvelous book: "It carefully walks us through each stage of the IDEO innovation process -- from creating hot teams (IDEO is perpetually on `boil') to learning to see through the customer's eyes (forget focus groups!) and brainstorming (trust me, nobody but nobody does it better) to rapid prototyping (and nobody, but nobody does it better...)." Whatever your current situation, whatever the size and nature of your organization, surely you and it need to avoid or escape from "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom." Granted, you may never be involved in the creation of an "insanely great" product but Kelley can at least help you to gain "the true spirit of innovation" in your life. I join him in wishing you "some serious fun."
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Tom Kelleys Poker Face, February 12, 2001
By 
Kevin Deevey "karmaboy" (Ottawa, Ontario, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (Hardcover)
I just finished the book. Let me preface this with the fact that I've been an admirer of Tom Kelley and IDEO for quite some time now. I truely believe that they have a formula for success. Unfortunatly, Mr. Kelley keeps his secrets close to his chest. The book is a wonderful read, if your looking for "warm and fuzzy" techniques for managing innovation, but the thruth is many of us need measurable and quantifiable facts/processes to move our businesses forward. Obviously, this is the IP of IDEO and the're not about to give it away to sell books. If your career is about innovation, you need to know everything about IDEO, but I don't think you can rely on this book to do that.
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72 of 89 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Buyer Beware: It's written by a management consultant!, February 20, 2001
By A Customer
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This review is from: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (Hardcover)
I heard an interview with the author, Tom Kelley, on NPR and was fascinated by not only his talent for humorous storytelling, but also the stories he shared about product development at IDEO. After reading a short summary of the book I expected to read many marvelous stories about the process of product innovation, and all the twists and turns it involves - much like the author had discussed on the radio. I wanted to hear about the I-zone camera, the mouse... but to my chagrin, stories like these are only peripheral to the main focus of The Art of Innovation. Unfortunately, this isn't a book about invention - it's a business book, about somewhat dry things like how to run meetings, how to put together teams. However, I dutifully continued through the book, hoping to find more of the anecdotes that I had hoped for, until on page p. 132 it was all revealed in a paragraph that began, "As a management consultant..." What an ephiphany! I wanted to read a book by a designer, a free-spirited thinker, not a managment consultant. This book unfortunately feels more like something my boss would ask me to read for work rather than a peek inside the mind of quirky genius inventors that I would choose for leisure reading.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inside the Magic of Innovation, January 27, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (Hardcover)
Prior to this one, the only books I've read in under two days were by J. K. Rowling (I'm over 30, mind you). Its hard to beat Rowling on her story-telling ability, but Kelley comes close in his vivid, engaging and living stories of that magical world called IDEO. This book is a business book, but it is unlike any I've read. It is based on the FACTS and real life experience of a company that is out there living and doing what they preach (and the preaching is so clearly secondary). This was a great read--the writing flows well, and is very conversational. Not every company can be IDEO, but one can dream...
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars On the management of design, January 4, 2002
By 
Mark Wieczorek (Brooklyn, NY United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (Hardcover)
I come to this book as a designer, manager, technologist, and cog in the wheel.
I was very skeptical when I picked up this book. It's hard to summarize innovation or clearly articulate the techniques used to get there (many have tried and failed). By it's very nature, innovation goes against the status quo, and institutionalizing it and codifying it seems an impossible task. To find the balance between beauracracy and chaos is a fine talent.
I was surprised to find that this book delivers. Yes, it's written from a management point of view, and talks about staffing and running meetings, issues involving acquring and laying out office space, etc. However, the insights into these activities are great.
The chapter on "How to run a brainstorming meeting" is a real gem. Perhaps Peter Drucker laid out important rules for focused meetings in The Effective Executive, but here Kelly delivers rules for keeping everyone open, receptive, and creative.
Some of the negative reviews of this book seem to be from a design/creativity point of view. People looking for the formula for creativity (we took widget "a" and put on our creativity caps and out came not only the solution to our problem, but an innovation that revolutionized the world). This book doesn't give you that. It does give you a method for constructing a company, or department, or even a meeting in a way that encourages experimentation, creativity, and excitement.
I would recommend this book (along with the aforementioned Peter Drucker book) to anyone who manages people, or works with people and wants them to be more creative, more open, and more excited about their jobs. I'm slowly creeping these ideas into my corporate environment and fully expect spectacular results.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Innovate your way to greatness!, February 12, 2001
By 
David Siegel (New York, ny United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (Hardcover)
This book is a milestone -- not in technique or in philosophy -- but in the author's clear, readable style of communication with the reader. Tom Kelley brings the process of contextual design to life, with stories, annecdotes, and great illustrative examples of how sharp minds solve problems. He points out the simple things that make our lives easier, and the bonehead decisions companies make without asking customers how they'll really use their products. It's more than insight -- it's a guide you can use. No matter what business you're in, if you rely on creativity to improve your business, this book is a must-have tool. Few authors are as passionate, knowledgeable, and articulate on their subject matter as Tom Kelley. I look forward to his next book!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars very very interesting, April 29, 2002
By 
Robert J. Crawford (Balmette Talloires, France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (Hardcover)
It is sad to say that, as a business writer, I read few business books. The reason is that the vast majority are bad: either they wildly exaggerate the novelty, hence the effectiveness, of some new technique or "movement," or they are supremely dull. Either way, the reporting in most of them is bad and conforms more to the ideology of the reporter than to any reality. A really good business book - one that stimulates genuine new thinking and that reports the facts freshly and accurately - are few and very far between.
I am happy to report that Kelley's book is positively excellent. Not only did it get me to re-think certain things I took for granted, such as the effectiveness of traditional marketing techniques, but it actually got me to imagine a different way of conceiving products, the "Ideo way." From now on, when I think of the flaws in things that I buy or processes that I encounter (and pay for), I will immediately question whether they could be better designed. As banal as it sounds, this book got me into that mode of thinking like virtually nothing else I have read in the business genre. I am almost embarrassed to admit that I found the book genuinely inspiring.
Even more astounding, the book reports accurately about a truly remarkable company, Ideo. It is a design and engineering company in Palo Alto, CA with offices worldwide, that designed the first mouse for Apple as well as an array of products that are working their way into the consumer mainstream (e.g. heart pacemakers, thick-handled toothbrushes, and the Aerobie football). From Kelley's telling of it, the place is full of creative individuals, healthy competition, and zaniness: with virtually no hierarchy or bureaucracy, they sit around playing and brainstorming and joking, coming up with innovations in great flashes of insight and lots of hard work. To put it mildly, I was skeptical: it sounded like many of the places that mediocre reporters extol as the "future" of innovative companies with ridiculous regularity and that are merely booster science fiction, complete with its own vocabulary ("Think verbs, not nouns"). When I went to the company for a writing project, I expected to find the ugly underbelly that went little reported, the "reality" that was typically hidden from all but those who worked there. Instead, I was delighted to find that I was being too cynical: I witnessed an organization that blended talent, discipline, and fun in its own unique way, the secrets of which Kelley attempts to pass on in "The Art of Innovation."
There are far too many nuggets of wisdom to summarize here. Regarding traditional marketing, for example, Kelley (and co-author Littman, who has a wonderful, clear writing style) argues that "observation-fueled insights" - both personal and via tests - will lead to more innovation than merely asking consumers what they like and want. This is, in my opinion, a fascinating insight that requires far more thought than the reader may imagine. All too often, market professionals take at face value what consumers say, rather than questioning whether they are trying to please the interviewer or don't really know their preferences. The key, Kelley asserts, is to anticipate their desires. He also shares the Ideo experience on the "perfect brainstorm" - and I watched them in awe myself - as they think outside the normal barriers of out thought. But there are many, many other subjects, such as their ideas on the control of personal space in the organization.
Nonetheless, in spite of their inspiration and irrepressible enthusiasm, Ideo engineers are not dreamers. They are down to earth businessmen and they know the limits of how far they can go in search of the "next big thing." Kelley continually warms the reader not to get carried away, not to become unmoored from deep-seated consumer preferences: as he puts it, "color outside the lines, but...stay on the same page." While a hit product combines good design and cost-efficiency, he warns, they also need good timing, which is extremely difficult to predict: you need some luck as well. In other words, there is substantial risk in what they do, and they fail often. Interestingly, Ideo employees are allowed to fail so long as they learn thereby to stay at the cutting edge or to take their idea and apply it in some new way in another product.
While most business books peter out long before the end - some do not even merit getting beyond the book flap - this book just kept getting better for me. The concluding chapters were just as interesting as the earlier ones, making new points and offering sound advice rather than merely recapitulating some banality. For example, at the very end, Kelley talks about one way that Ideo employees try to see the future: rather than seek to pull something out of thin air, they attempt to find "early adopters" of cutting-edge technologies that are not yet well known (or "distributed"). This is a subtle insight that I will study in the years to come. Indeed, this book seemed better to me on the second reading, which virtually never occurs, at least for me, in the business book genre.
Recommended with enthusiasm.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring Innovation!, February 12, 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm (Hardcover)
After decades of thinking otherwise, I now believe that "creativity" can be taught -- or, at the very least, inspired! Tom Kelley has written a magical book. Not often have I read a work of non-fiction in a single sitting; nor found myself chuckling (and at times laughing aloud) at what could easily serve as an Engineering or B-School text.
Kelley "catches" the spirit of the creative process and seemlessly "pegs it" right back at the reader with the grace and fluidity of an allstar shortstop! This is an amazing book that will inspire anyone with problems to solve and victories to win! I strongly recommend it.
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The Art of Innovation: Lessons in Creativity from IDEO, America's Leading Design Firm
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