The book review leads to creation 9 The Art of Innovation / A book review by Kayoko Ota, editor



The Art of Innovation
Author: Tom Kelley (Doubleday US$ 26.00)

A book review by Kayoko Ota, editor

An innovation to excite any and all

IDEO, a design company currently taking the design world by storm, has published The Art of Innovation, a meticulously crafted book that has been a huge hit on the shelves. Authored by Tom Kelley, general manager at IDEO and the brother of the firm’s founder David Kelley, its popularity springs from the way it encourages and motivates the reader. Drawing on a succession of hit products created for multinational industries and on powerful experience, the book describes the art of innovation and how it can be harnessed.

The chapters are organized in a “how-to” fashion, such as “The Perfect Brainstorm” and “Creating Experiences for Fun and Profit.” The book relates countless empirical episodes, most of which are success stories, but some of which end in failure.

The success episodes are uniformly brief and upbeat. The products presented are all incontestably commercial successes, but more importantly, Kelley (or perhaps co-author Jonathan Littman) has zeroed in on the process that produces “innovation” in each of the episodes, in an articulate and organized presentation.

The Art of Innovation discusses the design process in text, without relying on photographs or drawings. According to Kelley, the essence of a design goes beyond the “looks,” to a deeper dimension. The success of the work depends on whether the message makes an impact on the actions, ambitions, habits, and thinking of others. Reaching this invisible dimension is the biggest challenge in design.

Happily, Kelley’s powers of description need no photos or drawings. A storyteller in the classic American tradition, his unimposing style keeps the reader engaged. The Art of Innovation is edifying, but a cautionary note: Kelley’s thoroughly positive and pragmatic approach is describing IDEO, and, basically, he is presenting his own company.

The innovation process starts, according to Kelley, with a prototype that can then be carefully observed and tried out on others, and from which digressions can be explored. During that process, unexpected elements surface, discoveries are made, and a hit product is underway. This is a world in which the obvious is set aside and preconceptions are dispensed with.

IDEO has exemplified the orthodox approach to product creation, but the appeal of this book is that, rather than selling the visuals of design, it presents “innovation” as both fascinating and accessible by the individual. It’s easy to see why this book has made it, and made it big. (from AXIS vol.93 September/October 2001)

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