3 Types of Innovators on Ideation or Creative Teams
A Creative Team During an Ideation Session

Creativity is a crucial element in the ideation process. Organizations need to constantly provide effective motivation and encouragement to its people so they can be inspired to come up with innovative ideas. The ten personas presented by Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman in their book, The Ten Faces of Innovation, are what an organization needs at a minimum to successfully drive creative initiatives. In doing so, it is important that the organization does not lose direction or momentum along the way. At the start of the process, innovators rely on three basic learning personas to successfully generate creative ideation and bring in original sources of knowledge.


Successful Ideation Starts with the Three Learning Personas

There are three learning personas — the Anthropologists, the Cross-Pollinators, and the Experimenters. All these personas are driven by the idea that a company can never afford to be complacent no matter how successful it is. They see that the world is changing at a fast pace. People need to constantly think of innovative concepts or get left behind. What you may think to be a great idea today may just be an anachronism tomorrow. Keeping an open mind and welcoming new insights every day is the ideal mindset.



The Anthropologists are hands-on field observers. They hardly stay put. You’ll often see them out in the field observing how people interact with products, services, and experiences. This type of learning persona are experts at reframing problems. They humanize scientific methods to come up with practical concepts that are more applicable in daily life. Anthropologists are also keen on demonstrating how general principles translate into specific actions. They would typically write down problems and find the answers in unusual places.They observe with an open mind, and love to break down old assumptions. Like Sherlock Holmes, they are able to notice minute details, which may come across as exceptional, even supernatural, intuition.



The Cross-Pollinators are the ultimate networkers. They are highly creative and curious, and have several varying interests. One thing that is unique about them is their ability to see previously invisible connections between disparate concepts and functions. This type of learning persona regularly demonstrates the old saying that breakthrough thinking only appears obvious in retrospect. Cross-Pollinators are open-minded, great listeners, and fond of metaphors. Their ability to bring energy into any discussion makes them great teachers and coaches.



Like the Anthropologists, the Experimenters are results-oriented as well. However, they are more focused on the process of discovering new solutions. They are particularly interested in testing and retesting potential scenarios to arrive at tangible solutions. But while Experimenters love the process of discovery, take note that they are calculated risk takers. They may be motivating ideation teams to explore possibilities, but they also make sure that every collaboration is cost and time efficient.


Fostering Creativity in Ideation Teams

People, team composition, and leadership are all important components in the process of running the creative work. However, the management team also needs to have an additional skill to guide and orchestrate the brainstorming process. Asking the right questions will be helpful in leading their team to making actionable breakthroughs during brainstorming sessions.

In general, people do not perform well in unstructured and abstract discussions without clear goals or slicing data in all kinds of ways. On the other hand, exploring unexpected success have been proven to be a more effective way of orchestrating the creative processes. In addition, looking at other trades with similar challenges and boundaries and examining binding constraints are also said to be effective. (Coyne, Clifford, & Dye, 2007)

Moreover, it is important to give members of creative teams genuine motivation and encouragement. There are two forms of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Between the two, intrinsic motivation is more significant because it gives meaning to people’s work. This type of motivation can be given in the form of assigning appropriate tasks to the most suitable people, giving them freedom, allocating sufficient resources, and encouraging work. In this context, it is apparent that extrinsic motivation alone is not enough. If not complemented with intrinsic motivation, people may feel controlled or manipulated and this may actually affect their creativity.

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