‘THE ART OF INNOVATION’ by Tom Kelly. Book Review

By | March 23, 2018

IDEO is a respected design & innovation firm. Tom Kelly, the author of The Art of Innovation, is a partner at IDEO. In the book’ The Art of Innovation’, he takes you on a roller coaster ride of innovative thinking and experimentation. He shares the strategies and the recipe for successful innovation.

“Out there in some garage is an entrepreneur who’s forging a bullet with your company’s name on it. You’ve got one option- to shoot first/ You’ve got to out-innovate the innovation’. Gary Hamel ( Business Writer)

Today, no organisation can ignore innovation.

To Tom Kelly, Innovation is an art and a process. Innovation is a habit and a way of life. It comes from keen observation and hunger to improve.

Kelly would want you to follow a simple process for innovation.

  1. Have a Hot team with eight crazy characters assembled to address the problem. These are The trouble-shooter, the iconoclast, the Pulse taker, The craftsman, The technologist, the entrepreneur and the cross-dresser.On hot teams, he says ‘Teams may be ground zero for innovation at most companies, but they start with individuals. I’m sure you’ve got plenty of extraordinary people in your organisation. Match them to projects, challenge them and give them a chance to blossom. And I think you’ll be surprised at the results. There is nothing like a hot team to get a job done’


  2. Understand the market, the client and the technology.
  3. Be aware of the perceived constraints on the given problem.
  4. Observe real people in real-life situations to find out what makes them tick, what confuses them, what they like and what they hate. ‘If you are not in the jungle, you are not going to know the tiger’.‘Prototyping, brainstorming and observations are the fundamentals, the reading, writing and arithmetic of innovation. Great teams provide the charge that makes these basic skills flow throughout a company’ – Tom Kelly
  1. Visualize new-to-the-world concepts and the customers who will use them.
  2. Evaluate and refine the prototypes in a series of quick iterations. Try not to get emotionally attached to the initial prototypes and ideas.
  3. Implement the new concept for commercialisation

It makes me feel good about my ‘InNoWait’ approach, no waiting for innovation. If you have to innovate, it must happen now and here in the two-day workshop. We believe in everyone being creatively contributor. In fact, people nearer the problem are most aware of the real situation and are most likely to give wings to innovation. And as Linus Pauling said ‘the best way to get the good idea is to get a lot of ideas’

The book is a well-written guide that shares the importance of thoroughly understanding the situation, the market and observing the real-life users. It asks you to prototype on the run and a tight schedule. It is not the first book that labours hard on failing often and failing sooner to succeed.

Go ahead, pick this for reading. Be warned of too many examples and high pitch of IDEO. If you seek innovation and have a fair bit of understanding- you will enjoy the book.

‘The Art of Innovation’ by Tom Kelly with Jonathan Littman. Hachette India. Pages 306. INR 399. ‘The Inevitable: Understanding The 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future’ By KEVIN KELLY is another book you may want to read.