Are 10 Faces enough? A Book Review.


More than 10 things…

          This week I read The Ten Faces of Innovation by Tom Kelley with Jonathan Littman. To spoiler the book a little bit, the 10 faces are anthropologist, experimenter, cross-pollinator, hurdler, collaborator, director, experience architect, set designer, caregiver, and storyteller.  We see that the 10 faces are all social types; there does not seem to be an innovative type that creates alone or quietly contemplates. These 10 types of innovators are getting together with other people, brainstorming with other people, and generally selling themselves and their product.

          I propose that we need more than 10 faces of innovation. How about the person who no one knew played piano until they came out with the perfect Liszt piece or created a brand new product by themselves? They could be the solo-tinkerer. How about the quiet type who thinks things through by themselves and when they finally speak, everyone listens? They could be the contemplator. There is so much more to innovation than just bouncing ideas off of people. Let’s not let sociality blind us to other types of innovation.

          We see in Quiet by Susan Cain that not all people are built like the 10 Faces authors would lead us to believe—super social and ready to talk at a moment’s notice. Cain speaks of Steve Wozniak building a computer at home by himself. She also cites studies showing that performance usually decreases as group size increases. Interestingly, this effect is only shown at in-person sessions. If brainstorming is done online, even with a lot of people, the result is better than one individual person’s ideas and vastly better than ideas generated by in-person brainstorming. So, what does this tell us?

          It tells us that the best part about the internet, and by extension hyperlinked libraries, is that people can use them in their own time and in a way that they feel comfortable with. Work graveyard? That’s ok! Click into Wikipedia and learn something. Curious about a very specific historical object or experience? There’s probably a locally curated website for that. Would you like to learn how to crochet? YouTube has you covered. The asynchronicity of the internet is its strong point. People can learn almost anything they’d like in this timeless setting.

          How do we as library students (and soon to be librarians) help all of our patrons? Sure, some people will want to come and participate with us in any activity we can think of. But what about the people who can’t or don’t want to participate, for whatever reason? Some students will love the Unquiet Library, but I guarantee that there is at least one kid who heads straight for the back of the stacks to find a quiet place to study.

Getchell Library, 2008. Photo by Theresa Danna-Douglas.
UNR’s Getchell Library in 2008. It may look like this building has two floors, but for those looking for a quiet place to study, there were three sub-basements. It was knocked down in 2015. See here for rights. Photograph by Theresa Danna-Douglas.

          We could make a video and post it to the website to show what’s available. We could write blog posts about what’s new at the library. We could host asynchronous art shows or have other ways to participate that aren’t linked to a specific time. We could provide studios with specific technology that would encourage people to come to our building or add this sort of thing as a service on our website. We could have one librarian on call after hours for reference questions or even let certain patrons have open access after the library is officially closed (or is it?). Our jobs are to include people how they would like to be included and help them to innovate however we can.


Cain, S. (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking. Broadway Books: New York City, New York.

Kelley, T. with Littleman, J. (2006). The Ten Faces of Innovation. Profile Books, London.

Mathews, B. (2010, June 21). Unquiet Library Has High-Schoolers Geeked. American Libraries Magazine. Retrieved from

Mathews, B.; Metko, S.; and Tomlin, P. (2018, May 7). Empowerment, Experimentation, Engagement: Embracing Partnership Models in Libraries. Educause Review. Retrieved from

6 thoughts on “Are 10 Faces enough? A Book Review.

  1. Thank you so much for your review. I like your insights about how more and better things are gained through collaborative efforts. That’s not to say that solo initiatives are unproductive, but that there is a great desire by many people to be in community. People are social by nature, and collaboration is an extension of that.

    I read Clay Shirky’s book Cognitive Surplus. It’s about how educated people are using their free time in new and interesting ways, largely because of technology and social media. It sounds like your insights mirror Shirky’s. Many of the most successful social media programs are successful because of the collaboration features. (There’s also a bit of blind luck, too) But people are striving to be a part of things. There are emotional connections to be made. People want to share ideas. They want their time to generate value. Your examples about learning to crochet on YouTube and learn something and participate in editing Wikipedia are so similar to Shirkys.

    Thank you again! I enjoyed this!

    • Jen, thanks for your comment! I think there has to be a good balance of alone time and social time. The trouble is that the balance isn’t the same for everyone! That’s why I love the hyperlinked library idea…people can choose when and how they participate. My local library has a small section of wall that they use as a mini art gallery. It changes monthly and it’s really nice to see what people in my neighborhood are doing–everything from quilts to paintings to 3D sculptures. They haven’t gone as far as adding it to the social media accounts, but I can see them going that direction in the future.
      So much to think about!

  2. Hi @mybluecastle! You make a really good point about there being more ways to be great and innovative besides social and extroverted. We need to remember that there does need to be quiet places for quiet people and let them do things in their own time and way. Not everyone is the same.

    • @scollins Hi, thanks for dropping by! People are so different and so variable, it seems silly to try and catalog people into dichotomies. But we all do that!
      I really like having libraries that cater both to people who want quiet places and to social time. Both things are needed!
      Thanks for commenting!

  3. Great review, Kimberley! It seems to me that you’re right on track with MORE than 10 faces of innovation being needed. Maybe there is an infinity of faces of innovation and an infinity of different kinds of innovation.

    The Library should work for everyone.

    I always get suspicious when theorists attempt too many rigid concepts regarding “types” of people. Humans seem, to me, too unique for that. Too complex. Defining people is something that some psychologists, sociologists, philosophers etc. devote their entire careers and lives to. But how can something so complex as personality really have a TRULY comprehensive description? That would be like a comprehsive understanding of consciousness. Like the neuroscientist Dr. Robert Sapolsky says regarding nature and nurture and how they influence human behavioral biology, there’s always an “it depends. . .” with regard to everything human.

    Again, great review!

    • Hi Chip! Thanks for your comment.
      When there’s a limited number of “types” of people, it always makes me a little wary. My undergrad degree was in psychology and we talked about “the big 5”, but people are so variable! It seems wild that we can contain all of humanity on 5 or 6 spectra. I’ve read some papers on consciousness and, wow, it’s hard to even define, much less understand! I’m glad we have those philosophers who like trying to figure this out; it’s above my head most of the time!
      Maybe we have 7 billion faces of innovation, everyone with their own styles and ideas? So much to think about!
      Thanks for stopping by!

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