These images were originally published last year in my internal IBM blog, but I thought it would be nice to share it externally, after a recent conversation I had with my designer buddy Tracee.

This is the dawn of design at IBM. There is not only a new IBM Design organization, but also a new way of thinking/working spawned by “IBM Design Thinking.” People have been using design thinking methodologies for a long time, but never have we been formally introduced to it inside IBM. Until now.

Design Thinking requires Thinking

This is how many product teams function today:


So how do we get out of this mode of constantly putting band-aids onto our broken products? At some point we have to start back from the beginning.

Design Thinking – Focus on the User

The most important part of IBM Design Thinking in my mind is the “Discover and Envision” phase. We are good at Defining the Mission and Building and Refining, but we need some help in the initial design phases when we’re trying to wrap our heads around what the problem is and how we can solve it. Here is the gist of what that Discover and Envision phase looks like.

Understand. Interview users and let them tell you about their experiences. IBMer: Hi Mr. User...can you tell me about your day and how you use our product? User: Certainly, I usually wake up around 5:30 in the morning, not because I want to, but because I have this cat...Process the information you gathered. IBMer: These sticky note map exercise really help me understand the users and their experience
Explore. Design is an iterative process. Don't expect to get it right the first time. Don't be afraid to throw things away and start over.
Prototype. Prototyping is a way to quickly build out flows or specific interactions to get user feedback to validate that your design is on the right path. User: Wow, I know this isn't the real thing, but it works just enough to give me an idea of how I would feel actually using it!
Evaluate. Strive for constant feedback. Seek criticism over praise. IBMer: Hey Developer, can we build this? Developer: Well, I uh... IBMer: Hey Mr. User, what do you think about this? User: Well, I uh... (Then Evaluate loops back to Explore in an iterative cycle.)

Design Doing – Great works take time!
Those of you who are traditionally schooled designers already know of this process. But in the crunch of releases and conferences and customers, we too often rush through or shove it aside because we don’t have time. If we spend the time doing this up front, we’ll have less problems in the build/refine stage and we won’t run into the issues we see a lot today. Doing great design takes time.

“YOU CANNOT SHORT CIRCUIT THE PATH TO GREATNESS.” – Phil Gilbert, General Manager of IBM Design