IBM Design Thinking

Good design is good business.” – Thomas Watson, Jr.

Despite commonly known, design is not just about appearance. Design is a method of problem solving.

Designer Richard Seymour defined design as ‘making things better for people’ during the Design Council’s Design in Business Week 20021. This statement emphasizes the human centricity of design. Good design begins with understanding the user. If a design does not meet user’s need -despite how beautiful it is- it does no good.

Putting an emphasis on design helps businesses to create valuable product and services. The Design Management Institute’s 2014 results showed that over the last 10 years, design-led companies have outperformed the S&P by 219%2.

Design Thinking

The importance of design has resulted in development of “design thinking” as an innovative way of thinking and working. Design thinking is a human centric, design-based approach for creating solutions. It integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.3

The typical approach for design thinking has four steps:

Understand: Understanding and developing empathy for users.

Explore: Generating potential solutions for users’ problems.

Prototype: Transforming ideas into concrete experiences.

Evaluate: Evaluating and deciding whether to move forward with an idea or generate alternative solutions.

Figure 1: Standard Design Thinking Model

The standard Design Thinking model was too linear for the needs of IBM and our clients, where continuous innovation is paramount. In order to adapt the methodology to fulfill enterprise needs on speed and scale, IBM enhanced the current methodology and created IBM Design Thinking.

IBM Design Thinking

IBM Design Thinking is created for understanding people’s needs, forming intent and deliver outcomes at speed and scale.

The first principle of IBM Design Thinking is focusing on the most important user outcomes. User is team’s main guide all the time in any phase of a project. Second principle is to have a multidisciplinary team with business, design and technology capabilities in order to collaborate fast and smart. The third principle is to restlessly reinventing by treating everything as a prototype. Ongoing simulation of the user experience by prototyping is key to continuous evaluation of the success of the design.

In order to reflect an agile and continuous delivery mindset, IBM Design Thinking has been established in a Loop model. It is a continuous loop of observing user, reflecting with the team and making the ideas real for user.

Figure 2: Continuous Loop of IBM Design Thinking
  • In the Observe stage team get to know user, user’s needs and success measures. Observe also consists testing ideas with user at each step of the project.
  • In the Reflect stage team understand the capabilities of the team and their stakeholders. The team aligns on their purpose and things learned in the Observe stage.
  • The Make phase is giving form to ideas and realizing the ideas that makes user’s life much more easier and experience much more better.

Teams practicing IBM Design Thinking knows that it is better to start early on giving form to ideas in order to see shortcomings and obtain feedback from user for improving the concept.

In order to deliver meaningful user outcomes and scale the Loop to even more complex business environments, IBM Design Thinking enables complex teams to align on the most important user outcomes, bring stakeholders into loop and work with real users in the project (Sponsor Users) to stay true to real world needs.

For more information on IBM Design Thinking, please visit our official website for IBM Design Thinking.

Client Delivery of IBM Design Thinking

Leaders, project teams and companies can leverage IBM Design Thinking to develop breakthrough solutions and gain competitive advantage in this digital era of empowered users.

IBM Interactive Experience (IX) is the client delivery team for IBM Design Thinking. IBM IX team designs and develops experiences with clients using IBM Design Thinking approach and its design artifacts. One example is the partnership with Peru’s largest bank Banco de’ Credito. The bank redesigned their end-to-end web presence utilizing IBM Design Thinking. Another example is partnership with Citi group. Citi group designers and developers were educated with IBM Design Thinking in order to provide responsive design for its applications. As a result, the bank successfully provided exemplary user experience across its applications.

If you wish, you can have more information about IBM IX and contact IBM IX team from here.


IBM Design Thinking University
IBM Design Thinking for GBS Internal Community
1 What is design. Retrieved from
2 The Value of Design – Design Management Institute. Retrieved from
3 About | IDEO. Retrieved from


About The Author

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I am a CbDer from 2015 batch in Turkey, who leads the establishment of the MEA CbDer Thought Leadership program. This is my first thought leadership article and it gives me great pleasure to be one of the authors and to share expertise on an interest topic that I feel strongly about.

My interest in IBM Design Thinking stems from the IBM Design Bootcamp I participated in last year at IBM Dubai. Since then, I have been trying to improve my understanding of the methodology by doing research and applying regularly on my projects. I desire to grow my experience on this topic and to become an IBM Design Thinking coach.


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