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Transformation Watson Watson Build series Worldwide

Watson Build: Using IBM Design Thinking to shape innovation

Two weeks ago on BPV, I shared two stories of industry-disrupting cognitive solutions built by IBM Business Partners—examples designed to spark your imagination to create your own game-changing solutions. This week, I’d like to focus on the creative way that IBM and our Business Partners approach building innovative applications. I’m talking about IBM Design Thinking.

One of the most important outcomes of the Cognitive Build—IBM’s three-month-long, company-wide program that engaged more than 70 percent of our employees—wasn’t a single solution or application. It was the unique opportunity to harness the creativity of thousands of people who, in very short order, created more than 2,700 cognitive solution prototypes. How did we do it? Using IBM Design Thinking, we created a hothouse of innovation, an idea engine that centered product development on the hopes, desires, challenges and needs of users.

Good design isn’t new. IBM CEO Thomas J. Watson declared in 1973 that “Good design is good business.” But what’s good business about good design is the focus on the user. IBM Design Thinking fundamentally transforms the way our people work toward outcomes by first establishing empathy with the user, enabling teams to address a wide range of complex business and social issues. We would like to see our Business Partners benefit from the same roll-up-your-sleeves methods that empower IBM to create solutions that improve the lives of the people we serve. The Cognitive Build teams who created the most innovative solutions consistently employed the following principles of design thinking:

  • Observe: Immerse yourself in the real work to get to know your users, uncover needs, learn the landscape and test ideas. Your users rely on your solutions to get their jobs done every day. Success isn’t measured by the features and functions you ship, but by how well you fulfill your users’ needs.
  • Reflect: Come together and form a point of view to find common ground, align the team, uncover insights and plan ahead. Create diverse, empowered teams who generate more ideas than homogeneous ones, increasing your chances of a breakthrough. Empower teams with the expertise and authority to turn those ideas into outcomes.
  • Make: Give concrete form to abstract ideas to explore possibilities, prototype concepts and drive real outcomes. Everything is a prototype—even in-market solutions. When you think of everything as just another iteration, you can bring new thinking to even the oldest problems.

To accelerate your introduction to IBM Design Thinking, we’ve created the Design Thinking Field Guide, a quick-start resource to help you embrace a multidisciplinary approach to user-centered design, and move you closer to your Watson Build business plan submission on May 15.

Jamie Mendez (@JAMENDEZ11)
Director, IBM PartnerWorld

Jamie Mendez is Director, Channel Marketing, IBM.

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