Design Thinking Versus Product Development

Out with product managers; in with design thinkers. Time for some corporate creativity. Think user journeys and empathy roadmaps.

A different corporate mantra is beginning to take hold at some large companies like IBM. It’s called design thinking, and while it’s not necessarily new, it holds promise for companies seeking to meet the needs of their customers at a fundamental level. Where design is often thought of in terms of defining and constructing cool-looking products, design thinking is used to capture a business problem at a broader level, shape business strategy and deliver a more holistic, deeper solution to customers. And, importantly, to do so more quickly than through a typical product development life-cycle.

From NYT:

Phil Gilbert is a tall man with a shaved head and wire-rimmed glasses. He typically wears cowboy boots and bluejeans to work — hardly unusual these days, except he’s an executive at IBM, a company that still has a button-down suit-and-tie reputation. And in case you don’t get the message from his wardrobe, there’s a huge black-and-white photograph hanging in his office of a young Bob Dylan, hunched over sheet music, making changes to songs in the “Highway 61 Revisited” album. It’s an image, Mr. Gilbert will tell you, that conveys both a rebel spirit and hard work.

Let’s not get carried away. Mr. Gilbert, who is 59 years old, is not trying to redefine an entire generation. On the other hand, he wants to change the habits of a huge company as it tries to adjust to a new era, and that is no small task.

IBM, like many established companies, is confronting the relentless advance of digital technology. For these companies, the question is: Can you grow in the new businesses faster than your older, lucrative businesses decline?

Mr. Gilbert answers that question with something called design thinking. (His title is general manager of design.) Among other things, design thinking flips traditional technology product development on its head. The old way is that you come up with a new product idea and then try to sell it to customers. In the design thinking way, the idea is to identify users’ needs as a starting point.

Mr. Gilbert and his team talk a lot about “iteration cycles,” “lateral thinking,” “user journeys” and “empathy maps.” To the uninitiated, the canons of design thinking can sound mushy and self-evident. But across corporate America, there is a rising enthusiasm for design thinking not only to develop products but also to guide strategy and shape decisions of all kinds. The September cover article of the Harvard Business Review was “The Evolution of Design Thinking.” Venture capital firms are hiring design experts, and so are companies in many industries.

Still, the IBM initiative stands out. The company is well on its way to hiring more than 1,000 professional designers, and much of its management work force is being trained in design thinking. “I’ve never seen any company implement it on the scale of IBM,” said William Burnett, executive director of the design program at Stanford University. “To try to change a culture in a company that size is a daunting task.”

Daunting seems an understatement. IBM has more than 370,000 employees. While its revenues are huge, the company’s quarterly reports have shown them steadily declining in the last two years. The falloff in revenue is partly intentional, as the company sold off less profitable operations, but the sometimes disappointing profits are not, and they reflect IBM’s struggle with its transition. Last month, the company shaved its profit target for 2015.

In recent years, the company has invested heavily in new fields, including data analytics, cloud computing, mobile technology, security, social media software for business and its Watson artificial intelligence technology. Those businesses are growing rapidly, generating revenue of $25 billion last year, and IBM forecasts that they will contribute $40 billion by 2018, through internal growth and acquisitions. Just recently, for example, IBM agreed to pay $2 billion for the Weather Company (not including its television channel), gaining its real-time and historical weather data to feed into Watson and analytics software.

But IBM’s biggest businesses are still the traditional ones — conventional hardware, software and services — which contribute 60 percent of its revenue and most of its profit. And these IBM mainstays are vulnerable, as customers increasingly prefer to buy software as a service, delivered over the Internet from remote data centers.

Recognizing the importance of design is not new, certainly not at IBM. In the 1950s, Thomas J. Watson Jr., then the company’s chief executive, brought on Eliot Noyes, a distinguished architect and industrial designer, to guide a design program at IBM. And Noyes, in turn, tapped others including Paul Rand, Charles Eames and Eero Saarinen in helping design everything from corporate buildings to the eight-bar corporate logo to the IBM Selectric typewriter with its golf-ball-shaped head.

At that time, and for many years, design meant creating eye-pleasing, functional products. Now design thinking has broader aims, as a faster, more productive way of organizing work: Look at problems first through the prism of users’ needs, research those needs with real people and then build prototype products quickly.

Defining problems more expansively is part of the design-thinking ethos. At a course in New York recently, a group of IBM managers were given pads and felt-tip pens and told to sketch designs for “the thing that holds flowers on a table” in two minutes. The results, predictably, were vases of different sizes and shapes.

Next, they were given two minutes to design “a better way for people to enjoy flowers in their home.” In Round 2, the ideas included wall placements, a rotating flower pot run by solar power and a software app for displaying images of flowers on a home TV screen.

Read the entire story here.

136 thoughts on “Design Thinking Versus Product Development”

  1. I agree with Mr Anonymous on corruption. The staff is corrupt and they donot work without considerations. After Kurian joining, they solwed down the working as illegal income came to zero. If CBI raids the property and calculate the living standard of TMR staff under the provision of Prevention of Corruption act, majority of staff will be behind bars, which I think, should happen

  2. Youre so cool! I dont suppose Ive read something like this before. So good to search out somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. realy thanks for starting this up. this web site is one thing that’s wanted on the internet, somebody with somewhat originality. useful job for bringing one thing new to the web!

  3. Mais tu manges plutôt pas mal. Y’a des repas que je partagerais volontiers avec toi ! Et puis tu manges beaucoup de fruits… Moi je dois rectifier le tir.Je constate qui en a qui se dope au café et d’autres à l’alcool…. mais ça va dans l’ensemble, tu es plutôt raisonnable.

  4. Bless your heart. Methinks you’d never make it thru “The Tower of Terror” at DisneyWorld. I tried that ONE TIME! I all but climbed onto the lap of the woman to my right, who I did not know. Yeh, honey — you’d not like this either!!!!!Ah Layla………………we know you can do anything! Congrats for capturing your fears!

  5. Well, I guess that settles it then. Jew Joe has me whipped, and I’m convinced now that there’s no reason to believe a free Dixie could preserve Western civilization, due to the high divorce rate. I guess it’s up to Yankees then. I just wonder why thinks have gotten so out of hand while they have been in charge for the last 150 years.

  6. Très jolie robe et magnifique avec les collants violets, qui rendent probablement mieux que les “chair”. Pas fan du sac en revanche : j’adore les grands cabas mais j’ai un vrai problème avec les chaînes, c’est une véritable phobie (j’ai été jusqu’à attaquer un Chanel à la pince pour retirer le petit bout de chaîne qu’ils avaient mis comme tirette de fermeture éclair, c’est dire…)!

  7. So, so jealous. My hubby & I LOVE king charles cavaliers, and I will periodically scan petfinder to see if there are any available (or really, any other sweet puppy that needs a home). But, we are currently apartment dwellers and are both gone for 9 hours a day, so we just don’t think it’d be fair for the pup at this time. So, I basically torture myself with petfinder, just staring at all the dogs/cats I want but can’t have, haha.

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  9. This age, whilst great for enjoying so many firsts, is still quite a difficult one. They're not the tiny babies that only ever woke to feed but they still easily become overwhelmed by their surroundings. I've found it best to keep trying but not push when they've had enough. The time they spend enjoying these things grows so rapidly.

  10. Commiserations on the injuries (my sister has sprained her ankle numerous times and doesn’t have the patience to let it heal properly) – I especially enjoy running early in the morning when it’s not that busy, somehow the peacefulness just takes your mind off everything and you feel utterly calm. That is until you return back home…

  11. Buna Simona, scuza-ma ca iti raspund abea acum dar am fost ocupata cu servicul si cu facultatea.Acum sunt libera si ma pot dedica cartii : X Deja am inceput sa citesc si este minunata de la primele pagini.Si eu vreau sa imi cumpar Hades cat mai e la reducere.Pupici si imbratisari >:D< :* si iti urmaresc cu interes blogul.

  12. Hele mooi outfit! De warme tinten herinneren me inderdaad aan de herfst. Heel mooi dat het bloesje gouden knopen heeft, want dat is natuurlijk ook een warme tint.Heel grappig eigenlijk, want ik had al een herfstoutfit in mijn hoofd en deze lijkt er heel erg op, haha.Ik vind deze outfit daarom ook echt fantastisch.Nog een fijne week!Love & Inspire,Isabel

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  14. qu’appele-tu “insérer” des sous titres ? et qu’appele-tu “fichier video” ? (Vob, mp4, avi, ogm ???)si tu veux les incruster dans un AVI, (ils feront partie de l’image) tu peux utiliser la combinaison :VirtualDubMod+DirectShow+AviSynthsi c’est pour compiler plusieurs pistes de sous-titres et pouvoir les sélectionner à la lecture, c’est pas possible en AVI, il faut passer en MKV.Matroska Pack+MkvToolNix/MkvMergeet du coup, ça ne passera plus sur un lecteur de salon…

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  16. Hey Ali.  We’ve been on the “add more kale” bandwagon too.  I’m having a hard time finding anything but the curly variety these days in Houston grocery stores. Are you able to find dinosaur here (my fav, too)? You mentioned currants but didn’t see this listed on the ingredients. Thanks for sharing this recipe. I’ll definitely give it a try. I have another recipe that I’ll email to you…. even lower cal (no oil).

  17. Fin orkide min svärmor kan ta hand om dom men inte jaf men tycker att blomman är jätte fin.Jag mår bättre får köra nu och mitt barn barn har fått åka hem men inte helt okej är hon men dom bor granne med sjukhuset så det är bara att knalla tillbaka om hon blir sämre.Ha en bra dag imorgon så hörs vi igen.Kram Birgitta

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  20. Is the innate intelligence of Asians going up?No. If it was "innate" intelligence, it shouldn't be going up.Besides, what's the explanation for the uninspiring performance of Japanese-Americans? Last I checked, Japan was the most successful of the East Asian tigers, so I doubt they're any dimmer. These PSAT finalist results for Asians in California tend to suggest that they're smarter than Jews. Which I highly doubt. Interestingly, Jewish-American have a higher mean SAT score, but relatively few 1 percent PSAT high scorers.

  21. I haven’t been on here in a while, school and all. Could the numbers be related to the chronological order the sisters were born? Like, Zara would be 5 and Rathina would be 6. It sort of makes sense, otherwise I have no idea. I’m so excited for the Charmed Return!!

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  23. Thank you for an excellent post. An observation I have is that elites seldom willingly surrender power to those whom they consider of less stature. This can be seen in Iran this weekend, or America in 1776. Also, how many people are really dissatisfied – not enough is my guesstimate. Sudden abject poverty and dissatisfaction would be a great blessing for this country, correcting the many insane policies the government has adopted.

  24. DEADMONTON is only world class – when it comes to murders.Why should taxpayers get stuck for A BILLION DOLLARS in total, when katz collected $920 MILLION CASH in January 2012, when he sold his Medicine Shoppe division.Let him leave with his overpaid thugs, and I am sure some real Edmontonians will make up a winning team.

  25. Well, you didn't listen to all the people you forced to change to the new channel design, did you? Instead you just made the thousands of protest comments "disappear" rather than trying to address our concerns, then laid low for a while before you zapped us. Now all the channels look the same – no way to really have a unique channel design anymore. And, of course the unwanted ads. Congratulations – You've finally managed to turn YouTube into TV Tube. Assholes.

  26. Behåll! sjukt snygga vad någon annan säger! och du måste ju ha fallit för dem om du tar tag i dig och beställer dem och betalar, right? men skriv hur det är och gå i dem gärna, älskar dina smink inlägg men du har sagt att du är skotokig så mer sånna här inlägg får det gärna bli! ha det bra

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  28. slm arkadaslar ben 18 yasındayım 14 yasından beri korkuyorum bnm panik atagım çok degiÅŸik kalbim sıkısmıo öle seyler olmuo sadece ben delimiyim acaba yoksa deliricemmi iÅŸte gece yatarken uyuyunca bida uyanamıcakmıyım öle ara arada gelmio her saniye böleyim bün gün bu korkular içimde yerleÅŸti kaldı biyerde benim ki çok deÄŸiÅŸik napıcam çok kötüyümmm korkuyorum halaaa…..

  29. The best Christmas present was in 1985, I was in the Army and stationed in Germany. I could not afford to come home that year so was very depressing time. The present was a very simple one. My company commander and 1st sgt came in the barracks late Christmas eve and hung a stocking for every soldier it included candy canes, chocolate santa, and jelly bean, also one beer. It had a personal note to each soldier, with how they had effected their lives. Wasn’t much but when your all alone on the holidays it’s a lot

  30. Querido Irmão,É com muito carinho que agradeço ao mestre Jesus e aos Bemfeitores amigos por ter enviado você a cidade de Itabuna-Ba pois você devolveu um pedaçinho do meu coração por eu ter receibo do meu irmãozinho.Hoje eu estou muito feliz e agradeçendo a Jesus,por ele ter recebido meu irmãozinho nos meus braços,e mim deu a oporinidade de receber uma carta dele. OBRIGADO,MESTRE JESUS TE PEÇO QUE JORRE LUZES SOBRE NOSSOS IRMÃOS;Rogério Leite e Marli.SAUDADES,ROSILDA

  31. Bien señor don Benito por lo de la medalla en el culo.Lucía no es más que una patéica llorona, si vas a estar en la guerra no andas por ahí lloriquenado porque no repetan tus derechos.Que carajos estará pensando la pendeja al decir de sus derechos si tienen de rehén (las FARC) a Ingrid y otros más.Al diablo con esta pendeja, que si no le gusta los balazos en el culo que no ande en la selva con gerrilleros.Saludos por allá

  32. I think that Tania and Edric are meant to be, were always meant to be, and are always meant to be. They belong together. I mean, he WAS the one who could walk through the portal with her. I know it was not that great of him to follow them through the portal, but he was just looking out for Tania. And I know this may soumd strange but…. What about Connor and Zara?

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