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How IBM is Training Its Workforce to Think Like Designers

Source | http://fortune.com : By BRIAN O’KEEFE

To win in the age of cognitive computing and cybersecurity, the venerable tech giant is betting big on design thinking. How big? It now boasts the world’s largest design team.

If you want to track the fast-moving design transformation happening at IBM (IBM, -0.84%), try following the Post-it notes.

“I see it everywhere,” says Diane Paulenich, a managing director at the technology giant who started her career at the company working in a call center 32 years ago. “Sounds silly. But when I go into the different offices I see teams of people getting together and collaborating with sticky notes.”

The stickies are a hallmark of “design thinking” exercises, in which participants often jot down thoughts on the brightly colored pieces of paper and place them on a whiteboard as part of creating, for example, an “empathy map” to understand the perspective of the user or customer by imagining what she or he thinks, feels, says, and does.

 Paulenich herself has become a convert to the design thinking process, even when she’s just brainstorming with her team. Asking people to write down their ideas, she says, suppresses what she calls “meeting bullies,” those who dominate conversation. And Paulenich regularly makes empathy maps to prepare for client meetings, complete with a picture at the center. “I actually do a little stick figure so that they’re real,” she says. “It’s just to remind me, ‘Don’t think about you, Diane. Think about them.’ ”Perhaps you perceive IBM as an engineering company, collecting patents and manufacturing mainframe computers. (Yes, it still makes them.) Or a venerable technology power trying to find its way in the era of Google and Amazon. Or, if you’ve seen the TV ads, the company behind the artificial intelligence platform Watson. But a design leader? Probably not.

Read On…..

 

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