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September, 19th 2014

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Gerhard Pfau, IBM Business Process Manager, Design

Gerhard Pfau, Business Process Design, IBM

By Gerhard Pfau

How would you reinvent product design on a global scale?

If you’re a 103-year-old company like IBM, which does business in over 170 countries around the world, this is no small task.

Adam Cutler, IBM Design Studio Director, explored this very topic in his post on this blog, “Building an Environment for Innovative Design,” where he showcased the opening of IBM’s design studio in Austin, Texas, last year.

At that lab, design practitioners tap into the expertise of IBM design thinking through an educational program we call Designcamp. But it’s a relatively small program, and if we were to send every IBMer to Austin for Designcamp, it would take decades.

It quickly became clear that we needed to scale design thinking at IBM and bring the creative practices of design to IBMers and our clients worldwide.

Now, with the opening of the IBM Design Studio in Boeblingen, Germany, we are ready to focus on bringing creativity directly to our local teams and clients.

We were inspired to bring IBM Design to Boeblingen when we were in Austin in November 2013, attending Designcamp. There, we saw the power of breaking through traditional methods of product development and envision the continuous reinvention of our company.

It became clear to us that we needed something similar back home in the IBM Germany Labs, to unify and accelerate our design efforts in pursuit of new innovations. We created the studio in only nine months – from initial brainstorming over prototyping to realization – including a three-month beta phase.

(l-r) is Phil Gilbert, General Manager, IBM Design, and Dirk Wittkopp, Vice President, IBM Germany Labs.

(L-R) Phil Gilbert, General Manager, IBM Design, and Dirk Wittkopp, Vice President, IBM Germany Labs, cut the ceremonial ribbon at the opening of the IBM Design Studio in Boeblingen, Germany, Sept. 19, 2014.

In Boeblingen we are working on solutions from mainframes to business process management, social software and cloud-based systems. Because of our close proximity to the auto industry, the machine manufacturing industry and major financial institutions (to name just a few), we have a close connection to our clients.

The new studio will enable designers and product teams to collaborate and identify synergies to design better technology solutions. We can involve users early in the design phase to jointly brainstorm with them to create solutions that will alter the client experience in both a powerful and fun way. And it already works, especially after an “ideation workshop” with digital natives on the topic of cloud-based systems.

Based on the experience gathered during the beta phase, we look forward to working in the studio with product managers, designers, engineers and clients to generate solutions that put the user front and center. And look for more local IBM design studios around the world to scale the practices and make IBM design thinking part of every IBMers’ DNA.

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1 Comment
September 23, 2014
12:21 pm

Here you see a practical marriage of creativity and purpose. It is excellent that your results confirm the method.

To scale however, we will need to take the model to its logical conclusion. Leveraging all of IBM to provide creative input merely requires an easy to find place where real world problems are described by those experiencing them.

Once in place, then IBM’ers are free to explore the “needs” with some very minor instruction. In the structure of an ideation platform, there are a few ‘rules’ that should prevent confusion.

- Solve local, but think regionally. Each problem is likely to be shared by others or even have impacts on related problem/solution sets. A platform that encourages addition of keywords, and facilitates combining of branches will help an individual idea cross over the price/value threshold.

- Encourage re-use of existing product. If minor tweaks makes an existing tool applicable to another use, then development money was well spent. Often these creative ideas occur when an experienced person reviews a series of needs. This is an automatic and natural behavior.

- Identify and support particularly creative individuals within each avenue of solution building. There are those who maintain creative responses to any input, some who creatively network together people and resources, some who have a very refined domain yet operate creatively within it.

- Identify and support particularly thoughtful problem submitters. Creativity isn’t isolated to solution building. The ability to discern existing issues or determine a flaw in process design can be a tremendous asset.

In summary: To scale creativity and design thinking, we ought to open the entire organization up with a marketplace of needs and creative resources.

Posted by: Om Goeckermann
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September 24, 2014
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