IBM Design Thinking Workshop

Are you building a business with user-centric solutions? How well do you know your users today? Are you really solving your users’ actual problems and creating the best possible value for them? With IBM Design Thinking you will view a business idea and solution from the users’ perspective. Only then can one ensure that the actual user pain points are targeted. 
This practical workshop invites you who want to learn a powerful methodology that can be used to develop your business idea into a user-centric one.


During this three-hour workshop, you will learn about the IBM Design Thinking framework and get practical experience on how to use it. IBM Design Thinking includes a number of tools and practices that help companies deliver breakthrough solutions that fulfill their users’ actual needs. It is a human-centric methodology that focuses on creating innovative solutions with high user experiences.


Design in the intent behind an outcome

Before we begin, let’s make sure everyone understands what we mean when we say “design”. Design is the purpose, planning, and intent behind an action, fact, or material object. In other words: Design is the intent behind an outcome. Nothing more, nothing less.

The focus on a desirable outcome is not in conflict with agile practices. Agile practices sets focus on achieving a predictable and repeatable heartbeat of delivering the solution. The content of each delivery will be scoped to what can be contained with quality in each sprint. Lean takes a focus on optimizing the process to achieve a deliverable, and only required tasks should be included. Both these methods let the mechanisms of delivery take precedence over the content delivered. With design thinking, we complement the agile methods with the focus on the desirable outcome. Design Thinking hence adds the purpose and intent and ensures that the user is at the center of the outcome.

Good design is good business

Good design is good business. This statement by Thomas Watson is well known and often quoted. It captures the importance and uniqueness of design at IBM in the 50s. Today, good design and Design thinking is mainstream. Good design much table stake and mainstream. Design thinking is widespread. So, what is different in IBM’s version of Design Thinking?

Mission: Create a sustainable culture of Design at IBM

The IBM Design program started small in 2013 with a mission to hire 100 formally trained designers and kickstart 7 hallmark projects across IBM. Across different BUs, different products, and different project objectives.

We emphasize the parts that drive

  • differentiated delightful outcomes
  • business value and leading business strategy
  • the elements that delivered @scale and speed for distributes and complex teams

Today, we are now 4 years into the program with over 400 projects, 1,000’s of designers, and IBM’ers trained on Design Thinking across Development, Offering Management, Sales, and Services. Design is touching almost every IBMer and every project in the labs and in the field. And it inspires other innovative practices, like the IBM Cloud Garage Method.

IBM Studios

The Design Studios are the centers of the design culture. They are a key enabler for the way of working with multi-discipline teams and reaching out to our global organization. Studios are built out across the IBM labs. Design studios are open and movable.  Workspaces change the shape as the purpose over time.

Solving complex problems requires us to work together across differences

 The question remains “What is different with IBM Design Thinking”. With the size of 350k employees at IBM, with geographically distributed teams, offering management, design, development, sales, and services across the globe we need a design model that scales. Four key aspects of IBM Design Thinking enable that scaling.

  • Users
  • Hills
  • Playbacks
  • Multi-disciplined teams


The users are our clients. Their success is our success. They are the judge of the value we bring. And it’s their experience we have is given the privilege to host. Our designs must be based on their needs or pain points. Our design must be driven from an empty with the users. They must be our North Star. 

We ensure that we put users first by recruiting Sponsor Users of the design. We ground the intent to their needs.


Hills gets us aligned. Hills are captured by a WHO, a WHAT, and a WOW. A hill is a clear statement of the intended user, the WHO. It is a clear statement of intent on the outcome, the WHAT. And, it is a clear statement of the differentiator compared to competitors, the WOW.

The hill provides clarity and frames the problem – in simple words; aligns the understanding across team members. And reaches out and aligns stakeholders (executives, marketing, sales), clients, and ecosystems. But it does not prescribe an implementation.


Playbacks help us stay aligned. Playback is a safe environment to share work. They ensure the progression of the delivery to a successful outcome. 

Playbacks can be run anytime and may take different shapes and purposes. For example,

  • Hills playback – Confirm that stakeholders agree with the outcome
  • Playback Zero – Align teams on Concepts, UX, and plan.
  • Delivery playback – On milestones
  • User / Client – Playbacks for stakeholders

The workshops include practical sessions where we explore stakeholder maps, empathy maps, and needs statements. We also practice on playbacks.

Multi-Disciplinary Teams

IBM Design is not an agency – taking and delivering an awesome design. And we are not alone in solving a problem.  In a multi-disciplined team, design work shoulder-to-shoulder with offering management and development, throughout sprints, milestones, and releases. Empowered teams can rapidly, generate ideas, reject or commit to them, and collaborate.






“Today I had a very amazing opportunity to be a part of a workshop called “IBM Design Thinking: Deliver Breakthrough User-centric Solutions”: I learned so much in such a short time and met a lot of amazing people. But before that, I was hesitating to go because I didn’t know anyone there and the thought of being embarrassed cared me. If I had let my fears decide for me then I wouldn’t have had one of the best experiences in my UX career.”

“Well thought out and structured presentation and Workshop”

“Thank to all of you from IBM for a great workshop”

“Workshop experience and following discussion were very interesting. A lot of inspiration, thanks to the organizers”

“Very useful and inspiring”