Agile · creativity · design · Design Process · Design Thinking · IBM

IBM Innovation Jams: Design Thinking

Hi all,

Long time no see,

I have been all over the place for a while, but now I prepared a cup of tea and finally have a chance to update my blog page (which I promise I will post more actively).


Not long time ago I had a chance to assist an Innovation Jam from IBM in Dublin, where 3 amazing UX Designers from IBM Design where presenting the “IBM Design Thinking”. First of all, I am myself in the UX field, so the term Design Thinking was not new, however, I found some interesting points that I would like to share with you.



If you take a look at the logo (the infinite icon, or an 8 rotated for 90 degrees) there are three points, two at the extremes and one in the middle, all joined together. These three points represent the “observe – reflect – make”, which makes the basis of the design thinking principle, and the joint is the iteration of the agile development.

Design thinking has been around for a while now, used by many companies to innovate their businesses. In these cases, DT (design thinking) can vary from model to model. Some define phases such as understandexplore, prototype and evaluate (this one comes from IBM actually)… others have a much detailed focus (ex. Liedka – Design Thinking for Business Innovation). Typically tools used in these processes are very “user needs” focused, whereas IBM take into account also user’s emotional part. Still being user-centred tools such as “Customer Empathy Maps, Persona Building, As – If Scenarios” are used to build a STORY of a user, taking into account not only the needs, but also what he/she thinks, feels, sees and hears.

Usually, if I think about design thinking, I am always afraid that the process is too static, almost like a waterfall, a step-by-step guide, which professionals tend to follow. Here, however, comes into play the agile methodology, where professionals or experts use iterative processes (go through different iterations) to try out new or improved concepts. Through these iterations, come into play the user and/or other stakeholders (since we are designing for them, not to forget), which enriches the process itself.


(A) They are taking into account users’ emotions, thoughts, etc.

(B) They are not being static, but rather iterative.


To reflect upon the whole experience I was really glad I could be a part of it. However, they ended the workshop by saying “Humans are driven by emotion, not by reason”, which I totally agreed at the time (……. 5 weeks ago). If you ask me today, I would partly disagree. Why?

From my experience, the outcomes of such processes are not always one-directional. They tend to be rich in diversity of input, which is sometimes very difficult to prioritise when creating the concept. Coming back to the statement, I believe that the winning factor is this exact relationship between these two aspects, EMOTION and REASON, in a certain time slot. So, I would like to end by rephrasing the quote

Thanks for your time,



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