Why Design Thinking Matters
Hayley Yudelman

Design thinking isn’t just about the visual outcome of a product. Rather, it’s a method of creatively and practically solving problems that keeps the user top of mind. Understanding the user’s wants and needs allows us to make more accurate decisions during the inspiration, production, and iteration phases of building a product. The outcome, hopefully, is intuitive products and services that actually improve users’ lives.

I spoke with Maya Weinstein, Sr. Designer at IBM Watson, about her thoughts on the design thinking method.

In your own words, what is IBM design thinking?

Design thinking has existed in some form for the past 20 years. What makes IBM Design Thinking unique is scale. IBM is a massive company and this is the first time design thinking is being implemented at a company of this size with this degree of training. We have an entire division, the IBM Design Education, whose sole focus is to train the entirety of IBM on the practice of Design Thinking. By training engineers, product managers, marketers, and executives on how to think like a designer, we are able to bring design thinking to a mass corporate level. This is design thinking in a company at scale.

What are the benefits of design thinking?

I find it helpful to have a process that I know works to keep me on track. Design thinking is an ongoing process, it’s a never ending cycle of reflection and iteration. Once you keep that in mind your failures become learning experiences and your work gets better with each cycle.

How do you use design thinking in your day-to-day job?

I use design thinking for everything I do. When we first set about creating the curriculum for design sessions for product teams two-and-a-half years ago, we used design thinking. I continue to do that today. Focus on the end user for the workshops and iterate, iterate, iterate.

What was the inspiration for design sessions and what are some successful outcomes?

Like any good designer, I saw a problem, identified with our users, and came up with a solution. I worked in product design for two years on Watson Discovery Advisor, I saw firsthand how promises made at the marketing and sales level don’t always align with what needs to be done on the ground floor. It’s a top-down approach that focuses on sales and revenue and not on user need. I thought we should combine design thinking with strategic sales and marketing to create a more cohesive message and product. If we can use design thinking at the beginning of an application ideation process, focusing on user need from the get-go, we can create strategic partnerships that have long-term value.

The takeaway: Design thinking is an important process not just for UX or UI designers. It’s a process that we all can benefit from as we create products that require an end user.