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Align. Innovate. Create.
Maybe you think you have a great idea for a new product. Or, maybe you already created a product and your competitors just released an update that scares. Either way, you need a proven process for innovating and delivering fast. You need IBM® Design Thinking.
IBM Design Thinking combines traditional techniques with new core practices
IBM Design Thinking starts by bringing together a series of traditional design techniques, such as personas, empathy maps, as-is scenarios, design ideation, to-be scenarios, wireframe sketches, hypothesis-driven design, and minimum viable product (MVP) definition. To these traditional design approaches, IBM Design Thinking adds three core practices: hills, playbacks, and sponsor users.
IBM Design Thinking created the notion of hills to provide a new business language for alignment around user-centric market outcomes, not feature requests. This new business language is rooted in user needs and desires. Each hill is expressed as an aspirational end state for users that is motivated by market understanding. Hills define the mission and scope of a release and serve to focus the design and development work on desired, measurable outcomes. For each project, define no more than three major release hill objectives plus a technical foundation objective.
As your effort moves forward, you’ll want to obtain lots of feedback. You need playbacks.
Playbacks align your team, stakeholders, and users around the user value that you plan to deliver, rather than project line items. All design and development work is iterative. To scale in an iterative world, IBM Design Thinking formalizes these sessions into iconic playback milestones that align everyone around a set of high-value scenarios that show the value of your offering.
Early playbacks align the team and ensure that it understands how to achieve a hill’s specific user objectives. In later playbacks, the development team demonstrates its progress on delivering high-value, end-to-end scenarios.
Sponsor users, a special component of IBM Design Thinking, are people who are selected from your real or intended user group. By working with sponsor users, you can better design experiences for real target users, rather than imagined needs. If at all possible, engage sponsor uses when you create your personas, and continue to include them throughout the entire design and development process.
As you engage sponsor users on a regular basis throughout the release cycle, your relationship deepens, and their feedback provides direct insight into the specialized needs of their business domains. Collaboration between sponsor users and your team ensures that your product is valuable, effortless, and enjoyable.
Important components of IBM Design Thinking
- Personas: Start by getting to know the person or people that you intend to help with your product. Collect information and answer a wide array of questions about them. Who are they? What are their personal demographics? What are their normal tasks? What motivates them? What problems do they face? What frustrates them?
You can gather this information from many sources, including surveys, forums, direct observation, and interviews. Then, take all of the information and organize it to describe one or more specific individuals, or personas, who represent your target audience. As you work toward your solution, return to the personas to ensure that what you are building is going to excite them and make them say “Wow.”
- Empathy maps: After you define one or more personas, get to know them at a deeper level. Capture what they think, what they feel, what they say, and what they do. By doing so, you’ll begin to develop empathy for this person. You’ll use an empathy map to identify their major pain points.
- As-is scenarios maps: Next, take an in-depth look at your personas’ primary task scenarios. In an as-is scenario map, document the steps that they take, and as you do, document what they think, what they feel, and what they do along the way.
During this phase, be sure to capture all of the issues and problems that your personas face in their current environment. Capturing issues can be difficult because you might need to candidly discuss the flaws in your current offering. Don’t be afraid to be honest. The more honest you are, the more likely you are to identify the most critical pain points. Ultimately, you develop greater empathy for your personas and gain a deeper understanding of the problems that they face as they try to achieve their goals.
- Design ideation and prioritization: After you create a persona, an empathy map, and an as-is scenario map, you’ll understand your target audience and the problems that it faces. You’ll also probably have a few ideas about how to solve their problems and excite them. During design ideation, brainstorm and generate as many ideas as possible. Initially, don’t worry about what is feasible. Generate as many ideas as possible, regardless of whether you know how to implement them. Then, organize those ideas into clusters and decide which clusters have the greatest promise.
- To-be scenario maps: At this point, your goal is to create a scenario map. This scenario map, called a to-be scenario map, describes the future state that the adoption of your best ideas leads to. Capture what personas think, do, and feel during this future set of activities. Be sure to capture the “wow” aspect in this new scenario flow. The key question is “Will the person feel compelled to purchase a product that achieves this outcome? Why? Why not?”
- Wireframe sketches: To get a better sense of the to-be outcome, it is sometimes useful to create a set of low-fidelity wireframe sketches with various alternatives. These wireframe sketches are not intended to represent a final design. That comes later. At this point, try to sketch potential experiences and their flows. Create a wide array of alternatives, knowing that you might throw away most of them. You can show those alternative sketches to various stakeholders and to actual members of your target audience to get feedback.
- Hypothesis-driven design: A key aspect of IBM Design Thinking is to create a set of testable and measurable hypotheses about what you design and deliver. The hypotheses are generally in this form: “If we provide persona A, with the ability to achieve outcome B, we’ll then be able to measure the impact via metrics X, Y, and Z.” These testable hypotheses help you determine whether you created the compelling product that you hoped to create.
- Minimum viable product (MVP) definition: After you have a set of hypotheses, you can define an MVP. An MVP is the smallest thing that can be built and delivered quickly to test one of your hypotheses and help you learn and evaluate your effort. In IBM Design Thinking, MVPs are closely aligned with a set of hills. Teams often define their MVP statements and their hills in parallel.
The benefits of IBM Design Thinking
IBM Design Thinking takes the best industry recognized design methods, adds three core practices—hills, sponsor users, and playbacks—and applies knowledge from real development with real users at IBM’s worldwide IBM Cloud Garage locations.
By using IBM Design Thinking, you can generate ideas faster; design, evaluate, and test them faster; and develop code faster. Most importantly, you can deliver value to your customers faster.
The Women Presidents’ Organization would like to thank IBM for providing this week’s sponsor blog content.