“Design thinking is the search for a magical balance between business and art, structure and chaos, intuition and logic, concept and execution, playfulness and formality, and control and empowerment."

In 2012, IBM, the 105-year old information technology company, set out a bold vision to train its entire workforce—some 377,000 employees worldwide—to think, work, feel like designers.

This would enable the $143 billion company to be more strategic and shift away from the engineering-driven “features-first” ethos towards a more “user first” mentality.

“It allows us to solve real problems for real people instead of building a few features here and there,” said Phil Gilbert, Head of Design

In a recent project cited as example, an airline approached IBM to improve its kiosks to speed up passenger gate check-ins. While the engineers started by improving the kiosk’s software, designers went straight to gate agents to ask why the check-in kiosks weren’t used more effectively.

Designers found out that female gate agents struggled to keep kiosks charged because their constricting uniforms prevented them from reaching electrical plugs behind the machines. By finding the root of the problem, IBM delivered a mobile app that significantly eased the boarding process and reduced airline costs.

In IBM’s design bootcamps, empathy—the ability to understand another’s feelings—has been a mantra for groups trying to better connect with colleagues and clients. They learn about rapid prototyping, team dynamics, problem solving, and how to tap into their customers’ and colleagues’ feelings and concerns to come up with better tech solutions.

The focus on design thinking has instilled a more collaborative, group meeting-based culture that may not be immediately embraced by all employees. “It’s not just radical collaboration but radical transparency,” explains Gilbert. “It’s a sharing of intentions, motivations, and information.”

“Design is everyone’s job. Not everyone is a designer, but everybody has to have the user as their north star."

Want to hear the ins and outs of IBM’s journey to make design everyone’s job?

Meet Karel Vredenburg, Director at IBM Design and Head of IBM Studios Canada, during Intrapreneurship Conference Toronto, 15-17 November 2017

When Eric Quint was asked to join 3M as its Chief Design Officer, he realized the enormous potential for design and creativity for 3M, yet also considered the potential risks and barriers to reaching that potential in an enterprise that is very technology-, science-, and fact-driven.

Despite the latter, he started the position in 2013 and approached the challenge as a design project, applying all his experiences as a designer to drive transformation by design.

One of the first things he initiated was the definition and consolidation of the governance of design, followed by getting the processes and infrastructure in place to support design scale across the organization. This included creating a taxonomy of design, defining a talent development program, and fostering a collaborative approach to creativity for 3M design teams.

Eric led the establishment of multiple studio locations around the globe, including a new, state-of-the-art design center located at 3M headquarters in St. Paul. He also initiated the development of a new corporate identity, as part of a refreshed and new brand platform—3M Science. Applied to Life— that increased the company’s brand value by $2 billion over the last two years.

Creating the very role of a Chief Design Officer is a pioneering act on its own. Only around 10 percent of the Fortune 100 companies have placed design as an executive priority, and only a handful of those have created the role of a chief design officer. These companies have acknowledged and elevated design as a separate function that operates with its own budget, organizational governance, capabilities, and approach, using skilled and trained design talent.

With that said, Eric warns that creating the role of a Chief Design Officer is no guarantee for success. Successful design is not about the role itself, or about having a department of design. It is very much about leadership, investment, and creating the oxygen for long-term creative transformation.

"Adding design to an enterprise is a transformational program that changes the way people think, act, and collaborate throughout all processes and phases of the business—which is no quick and easy task."

If there is no long-term commitment to design, design will not be able to create value, and designers will not be utilized in an effective and impactful way. The journey is about influencing and changing the culture of the organization with a combination of bottom-up leadership and leading by example with appropriate top-down support. The most effective organizational changes are the ones in which people embrace the change and make it part of their own culture.

Keen on hearing lessons learned from 3M's transformation to embed design?

Meet Eric Quint, Chief Design Officer at 3M, during Intrapreneurship Conference Toronto, 15-17 November 2017

This post contains contents curated content which originally appeared here and here.