Welcome to the Design Thinking podcast! I’m Dawan Stanford, your host. Today I’m joined by the remarkable Doug Powell, a Distinguished Designer at IBM who directs the global tech company’s program to scale design and design thinking. Doug is also an award-winning designer, a thought leader, and a lecturer and commentator on design issues.
In our conversation today, Doug and I will cover some tactics and strategies for growing a design practice inside your organization, thoughts on how to measure the value of design thinking and communicate that value, and talk about building design thinking capacity in design thinking studios.
When he joined IBM, Doug explains, the company’s design aspect had dwindled from its heyday when it was led by Thomas J. Watson and Eliot Noyes. For a couple decades after this design heyday, design was de-emphasized in the company. In 2012-2013, the company reinvested in and recommitted to design thinking. In our conversation, you’ll learn about some of the challenges that Doug faced during the process of reviving design thinking and creating a new class of workspaces where design could thrive.
Doug points out that design thinking has a branding problem, since the word “design” can be confusing for people outside of the industry. People think of visual design, product design, fashion design, or interior design. He then defines design thinking as, “a way of solving complex problems in a collaborative, multidisciplinary way, with a focus on the user.” It’s about collaboration and cross-disciplinary work, not making anything pretty. This, he explains, is how he would describe the value of design thinking to someone not familiar with the concept.
In addition to all of this, Doug will talk about trying to help people get the essence of design thinking in an online learning environment when design usually relies on being so hands-on. He’ll also dig into the value and impact of design thinking at IBM, including some of the less-obvious results. You’ll hear about whether Doug’s process is right for everyone, what a design studio is and why it’s valuable, how his bootcamp is structured, and much more!
In This Episode
[01:33] — We hear about Doug’s design career, and how he arrived at the point where he is now.
[08:00] — Doug talks about the state of design and design thinking at IBM when he arrived, and touches on the history of design thinking at the company.
[10:31] — What were some of the initial challenges that Doug and his team faced at IBM?
[15:08] — We learn more about the non-designer connection challenge that Doug mentioned a moment earlier.
[19:33] — Doug shares some thoughts on how his strategies, and the ways that he has pursued them, have developed over time.
[25:33] — What are the keys to making the online learning environment, content, and approach effective in Doug’s program?
[27:11] — We hear about Phase 4 of Doug’s process, which they’re just getting into now. He also talks about the interest being fueled by recent work around measuring the value and impact of design thinking at IBM.
[32:09] — How does Doug talk to potential clients about whether they’re ready to implement design thinking at their company in the way he’s done it at IBM?
[34:51] — Doug offers advice for how to answer the question of what design thinking is.
[36:48] — What is a design studio? And how does Doug help people find their own magic people?
[40:56] — We hear about how Doug sees the future, in terms of challenges on the horizon and how he might tackle them.
[43:17] — Doug talks about where the designers at IBM came from, and the choice to invest in emerging designers.
[46:30] — How is the boot camp experience that Doug has been describing structured?
[49:51] — We hear Doug’s thoughts on university learning experiences.
[54:00] — Dawan shares one of the reasons that he was excited about doing work at Elon University.
[55:55] — Where can listeners learn more about Doug’s work and what’s happening at IBM with design thinking?
Links and Resources
Doug Powell on LinkedIn
@douglaspowell1 on Twitter
Thomas J. Watson
Charles and Ray Eames