"design thinking" entries

Reconciling design thinking with the craft of design doing

The O'Reilly Radar Podcast: Suzanne Pellican on the ups and downs of Intuit's journey to become a design-driven organization.

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In this week’s episode, O’Reilly’s Mary Treseler chats with Suzanne Pellican, VP and executive creative director at Intuit, about three core principles of design thinking and about Intuit’s journey to become a design-driven organization.

Pellican also will be speaking at our upcoming O’Reilly Design Conference about creating a culture based on design thinking, experimentation, and risk taking. You can find out more at the event website.

Here are a few highlights from their chat:

Design thinking is the practice of problem solving, and to me, that is based on those three core principles that I spoke about: deep customer empathy, going broad to go narrow, and rapidly experimenting with your customer. That’s the actual skill set and the tools and the mindset that you have.

Design thinking is absolutely experiential, and I think the first mistake that we made when we started rolling this out eight years ago was, if you’re going to change the way people work day to day, that’s going to take a long time. You can’t just ask people to do it and expect them to change. You have to give them ample opportunities to practice so that they can then understand it and make it their own.

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IBM is banking on design’s ROI

Phil Gilbert on IBM’s deep design roots, change management, and hiring for culture fit.

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Companies of all sizes are recognizing that by taking a design-first approach to product development, they can improve profit. I recently sat down with Phil Gilbert, GM of design at IBM, to discuss how he is helping to lead the transformation to a design-first company within IBM. Adopting design as a key corporate asset may seem like a no-brainer, but for a company of more than 350,000 employees, it’s a massive undertaking. IBM hasn’t been quiet about its plans to hire 1,000 designers over the course of five years and embed design in product teams throughout the organization.

IBM’s long history of design

What I was surprised to find when reading about IBM’s latest design plans, is that the giant tech company has design roots dating back to the 1950s. Gilbert shares in more detail:

We started our first design program — and we were one of the first to really apply design holistically at scale — in 1956. In the 1950s and the 1960s and into the early 1970s, we had a constellation of designers around IBM that, quite frankly, has never been equaled.

Elliott Noyes was our first head of design. Thomas Watson Jr. hired him in 1956. He assembled people like Eero Saarinen, Charles and Ray Eames, and Paul Rand. He assembled this team of people, and, essentially, I think the reason it happened then is because humanity was addressing a fundamentally different relationship between ourselves and technology. There was a lot of turmoil and angst as a result. We used design at that time to communicate and engage in a conversation with humanity about that relationship and about our role with technology. We viewed it as a very holistic statement — we communicated it through our products, our communications, our buildings, and we did it through our exhibits at places like the World’s Fair.

Since then, I don’t think there has been as fundamental a change in the relationship between human beings and technology. The move from mainframe to mini-computer, the move from mini-computer to personal computer, the move to client-server computing — all of these things were actually fairly incremental. But I think in 2007, with the release of the iPhone and with the ubiquitous access via mobile devices, I actually think that we’re, again, in a time of real turmoil and change around this relationship of where does technology sit with human beings.

This is a real change, and I think that human-centered design and design thinking as a method to achieve human-centered design is why it’s become so important. Because our relationship with technology is, it may not be as frightening as it was in the 50s and 60s, but it certainly is fundamental. I don’t think we quite yet understand it. I think design is the primary lever that we have to understand that relationship and then to communicate that relationship.

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Designing for delight

Suzanne Pellican on Intuit’s transformation to a design culture.

Three_pencils_Tristan_Schmurr_FlickrI recently had a wonderful conversation with Suzanne Pellican, chief design strategist at Intuit. She has spent the last several years coaching both designers and non-designers on how to think of and use design thinking as a core competency to improve business results and spur innovation.

Design thinking admittedly is a quirky phrase. What’s important is that it places design in a context that non-designers can appreciate. Pellican defines it and its relation to service design:

“‘Design for Delight’ at Intuit is our version of design thinking, and we reduced it down to three core principles: deep customer empathy, go broad to go narrow, and rapid experiments with customers. … Design thinking is the practice of problem solving and is based on those three core principles. That’s the actual skill set, the tools, and the mindset that you have. Service design is actually applying that then, end to end, as you’re thinking about very specific experiences for customers across many channels.

“The way that we do service design at Intuit today, a lot of the effort is in, let’s say, care — so when you think about a care experience for a customer you have to think about the many channels that they can access, including telesales and agents and care or the website or on my articles. You’re trying to think about their whole experience and you’re also trying to think about infrastructurally how could you deliver a delightful experience. That is service design.”

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DevOps keeps it cool with ICE

How inclusivity, complexity, and empathy are shaping DevOps.

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Over the next five years, three ideas will be central to DevOps: the need for the DevOps community to become more Inclusive; the realization that increasing Complexity of systems is the underlying reason for DevOps; and the critical role of Empathy in the growth and adoption of DevOps. Channeling John Willis, I’ll coin my own DevOps acronym, ICE, which is shorthand for Inclusivity, Complexity, Empathy.

Inclusivity

There is a major expansion of the DevOps community underway, and it’s taking DevOps far beyond its roots in agile systems administration at “unicorn” companies (e.g., Etsy or Netflix). For instance, a significant majority (80-90%) of participants at the Ghent conference were first-time attendees, and this was also the case for many of the devopsdays in 2014 (NYC, Chicago, Minneapolis, Pittsburgh, and others). Moreover, although areas outside development and operations were still underrepresented, there was a more even split between developers and operations folks than at previous events. It’s also not an accident that the DevOps Enterprise conference took place the week prior to the fifth anniversary devopsdays and included talks about the DevOps journeys at large “traditional” organizations like Blackboard, Disney, GE, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Raytheon, Target, UK.gov, US DHS, and many others.

The DevOps community has always been open and inclusive, and that’s one of the reasons why in the five years since the word “DevOps” was coined, no single, widely accepted definition or practice has emerged. The lack of definition is more of a blessing than a curse, as DevOps continues to be an open conversation about ways of making our organizations better. Within the DevOps community, old-time practitioners and “newbies” have much to learn from each other.

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