Energizing life's work through smarter design
Delaney Turner 270003RQ8K Delaney.Turner@ca.ibm.com | | Tags:  social_business ibmconnect
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Systems of Engagement made another appearance on Day 3 of IBM Connect 2014 as the focus shifted to Energizing Life's Work through Smarter Design.
IBM Design General Manager Phil Gilbert told the story of IBM's long and storied history in industrial design.
In 1966, then-IBM president Thomas Watson Jr. wrote that "good design is good business." So firm was his belief, said Gilbert, that he recruited industrial designer and architect Eliot Noyes to help him craft and implement a corporate design program.
Noyes led the team that created iconic Selectric typewriter. He also recruited a galaxy of talent including:
Through its creations, the team helped define and express the character of IBM. In addition, said Gilbert, it helped a generation somewhat uneasy with the power of technology better understand its potential to transform the world for the better.
Perhaps nowhere is this better portrayed than in IBM's collaborations with Jim Henson. Prior to his breakthrough with the Muppets, Henson created amusing corporate and marketing films featuring early versions of Kermit the Frog, Rowlf and Cookie Monster:
It was, said Gilbert, a constellation of talent the world had never seen before and has never seen since.
That is, not until now.
Once again, said Gilbert, public attitudes toward technology are changing. While a younger generation has no qualms with the technology at its fingertips, many others are uneasy with its reach and influence. Many also feel overwhelmed and confused by the pace of innovation and change.
That uneasiness, said Gilbert, is driving a disparity in the distribution of technology's benefits. Large swaths of the world's population are missing out on the benefits of our increasingly smarter planet.
Once again, said Gilbert, IBM is turning to design to explain, educate and most importantly, engage.
The most obvious example of this is the creation of IBM Design to transform how the company designs software from across all IBM, including Big Data, Cloud, Mobile, Social software and cognitive solutions.
Launched last November and located in a new 50,000-square-foot facility in Austin, Texas, IBM Design brings together innovative designers from across many disciplines to rethink and re-engineer the way people experience IBM solutions.
To do so, Gilbert said, IBM has recruited graduates from prestigious design schools including the Rhode Island School of Design, the Parsons School of Design, the University of Michigan and Carnegie Mellon University. "We've been going to places that IBM typically doesn't go to to recruit," he said. Further, IBM has engaged in partnerships with such leading design consultancies as Ideo and Frog Design.
A core component of IBM Design is Design Thinking, a cross-functional discipline focused on improving a user's experience of the product, not simply the product itself or the task it needs to accomplish. The team engages new recruits in three-month boot camps and delivers one-day briefing sessions for senior IBM executives.
"This is a foundational shift," said Gilbert. "It's not a question of designing a new vase. It's creating a new way for people to enjoy flowers in their home."
To drive this shift, IBM Design Thinking approaches the user experience from six perspectives:
The IBM Design team has also created four tactical pillars to ensure its solutions are both repeatable and scalable across what are often complex international deployments:
"IBM Design is grounded in empathy, prototyping and radical collaboration," said Gilbert. Through modern APIs, human enterprise interface guidelines and a new design language, we're creating IBM solutions whose components work together, work the same and work for me - the 'me' in question being the client."