Design Thinking – an Enterprise Approach to Innovation

In this agile world, where there is a constant demand to learn fast, fail fast, and deliver fast, it is essential to adopt design thinking principles to create new strategies and solutions.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking aims at figuring out solutions and opportunities to solve problems that may be related to business, customer experience, enhancing your product delivery model, and many more. Surprisingly, this technique also works in our daily life aspects be it solving for complexity, critical thinking at workplace, or building success skills.

IBM Enterprise Design Thinking is a powerful approach to innovation and brand differentiation. The design thinking principles focuses on creating ideas that can be delivered faster and offers delightful customer experience.

Let us deep dive in to principles and techniques that design thinking presents and how we could benefit from these in our business model.

Basics of Design Thinking

There are 3 core principles in Design Thinking that aims at identifying the problem and methods to effectively engage with business teams.


Hills are about you and your team coming together around the things that you know are most important for the users. Hills are composed of a “Who” ( a specific user or a group of users), a “What” (a specific action or enablement), and a “Wow” (a measurable marker differentiator).

A sample hill:

  • Who – A sales leader
  • What – Assemble an agile response team from across her entire corporation
  • Wow – In 24 hours without management involvement.


Playbacks are a time to show what you are doing and get everyone on the same page. Build a low-fidelity prototype of the Hill and have this demoed (playback) to stakeholders, teams, and clients.  It is important that the product teams are briefed about the identified user value that you plan to deliver.
Playbacks helps you get lots of feedback and it is encouraged that you have more playbacks throughout the Design Thinking schedule to continuously evolve the user experience.
Playbacks align the teams around how to achieve the high-value scenarios in the beginning phase and then the focus shifts on delivering high-value end-to-end scenarios.

Sponsor Users

Identify and define key people from your intended user group. Engage sponsor users throughout the Design Thinking schedule right from the time you are building the persona. They provide feedback and help you build the product for intended users rather than imagined users. 

Design Thinking Approach

There are 8 main techniques in Design Thinking that aims at designing multiple innovative solutions for a problem identified.

Personas: Fictional representation of users for whom the identified Hill is being delivered to. Basically, personas refer to the target audience, give them a name and use the identification throughout the process to define the persona. Make sure you create a low fidelity persona

  • Gather information about your audience such as who is the user
  • Understand what the user is trying to do
  • Visualize how the user is trying to use the product,
  • Anticipate where the user needs help and so on.

Get to know your user well and this in turn impacts in delivering the product the user is looking for.  

Empathy Maps: Create a low fidelity prototype map to know your users well. Ideally, you create a 4-quadrant map such as “Thinks, Feels, Says, and Does”Add in all the user attributes as per the quadrant it belongs to. Empathy maps give you a holistic view of the persona and help you identify the potential solution that user may be looking for.

As-is Scenario Maps: Build high fidelity scenario maps that give tremendous insight into all the problems that the user faces during a task. The focus is on traversing through the user activities and building a relationship between the task and how the user feels while accomplishing this task.  As-is scenario maps are about sketching the end-to-end flow for a user scenario such as steps and activities the persona takes to complete the task, what persona thinks, feels, and says during these steps taken to complete the task. These maps make it easier to understand the pain points of the user and help design solutions.

Ideation: Generate big ideas that create a revolutionary design. By now, the teams would have better insight into the problem in hand user is facing. Thanks to personas, empathy maps, and as-is scenarios that help us know the actual problem areas.  With Ideation, the aim is to have each team member come up with at least 5 innovative ideas. Use sticky notes or sketches to design the ideas you have formatted.

To-be scenario maps: The maps emphasize the artifacts about user experience when adopting a new idea. Build scenario maps for the future results that will be the outcome of the ideas. Capture what the persona may “think, feels, and says” about the idea while performing every step in the proposed idea. Make sure to capture the “wow” factor in the to-be scenario map.

Wireframe Sketches:  Low-fidelity wireframe sketches brings ideas to life quickly. The sketches illustrate the most important aspect of user interface and task flows for the ideas. Focus on sketching potential experiences-based user flow. Use these wire-frame sketches in the playbacks to gather feedback from stakeholders and targeted sponsor users about the to-be scenarios.

Hypothesis-Driven Design: Define the result that you want to drive on delivering the idea to the users. The hypothesis is all about Identifying what you intend to deliver or expect to observe which is defined as a metric that is measurable. Validate the results you are expecting with the feedback from sponsor users and stakeholders and check if the result matches the hypothesis metric. If there is a deviation, then rethink over the design and tweak your ideas in a way it matches the hypothesis metric benchmark.

Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Definition: On achieving a set of hypotheses, identify the MVP that can be built and delivered quickly to users. With one or more MVPs, identify the smallest MVP that can be built, and which is highly meaningful to the user. Ensure that the MVP also validates the assumptions made by the business and reduces the risk while increasing the ROI (return on investment) by building and delivering what is necessary.

Design Thinking Advantages

You can generate ideas faster, you can identify customer pain-points faster, design, evaluate, and validate them faster. 

Most importantly, you deliver customers with valuable revolutionary ideas faster and achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction. You build innovative solutions that create “wow” moments to intended users of the product.

Design Thinking and You

Start traversing within your teams to identify the outcomes for a use case that brings invaluable innovative solutions to your users. Build empowering teams and do not forget to identify sponsor users for your projects. Do share your comments and hard rocks you went through while you were figuring out the application of Design Thinking Principles at your organization.

About the Writer

Sadhana S is an experienced Information Developer at IBM, Bangalore Documentation team. She has extensive experience in authoring technical content with a strong focus on better information mapping and enhanced user experience design.  She is a certified IBM Design Thinking Practitioner and Design Thinking Co-Creator. She is also an IBM Agile Practitioner motivating Technical Writers to work in an agile-paced environment and to deliver technical content that can wow the targeted audience. She is passionate about research in the fields of documentation process enhancements, user-driven experience through the UI, API documentation, and Information Mapping.
Being a Writer by passion, she writes blogs and is the owner of blogging website. In her leisure time, she is a Wanderlust and a bottle art designer. Reach out to Sadhana for any information on Design Thinking  at and