Innovate with Enterprise Design Thinking in the IBM Garage

Cloud Garage MunichWe’ve all been there. You have an amazing idea that’s really exciting. Maybe it’s a home improvement project, or perhaps it’s a new business idea. You think about all the details required to make it real. But, once you get to the seventh action item, you’re not so excited anymore.

Sometimes when we realize the weight of the effort needed for our big ideas, it can crush our original excitement and momentum.

This is the crux of many failed initiatives.

So how can you move forward?

How to apply Enterprise Design Thinking and Lean Startup

Enterprise Design Thinking enables teams to think beyond what they consider possible and find truly innovative ideas. It’s about thinking big.

Lean Startup and a minimum viable product (MVP) are about thinking in small steps. What’s the smallest thing you can build efficiently to learn more about your biggest risk?

Combining the “bigness” of Design Thinking and the “smallness” of Lean Startup propels teams towards real solutions, but it can also trip up many teams. If you’re too focused on MVPs, you won’t come up with big ideas. If you’re too focused on big ideas, keeping an MVP to something that’s truly minimum is very challenging.

The key is that you can’t treat these as two separate exercises. They must be integrated seamlessly into one process. This lets teams think big but act small.

How IBM Garage Design Thinking Workshops help guide the journey

At the IBM Garage, our experts guide clients on their journey starting with a crisp definition of the opportunity they want to tackle. We then assemble a diverse group of stakeholders and users and bring them together for a two-day IBM Garage Design Thinking workshop.

Enterprise Design Thinking: Think big. Once assembled, it’s time to think big. In typical Enterprise Design Thinking style, we unpack the opportunity to find the part of the problem we want to tackle first — the part that once solved will have the most impact on the users and thus the business. Then we use the diversity in the room to find an array of innovative solutions to the problem, generally exploring more than 100 ideas before we focus in on the one with just the right balance between do-ability and awesomeness.

That right balance is different in every case, which is why having the right team of stakeholders and IBM Garage experts assembled is crucial. Technology is evolving so quickly that any one person’s notion of what ideas are and are not feasible is probably wrong. You need the team to be willing to proceed with the right idea, even if that idea initially looks risky.

Lean Startup: Find the approach. Day 1 of an IBM Garage Design Thinking workshop is about using Enterprise Design Thinking to think big. Day 2 is about applying a Lean Startup approach to drive that big idea to the right MVP.

First, we look at the vision and ask: “Are you confident enough in every aspect of this vision to be willing to jump in completely and invest whatever it takes to build it?”

If we really thought big on Day 1, the answer will almost always be, “no”.

Next, we explore all aspects of the vision that are holding the team back. For example, do they worry the market isn’t ready for the idea? Will the company legal team approve the project? Can we design something simple enough to allow the idea to reach the right audience?

Now, focusing on the biggest risk that the team wants to learn more about, we define a testable hypothesis, and identify the smallest thing needed to be able to test that hypothesis.

How to test the MVP solution

Some hypotheses can be tested without any coding, and if that’s the right MVP, of course, we do that. But the Garage has a bias toward building production pilots — we believe the best way to learn is by putting something real in the hands of real users.

Figuring out how to get something valuable into user’s hands in, typically, six to eight weeks requires as much creative thinking as identifying the big idea. This is why the IBM Garage views Enterprise Design Thinking and Lean Startup as two parts of a single method, not two separate phases of a project.

Client case study example: Mueller, Inc.

Let’s look at a real client example, Mueller Inc, a manufacturer of steel buildings and components.

On day one of the Garage Workshop, we arrived at a vision. The team wanted to build a mobile ordering tool to empower contractors to make accurate materials quotes and place an order, all while on the job at a building site. The vision was straightforward, but it was a huge, innovative step for their business.

We knew building the app was possible, but there was some cost-prohibitive data normalization and integration required to make it happen.

In defining the MVP, the team made the critical decision of restricting the scope of the application to only those parts needed for a single type of project. This allowed the team to limit the amount of data normalization needed and get something useful into production.

Within two days of going live, Mueller was transacting real sales through the app.

The MVP provided value to real customers by enabling them to complete order requests faster and proved that such a solution had market value. Plus, the MVP app gave the Mueller team a better understanding of how to normalize their data. All of that in about eight weeks. The perfect MVP.


That’s the power of combining Enterprise Design Thinking with Lean Startup. That’s what the IBM Garage can do for you.

How could your business benefit from the IBM Garage experience? Schedule a no-cost visit with IBM Garage to investigate.

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