Earlier this week, Forrester released a detailed case study about how IBM has built a design-driven culture.

Even if your startup is much smaller than IBM (with its 375,000 employees), you can learn from the company's experiences in changing a culture. IBM's insights mirror those recently shared by Pepsi chief design officer Mauro Porcini. In an interview with Harvard Business Review, Porcini identified five phases Pepsi went through in the process of becoming a more creative organization.

As Porcini points out, many insights about design spill over into the related categories of branding and innovation. Concepts such as creativity, prototyping, and turning ideas into action pertain to many facets of growing a company, not just the visual or functional thinking commonly placed under the "design" label. 

"I strongly believe that design and innovation are exactly the same thing," Porcini tells HBR. "Design is more than the aesthetics and artifacts associated with products; it's a strategic function that focuses on what people want and need and dream of, then crafts experiences across the full brand ecosystem that are meaningful and relevant for customers."

All of which is why you'll find several takeaways relevant to your own company in Forrester's case study about IBM. Here are three of them: 

1. When you're hiring talent, think in terms of ratios. 

"In order to re-emphasize design, the team decided to shift the ratio of designers to coders from 1:33 to 1:8," note the authors of the report, Forrester's Allegra Burnette, John Dalton, Kelly Price, and Kara Hartig. To reach this ratio, IBM had to hire 1,000 designers within five years.

If you're a growing company, remember to keep ratios like this in mind. You can add more designers to your team, but their impact might be minimized if you're adding coders (or sales staff) at a comparable pace. 

2. To foster greater teamwork, tweak your workspaces accordingly. 

"To facilitate the kinds of problem-solving design thinking encourages, the team needed
to build a new kind of workspace--one that was reconfigurable and conducive to creative
brainstorming, breakout sessions, rapid conceptualization, and teamwork," the authors.

That space, IBM's Design Studio in Austin, Texas, offers large gathering spaces, flexible work areas, and movable whiteboard walls and panels.

3. When you're changing a culture, train your incumbent staff too--not just your new hires. 

IBM created a training program called Designcamp. The first six-week session gives new employees an overview of a hypothetical design project. In the second six-week session, new employees break into seven-person teams to discuss how they'd apply what they learned to a real project. 

Here's the rub: IBM puts its existing product teams through a one-week Designcamp training, too. Four to five different product teams participate in the same session, allowing them to learn from each other while learning tenets of design and innovation. 

IBM's executives also take a turn through Designcamp. "After the product teams returned from their workshops speaking a new language that their execs did not understand, the design team established IBM Designcamp for Executives for leaders from the senior-vice-president level all the way down to director-level executives within the product units," note the authors.

In a one-day training, executives learn how to communicate and collaborate with their teams using the language and framework of design and innovation. That's one way to instill a culture change throughout an organization. 

Published on: Sep 28, 2015