How cognitive is reshaping design thinking

Nancy Pearson and Phil Gilbert fireside chat from World of Watson

Daryl Pereira
Oct 25, 2016 · 3 min read

When so much around us is being commoditized, design and the customer experience offers one of the few opportunities for a business to differentiate from the crowd. And given that so much of the customer experience is now digital, the pace of transformation is driving enhanced personalization and cognitive capabilities.

This was a key takeaway from a Cognitive Build fireside chat between Nancy Pearson, VP Marketing, Cognitive Business and Phil Gilbert, General Manager, IBM Design.

We’re moving from a technology era that was dictated by compute and storage to one where the tools are getting smarter and increasing their potential to encapsulate human expertise. A perfect example of this is IBM’s Cognitive Build which engaged 275,000 IBM employees on the question of “what cognitive solutions would you develop?” In 90 days teams applied design thinking and agile methodologies to reimagine everything from VR experiences to IoT to visual recognition of what you eat. Of the top 50 teams, 11 of them were led by designers.

So what is the recent history of design at IBM?

Back in 2013 Phil Gilbert started on a vision to bring back design as a central function within IBM. What started with 7 teams is now up to 300 teams covering product design and offering services to IBM clients. This now equates to 50,000 IBM employees actively engaged in the design practice. This goes way beyond development to include every function in IBM including strong adoption from HR and marketing.

And now the relationship between design and cognitive is growing. Cognitive computing brings the possibility for the lifecycle management of the expertise within an organization. This is different to content management. An example here could be how Woodside engineers are using cognitive capabilities to help engineers making decisions around offshore drilling effectively tap the expertise of generations of engineers that have gone before them.

Another way of looking at cognitive is that the invisible now becomes visible. If you walk into a room and that room now knows more about you, and may even start conversing with you, this opens up new potential for human/computer interaction. This brings up a question of agency that did not exist previously. For instance one of the SoftBank Pepper robots you see around the World of Watson can start interacting with you before you start talking. Do you find this freaky? Is it magical? If anything, it evokes some form of emotional response.

In this new cognitive era, design plays a crucial role in helping us understand these new forms of interaction.

Cognitive Voices

Cognitive Voices. Discussions on latest happenings in AI and cognitive computing.

Daryl Pereira

Written by

Creative Content Director on IBM Originals team. I’m intrigued by how content shapes culture and love teaching creativity and marketing.

Cognitive Voices

Cognitive Voices. Discussions on latest happenings in AI and cognitive computing.

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