Simple Steps to Creating a Culture of Design

Oen Michael Hammonds
IBM Design
Published in
2 min readNov 30, 2015


I recently gave a talk at the xChange Austin workshop to talk about how IBM is using design thinking to change the way we work. This is a huge initiative for this 100+ year-old corporation to undertake, but there are some things that you as a leader in your company can do to quickly adopt this framework into your product, team and organization.

Radical Collaboration:
We need to break down silos and have constructive conversations with all team members and all disciplines that contribute to a project’s success. Practicing design thinking helps create a framework to have those conversations be more constructive. Also, the practice of working with sticky notes and markers allows everyone’s voice to be equal and heard.

Stop Saying “No.”
Instead, say “Yes, and…” encourage team members to build on the ideas of others. Make learning and exploration a necessity for everybody, including yourself. Create a safe environment and ask the team to come out of their comfort zone, explore, and learn. Also, enable them to do so by giving them the appropriate time and budget.

Making Mistakes Is Better Than Faking Perfection.
Design thinking is iterative, so teams DO fail early and move on to focus on the important new insights that come from those early failures. If you force a failed idea into the market, then you are forgetting the user, and eventually the user will say, “Forget you!”

Take risks. Iterate quickly. Fail fast. Learn well.

With Good Values Come Good People.
This does not have a direct connection to the practice of design thinking, but more to creating a culture of design where you work. No one wants to work in an office full of egotistical jerks, right? We find that there are a lot of really smart and talented people, but those are just prerequisites for the job. Look beyond expertise when hiring for your teams. We put our new hires through a rigorous hiring process, but at the end of the day the final question we ask ourselves is “Would you want to work with this person?”

These are just some small steps on how you can start creating a culture of design in your workplace. By mixing the proper tools and practices, providing an environment that cultivates creativity and top-notch talent, we can deliver experiences that work together, work the same, and work for you and I.