Business Development

Design Thinking Workshop Looks to Explore Growth Opportunities for Clients’ Skills Development

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Design Thinking is not just used in the design of our products at IBM, it’s a methodology used to solve problems, understand our users and markets and explore new ideas.


On February 13, the IBM Training and Skills team held an abbreviated Design Thinking session with our Global Training Providers (GTPs) to understand the changing training market and explore growth opportunities to deliver valuable training offerings.  This design thinking session formed part of a 2 day meeting with our Global Training Providers and the IBM Training & Skills team

Currently our Global Training Providers deliver classroom and digital learning to our clients across the globe.  As many people in our industry know, the demand for skills and the types of skills required are constantly changing. We need to be ready with the right content, learning opportunities and community solutions to meet these new demands.

In our session, we started with defining 4 unique but popular personas in today’s IBM market. These personas represented the new “learner” with all the characteristics and challenges they had to keep skills current and build new skills.  So, we targeted:

  • Frank: An experienced System Administrator and integrator at a large enterprise within the Financial Services Industry in Canada. Frank needs to reskill, embrace new technologies, models and practices.
  • Michaela: A young entrepreneurial technical professional from Italy who works as part of the “gig” economy and current works for a Startup. She wants to learn new technology for cognitive, cloud, Watson, etc.. And stay one step ahead.
  • Swati: A troubleshooter and an integrator from India. She needs to understand, optimize and integrate solutions with multiple IBM products.
  • Max: A Solution Designer and Architect working for a Business Partner in South Africa who is leading teams of developers to build amazing new client solutions.


We created empathy maps for each personas – focusing on what they think, feel, say and do. This activity really allowed us to put ourselves in these learners’ shoes – stepping out of our roles and into theirs. Next we created an As Is Scenario maps – determining what each person is doing, thinking and feeling through the following steps:

  • Determine what I need to learn?
  • Find what I need?
  • Consume, participate in learning
  • Apply my learning
  • Learn more and advocate

Common pain points and themes emerged across many personae.  These included finding the right content, creating the time to learn, getting budget for learning, personalized learning, and keeping skills current.

The whole exercise provided a great opportunity for collaboration, focusing on the common ground of our clients.  Probably the most exciting part of the session was when we created some “Big Ideas” to help these clients overcome their pain points and move toward success and skills achievement. The ideas were prioritized by looking at their impact to the personae as well as the feasibility of executing the idea.  Many ideas focused on personalized learning, providing content in smaller chunks, helping determine ROI of learning investments, and mobile apps to learn quickly and in any scenario.


Since this was an abbreviated Design Thinking sessions the Hills and Action steps will take place in follow-up meetings.  Many of the themes and ideas that came up provided validation for the direction IBM is taking with our Skills Gateway, new Digital Learning Platform and content strategy.  Overall the session was very interactive, collaborative and provided an opportunity for IBMers and GTPs to really understand the users’ learning and training needs and look for opportunities to provide solutions and valuable training offerings to meet these needs.

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