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Design Thinking isn’t enough


Business Design shapes a company’s impact on people, profits, and the planet.

Claiming to be customer-centric is easy, but the pandemic quickly laid bare the customer experience (CX) weaknesses of many companies. Some stumbled as they rushed to pivot to virtual engagement and digital commerce. Transformations that had been on companies’ to-do lists forever were urgently elevated to imperatives.

No wonder, then, that in our 2021 CEO study, 60% of CEOs who lead the most financially successful organizations cite “delivering better customer experiences” among their highest priorities in the next 2 to 3 years.

And it will need to continue to be a priority. As organizations emerge from the pandemic, stabilization is still a long way off—COVID-19’s impact continues to be felt across communities, the workplace, and the marketplace. Meanwhile, as climate change manifests itself in floods, fires, and heat waves, customer demand for sustainability continues to increase, along with a rising consciousness of racial, social, and economic injustices.

Businesses that have fully adopted Business Design prize design as a revenue generator more so than other organizations — 82% more.

To adapt to such seismic shifts, companies need to absorb lessons learned from the last 18 months and ask some tough questions:

  • How customer-centric are we, really?
  • Are our products, services, and experiences all that differentiating?
  • Are our models and operations meeting the needs of our business, as well as the needs of our customers?
  • How are our products and services affecting the environment?

Business Design—a discipline that applies a design mindset and principles to solve business problems—may be a critical part of the answer. To better understand how organizations are using Business Design to architect transformations, the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV) conducted a global survey of 2,000 executives and design practitioners across multiple industries.

The Design Vanguard’s advantage

We looked for organizations in our sample that prize the broad, value-based cultural, technical, and operational implications of Business Design. Our data reveals a small subgroup—20% of those surveyed—whom we call “the Design Vanguard.” They are defined by their full embrace of key Business Design principles. Few of the other surveyed organizations espouse these practices with the same vigor.

What characterizes the Design Vanguard?

What characterizes the Design Vanguard?

When asked how their CX has fared compared to their competition for the last 3 years, 19% more Design Vanguard companies report outperforming their peers. And when so many businesses are stressed today, Vanguard companies express confidence in their ability to thrive despite market uncertainties. The Design Vanguard’s estimated increase in revenue growth in the first half of 2021 (compared to 2020) is 58% higher than other organizations’ estimates.

Download the report to learn what these leaders are doing differently and how your organization can use Business Design to enhance customer satisfaction and deliver greater business value.


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Meet the authors

Matt Candy

Connect with author:


, Global Managing Partner, IBM iX, and Customer Transformation Service Line Leader, IBM Consulting


Billy Seabrook, Global Chief Design Officer, IBM iX

Carolyn Heller Baird, Global Research Leader, Customer Experience and Design, IBM Institute for Business Value

Originally published 19 November 2021