Design Thinking with IBM

An overall customer driven strategy, customer intimacy and loyalty can make or break a startup in today’s world. 42% of start ups fail because they are not solving a market problem¹. Do you need more reasons to focus on the humans forming these markets?


Design Thinking is a way to tackle problems by focusing on users’ needs and provides a tool for practical and creative problem solving. It is known for the ability to structure the way you approach situations and find efficient solutions. Design is understood as the “intent behind an outcome”² because innovation is never just scratching on the surface.

If you are not familiar with Design Thinking we highly recommend you to watch this video by IBM:

But how do you translate Design Thinking into specific action?


We tackled this question in a  workshop on customer and community engagement. The workshop was sponsored by IBM as part of a Social Media Strategy Planning grant they provided to Impact Hub Vienna. Hosted by Andra Muresanu, enthusiast for digital innovation and Klaus Kornfeld, UX Consultant from IBM, the workshop gave valuable insights on how human-centered design can help in developing innovative solutions. A number of Impact Hub Vienna Members participated in the workshop, they were joined by creative minds from the Accelerate Program, Social Impact Start and the Scaling Program.


Here are some learnings from the workshop on Design Thinking:


Learning 1: Always put the users’ needs in the center

There are many ways to prioritize goals and there are even more ways to realize ideas. This is about putting your users’ need in the center of your actions.

Use this approach as a frame and integrate it into your daily work structure, especially whenever your machines are standing still.


Learning 2: Create buyer personas

Some entrepreneurs have it, some don´t. Creating a buyer persona is a project without an external deadline, which means it is likely to just push it aside. In the swirl of everyday work it is easy to discuss hundreds of ideas and thoughts without creating a benefit for your work.

A buyer persona gives your team a model of your target group. If you have to reconsider a thousand details and potential scenarios, you have to invest a lot of time and energy with every decision you make. The buyer persona, let´s call her Anna, helps you to stay focused and replaces an unspecific feeling for your target groups, with a fictional model costumer. Whenever you face decision it is easier for you and your team to ask yourself how to improve the situation for Anna instead of losing the creative momentum in a discussion about your target group.


Learning 3: Know your data

A good buyer persona is the base and reference system when setting your compass in costumer- and community oriented approaches. So the one big advice is: Analyse, analyse, analyse. It is no secret that the better you know your target groups, the better you can understand them.

Don´t let quantitative data from facebook insights or google analytics be your only source for that. Invest some time! Talk to your users. Get a picture of what they are doing. Don´t forget: Everyone in your team knows one of your costumers in a different situation – a potential not to be wasted.


How does Anna feel when she comes home from work? Is she looking for new opportunities in life? How old is she, where does she work, what attributes does she have? Is she sporty? Is she on instagram? Is she married? Does she have a pet? Which media does she consume?
Paint a clear picture of a person. Empathy is key here.

IBM presented the following dimensions to structure the personality of your buyer persona:

  • What does she say?
  • What does she think?
  • What is she doing?
  • How does she feel?

Start with your most important target group and repeat this for every target group you can identify.


Learning 4: Break it down!

Define a time frame and break the journey of your buyer persona down into single steps and visualize them. How does she feel in this situation? What is she thinking? And what is she doing during every single step?

Sure, there are multiple ways that lead to Rome for your costumer. Chose one. This will help you to identify tensions the user may have and enables you to improve.


Learning 5: Identify your costumer’s pain points!

Stay focused on the big problems and don´t lose yourself on features of the website or small improvements. The question to ask is:
“What ideas are easy to implement and have the biggest impact on your business?”

This could be a negative emotional situation for the user, a technological gap which stops Anna in her flow or just the (missing) knowledge about your product.


Let your creative juices flow and use your collective brain power to develop ideas to tackle specific problems. Whenever you get stuck ion a problem or question, and this will happen, don´t let this stop you. You have to keep going, unfortunately there is no single question to ask when searching for a solution however “What matters most?“or “What is more efficient?“ are a good place to start.

Choose the idea that is easy to implement and at the same time has the biggest impact on the pain points.

There are no perfect solutions, so don´t waste your teams energy searching for it. Keep the momentum!



A final word of advice…

Put your smartphone and laptop away before you start. Grab a pen and paper. Not only does this add to a more communicative situation but also helps you stay focused. Buy tons of post-its and a whiteboard and it will change the way you work!



With these learnings it will be much easier to design a costumer-centered strategy and assures you don’t miss their needs. If you want to learn more about IBM’s way of creating solutions check their website:

IBM knows about their social responsibility and with workshops like these social entrepreneurs get access to the valuable know-how and experience from IBM. The tools and insights provided, enable the participants to realize their business ideas and to foster social change and innovation.
Interested which program of the Impact Hub Vienna would fit to your idea? Click here

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Matthias Reisinger IMPACT IS… Doing what makes you come alive in a way it contributes to more than just yourself. WHAT DID YOU DO BEFORE BECOMING PART OF THE IMPACT HUB VIENNA TEAM I was finishing my studies and building up emersense, the NGO which gave birth to the Hub WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB? Prototyping the new way of doing business WHAT DO YOU WANT TO HAVE ACHIEVED AS PART OF THE IHV TEAM BY THE END OF THE YEAR? Hosting the impact eco-system in Austria and bringing it to the next level WHAT DOES YOUR PERFECT SUNDAY LOOK LIKE? Excercize + Chillaxation + Good Food & Good Movie in Good Company WHAT IS AN ABSOLUTELY RANDOM FACT ABOUT YOU THAT EVERYONE SHOULD KNOW? When I was learning the piano as a child, I refused to learn the music pieces I was supposed to, but only wanted to play my own compositions PLACE OF BIRTH? Linz, Austria LANGUAGES YOU SPEAK? German, English, French