IBM Design Thinking Badges

Many of you may have seen notifications on various social media sites, most notably LinkedIn, that someone has been awarded an IBM Design Thinking badge. Some of you have asked me what these badges are all about. Well, let me tell you.

These badges are part of IBM's overall design transformation model and focus on the calibration, assessment, and professional development of IBM employees. The IBM Design Thinking badges in particular focus on skill and experience acquisition and mastery of our IBM Design Thinking framework.

I first discovered the need for calibrating, assessing, and specifying the IBM Design Thinking professional development of staff when I was activating our global business services organizations. We'd started our design transformation of IBM in our product organizations but when I was dealing with staff in our services organization who would be using the framework in their direct work with clients I decided that I needed to ensure that staff had the requisite knowledge, skill, and experience. I decided to implement a program that required the people whom I was teaching IBM Design Thinking to carry out at least two internal workshops/projects and to have themselves recorded on video presenting, facilitating, and workshopping particular portions of our framework. I then reviewed those videos to determine whether the candidate was ready to be allowed to work with clients using IBM Design Thinking. That worked well for a while but of course wasn't scalable with only me doing it and using such a laborious process. 

As with most things I do in our IBM Design program, after I've explored it and shown it to work, it is taken over by our amazingly capable IBM Design Core Team to flesh out, harden, and scale. Our team worked tirelessly on developing the rubric, the badging levels, and the companywide program for managing and sustaining the program. 

There are four levels of badges: practitioner, collaborator, coach, and leader. Employees make their way through the badges from practitioner to leader with coaches in their region mentoring them so that they acquire and hone the skills and also gain the requisite experience practicing the skills. It's important to note that these badges aren't exclusively for designers, far from it. We believe strongly that everyone should know and practice IBM Design Thinking regardless of their discipline or role in the company. The challenge is to ensure that the right level of skill and experience is acquired at the right pace while assessing and tracking progress effectively and efficiently companywide. That's what the IBM Design Thinking badging system provides.

As I've mentioned many times before here, design thinking is necessary but not sufficient to transform a company. Many people think that it is. Design thinking, or more accurately IBM Design Thinking, is core to IBM's design transformation but there are many other elements that are critically important to our design transformation program. This badging system is but a small example of an additional element. I'll cover some of the other elements in a future blog post.