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A Fortune 125 Energy company engaged IBM's Garage to establish a brand new Design Thinking practice, assist in innovation efforts, and change the culture around change.


11 months


Design Thinking Strategist, Coach, and Facilitator; UX Researcher and Designer; Interviewer; Project Manager


A Fortune-125 Energy company wanted to modernize their technology, save money, and prepare for the future. As the client delved into agile methodologies and renewing their digital assets, they realized their success hinged on implementing user-centric design across their business. They quickly engaged IBM's Garage to ensure their success.

Read more from my colleagues in Part 1 and Part 2 of their blog series on this project.

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As a part of the client's innovation initiative, each participating business unit had to meet a monetary savings goal by the end of the year. Several groups had terminated previous innovation initiatives due to lack of leadership buy-in, so initially it was a struggle to get others to believe we came in peace, had the user's best interest at heart, and weren't there to downsize.

I assisted one business unit for about 7 months, during which time I familiarized my team with design and Design Thinking processes, fixed digital and process issues, and pivoted many times to reach solutions.

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I guided the team through design thinking exercises to:

  • Ideate and iterate on the team's central goals

  • Solve human problems through empathy mapping, voting and prioritization, expanding on big ideas, addressing assumptions and risks, shadowing users, interviewing subject matter experts, and synthesizing

  • Test our hypotheses and small pieces of solutions before scaling to many locations and later the entire organization

  • Recognize the need to discuss, think, and approach problems with a problem- and user-focused lens rather than jumping to technical solutions

"When you first came, I thought, 'whatever, some motivational gimmick.' But the results are undeniable; this really worked for us."

“Y’all need to do more with the rest of [the company]. It’s not just [the innovation team] that needs Design Thinking, you know, everyone else does too!”

"We're churning. I think we need a Design Thinking Workshop on this."


This team stood up 5 product teams, 2 of which were eagerly absorbed by other initiatives and 3 of which went on to deliver products during my tenure. The team had saved $1M of their $4.5M 2019 goal by the end of Q1. The team is still using Design Thinking principles to align and make decisions, and engaging in workshops to innovate and solve problems. The team was featured on the front page of the client's innovation website, and was chosen to show the CEO the design thinking process’ impact on innovation. A culture of "playbacks" to help the team align and update leadership on progress has allowed the team to share successes and failures to move past roadblocks, which had been missing in previous innovation initiatives.

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The client had embarked on several previous innovation initiatives with varying degrees of success; a unified design practice with a strong message was integral to adoption. The Garage team introduced cultural change for the nascent design practice by creating a schedule and workshop intake forms to regulate the team's time, multi-use design exercises and presentation decks for workshops, outcomes decks as a tangible deliverable, and retros and weekly updates to promote growth. As part of training new design thinking strategists, we developed mini-modules, and I authored guides on and taught user research, interviews, and usability testing. Our team also improved team culture by improving the design team's internal relationships and team understanding.

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As a Design Thinking Strategist and Coach, I:

  • Co-facilitated workshops with every new Design Thinking strategist to train and enable them

  • Delivered both praise and critical feedback to strategists when needed for growth

  • Refocused workshop participant mindsets from buzzword tech solutions to employees and customers, which led to more profound insights

  • Aligned Design Thinking and UX/UI design, which operated under different leadership structures, and fostered relationships to last beyond my departure

"I used to do a lot of training out in the field, and they'd tell me, believe it or not, that I had good soft skills. You know, inspiring and motivating people. That's nothing compared to what you're doing. I've never had to teach people how to think."

“This is exactly what I wanted: to push innovation and really show that we do things differently.”

“I was amazed by the huge growth that the team showed, from their initial roadblocks through putting all their ideas up on the wall and finally working through how they would deliver. I know you were instrumental in that transformation.”



The IBM Garage helped the client to implement Design Thinking as a service, with an independent Design Thinking practice acting as an agent of cultural change for the organization. The design team, now trained in design facilitation and UX research, also built their team dynamic and worked together collaboratively. Large and small groups within the organization developed sustainable innovation practices, and built trust in design.

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