Project Management

Breaking Bias: Why Design Thinking Works

PMI United Kingdom Chapter

Ian Whittingham, PMP is director of Calixo Consulting, providing project and program management expertise from initiation through to implementation, covering business transformation, workflow process re-engineering, and enterprise data integration. He is a regular contributor to You may contact Ian directly at

In his keynote speech at the PMI® Talent & Technology Symposium last June, Doug Powell, Vice President of Design at IBM, opened the event with an engaging presentation on the beneficial effect that design thinking can have on innovation projects. (If you missed it, you can watch Doug’s presentation—Design Thinking in the Digital Agehere.)

After an introductory overview, Doug describes some key features of the practice of design thinking, highlighting the role that empathy and collaboration play in creating a human-centric locus within which solutions to complex problems are created. In making the business case for the value of design thinking, Doug draws attention to some persuasive statistics taken from a February 2018 Forrester Consulting study—commissioned by IBM—The Total Economic Impact™ of IBM’s Design Thinking.

Forrester’s analysis of data collected from four of IBM’s design thinking practice clients identified, among other benefits, a composite net present value (NPV) of over $36 million and a return on investment (ROI) of over 300%. The data also pointed to significant improvements in project execution with, for example, a 75% reduction in the time required for initial design and alignment, and a reduction in design defects and rework, resulting in savings of around $153,000 per major project.

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