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IBM breaks down the process of innovation on a day-to-day scale

May 26, 2022, 11:40 PM UTC
At the Fortune Brainstorm Design conference on May 24, 2022, Cathy Reese, Senior Partner, Data & Technology Transformation, IBM Global Business Services, led a worksheet exercise to help conference delegates learn her company's "golden thread" framework.
Rebecca Greenfield—Fortune Magazine

At Fortune’s Brainstorm Design conference on Tuesday, Cathy Reese, senior partner, data and technology transformation at IBM Consulting, explained the company’s concept of the “golden thread”—one of its strategies for turning ideas into business value.

The golden thread has an anatomy composed of several disparate points, including focusing on intelligent workflows, proper product visualization, and identifying values. Combined, they’re all aimed at driving innovation at a reasonable scale.

IBM defines the golden thread as “a user journey visualized with a technical solution and mapped to user value in terms of problem solving pain points and business value,” Reese said. “It brings the backlog to life and makes the end to end vision clear.”

To better demonstrate the strategy, Reese led conference delegates through an interactive exercise with three main segments:

1. Identify your pain point

The first step in implementing the golden thread is to identify a product or service’s pain point. To get there, you have to first figure out who the user is and the problem they’re having.

2. Understand the value

The next step is understanding value. If a certain pain point is not resolved, what happens to the user, and from there, the company? Reese said that if there are several pain points, solutions for the one with the most imminent consequences should be the priority.

The worksheet accompanying Reese’s exercise asked: “What metrics would you use to measure to know the impact of solving the pain point?”

3. Know your stakeholders

Finally, you have to know the stakeholders who can define and enable the solution. Once they’re identified, you can begin to take reasonable steps forward to addressing it.

According to materials provided during the session, the golden thread is a “living artifact”—something meant to be updated regularly to remain relevant. 

How do you get started? According to IBM, implementing the golden thread might not be a total success on the first try, but that companies can only get better with practice. 

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