27 IBM Design Chief Phil Gilbert on Leadership as Love
Play • 59 min

Though Phil Gilbert’s official job title is General Manager of Design at IBM, he’s more often referred to as IBM’s very own design evangelist. But ask him to describe his earliest creative impulses and he’ll tell you without hesitation that he was an entrepreneur from “day one.”

It quickly became clear that Phil is all these things and more after spending the day with him at IBM’s colorful, post-it-strewn design studio in Austin. In other words, to use a tech-speak term of art: Phil is a unicorn. 

Need proof? Look no further than his decision to embed design thinking at scale across a company that spans 387,000 employees and 170 countries. Fast Company recently praised Gilbert’s accomplishment at IBM as “establishing a modern standard for increasing the role of arts in business.” 

Under Phil’s leadership, the legacy computer brand has resurrected and expanded its venerable design program and transformed itself into a nimble, forward-thinking company employing a fleet of designers, charged with applying their problem-solving skills to innovative software and B2B infrastructure initiatives, like quantum computing and state of the art digital security. To wit, ArtCenter alum Tina Zeng, a design researcher on IBM’s security team, offers an insider’s perspective on how design is being deployed on a day to day basis under Phil’s leadership.

Over the course of a lively Change Lab conversation (conducted in IBM’s employee programmed radio station) Phil opened up about his appreciation for the school busing program in Oklahoma City that first exposed him to the value in a diverse learning environment, his evolution as a leader and the importance of seeing every day as a prototype that can be improved upon. 

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