In 2012, Phil was asked to rejuvenate the legendary IBM design program, spearheading a broader transformation of how the company’s teams understand and solve complex problems. Achieving the company's goal of creating a sustainable culture of design and agility, the program has established a modern standard for the role of the arts in business — adding formally-trained designers into IBM at an unprecedented scale, and reskilling its global workforce in design thinking and agile practices. This transformation has been documented in the New York Times, Fortune and in the documentary film "The Loop.” During this time, Phil also served as co-chair of the global Women’s Executive Council, and established the Racial Equity in Design team. Both roles reflect Phil’s advocacy for greater diversity in order to better inform systemic decision making and empathy, resulting in greater innovation and results.
For this work, in 2018 Phil was inducted into the New York Foundation for the Arts' Hall of Fame. In 2019, Governor Kevin Stitt named Phil an Oklahoma Creativity Ambassador for his achievements in the world of creative thinking and innovation.
Phil retired from full-time operational responsibilities at IBM in 2021, and now focuses on helping the next generation of business and military leaders shift their organizations' cultures to a more modern posture — human-centered, agile and adaptable at the pace required for today's world.
Phil’s career includes 30 years as a start-up entrepreneur, and he speaks regularly on topics of corporate culture and large scale transformation. He graduated as a Pe-et (top ten) senior from the University of Oklahoma in 1978 and lives in Austin, Texas.
Phil joined podcast hosts Bobby Ghoshal and Jared Erondu.
"A lot of wisdom shared from Phil. I felt that I was able to grasp a better understanding of not only how IBM uses design for the greater good of their company, but how design can be used in virtually any company, anywhere!"
"The IBM initiative stands out. The company is well on its way to hiring more than 1,000 professional designers, and much of its management work force is being trained in design thinking. 'I’ve never seen any company implement it on the scale of IBM,' said William Burnett, executive director of the design program at Stanford University. 'To try to change a culture in a company that size is a daunting task.'"
In a corporation-wide move to re-insert design at the heart of its products and services, IBM has been hiring hundreds of designers globally, and aims to hire hundreds more, including in Ireland.
The man behind this re-Think is Phil Gilbert, a tall, baritone-voiced American based out of the company's Austin, Texas offices.
The study of IBM's Program Office which led the global transformation of IBM's People, Practices and Places, adopting agile and design thinking at unprecedented scale. The study approaches this form the perspective of key people in the Program Office, and from leaders of the Mainframe and Consulting business units whose products and services were improved through this effort.
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.
IBM's design thinking practice is a key to their 21st century innovation plans. Fortune explores what's happening.
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