Karel Vredenburg

Karel Vredenburg

Industry Professor
  • EMBA
  • Faculty
  • Tags:
  • emba

Contact Information

Director, IBM Design Worldwide Client Programs
Head, IBM Studios – Canada

Karel joined IBM in 1988 after undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral studies and lecturing at the University of Toronto. He assumed his worldwide leadership role at IBM in 1995, led the company’s hardware, software, and services designers who designed everything from the digital systems for the Olympic Games to a laptop with the highest customer satisfaction to the first commercial products using the IBM Watson cognitive computing system for healthcare and business applications.

In 2012, Karel helped architect a powerful new design-led strategic direction for IBM to deliver exemplary differentiated client experiences using a framework called IBM Design Thinking which focuses on understanding clients deeply, rapidly innovating to address areas of opportunity, and articulating, aligning on, and delivering client-focused value objectives. Karel travelled to every IBM location worldwide to personally evangelize and educate all IBM product development staff on the new strategy and framework, focusing on senior executive leadership and staff execution of the approach. He also runs executive workshops at IBM’s Headquarters location in Armonk, New York once a quarter for all newly appointed executives worldwide and runs workshops for client-facing executives and architects at centers in Europe, North and South America, and Asia. He has helped establish IBM Studios in major centers around the world, focusing on creative talent and innovative physical space design, and has direct responsibility for IBM Studios Canada focusing on analytic solutions, Internet of things, commerce, cloud, and services.

With the core of IBM transforming rapidly and successfully by early 2014, Karel built the IBM Design Thinking framework into IBM’s Global Business Services operation as a strategic services offering for clients. He conducted workshops worldwide to train IBM services executives and staff in the framework and they now regularly sell and deliver IBM Design Thinking enabled services to clients worldwide. Karel is regularly sought out and personally conducts client workshops with C-suite and other executives of many companies such as Tangerine Bank, Wells Fargo, ABN-AMRO, Premier Farnell, Barclays, AT&T, ADP, Co-operators Insurance, State Street, TD Ameritrade, Comcast, BBVA, Monitise, Nationwide, Huawei, Vodafone, Orange France, and the Netherlands Belastingdienst Tax Office.

Karel has presented keynotes and run workshops at industry conferences worldwide for more than two decades, written over 60 conference and journal publications, written a book entitled “User-Centred Design: An Integrated Approach,” contributed chapters to other edited books and served as special issue editor for the International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction and the IBM Systems Journal. He serves as an industry expert on the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) education committee and also collaborates regularly with the UK Design Council. He is based in Toronto, Canada.