Duncan Wardle says the ability to think creatively is one of the single biggest assets you can have.
Former VP of creative at Disney asks: How will you compete?
When speaker and innovation consultant Duncan Wardle asks audience members where they get their best ideas, the answers he gets are invariably the same: while they’re jogging, in the shower, out on a walk, having a glass of wine, sipping a cappuccino… Anywhere but the office.
“If you don’t have time to think, you can’t land that big idea,” Wardle says.
The founder of Orlando-based iD8&innov8 LLC — and former vice-president of innovation and creativity at the Walt Disney Company —isn’t suggesting employees be playful every moment of the day, but that they at least be encouraged to think creatively and bring forward ideas, no matter how offbeat they may seem. It’s something that most of us have been dissuaded from doing.
“When you were a small child and got a Christmas present, you unwrapped it, took it out of box, and spent the rest of day playing with the box,” Wardle says. “The box could be anything you wanted it to be, a fort, a castle, a kitchen. Then at some point in life you stop seeing the box like you did when you were five. Somebody walked into your office basically said:‘You’re not creative; the creatives are on the second floor.’
“At some point you begin believing you’re not creative,” he says. “The biggest barrier with innovation is that your own experience tells you why that new idea might not work. Instead of listening to the new idea, you shut it down. There’s a suite of tools to help you stop doing that.”
Wardle will be sharing items from that toolkit at the upcoming 2018 Canadian Internet Marketing Conference. Taking place in Squamish on April 5 and 6, it will also feature speakers from Facebook, Amazon, Uber, Buzzfeed, MEC, Hootsuite, Airbnb, Adobe, Slack, Microsoft, and other companies. It’s all aimed at helping people navigate digital marketing to drive their business.
Wardle got his start at Disney after phoning its London office every day for 27 days until he got an interview. He was hired as a copy boy 30 years ago.
The U.K. native took on various roles over the years, ranging from character coordinator (when he witnessed a close call between Roger Rabbit and the late Diana, Princess of Wales) to his most recent post focusing on innovation and creativity. He left last year to launch his own company after training more than 5,000 people at Disney in creative problem-solving.
“We’ve been told that if you don’t paint or play a musical instrument, you’re not creative, but there are simple, easy-to-use, tangible thinking tools for people to be creative,” Wardle says. “We’re not teaching them how to paint; we’re giving them the skill set to think differently.”
With the business world evolving all the time, Wardle says people have to be creative if they want their ventures to survive. He points to companies such as Airbnb and Uber as those that turned the conventional business model on its head, the successful start-ups not requiring any capital investment.
Another reason Airbnb is so popular is that it offers consumers unique experiences, since no two homes are alike. In that same vein, major brands, from car companies to physical retailers, will likely disappear in the near future, he says, since thriving businesses are focusing more and more on tailored experiences. Large hotels in Las Vegas, for example, are being outperformed by smaller ones that are not just using technology to enhance guest experiences, but are also coming up with of all sorts of ways to cater to individual needs in real time.
“The trend away from brands that can only create experiences at scale is coming,” Wardle says. “It’s moving away from that to more personalized, customized experiences. That’s the disruption that’s coming.”
Another threat to existing corporate structures? Artificial intelligence, which Wardle says will replace millions of jobs.
“How will we compete in this world?” Wardle asks. “I think the ability to think creatively is one of the single biggest assets you can have.”
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