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April 5, 2021

To Get Ideas Flowing, Duncan Wardle Energizes Groups in Virbela

For Disney’s former Head of Innovation & Creativity, Virbela is one of the new virtual spaces he holds creative workshops that encourage ideation, productivity, and more input from more types of people.
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Duncan Wardle, former Head of Innovation at Disney, flew to 112 cities in 2019. That’s 224 flights—a heavy schedule, even for a high-producing executive. 

Fast forward to the present, and Wardle has cut the travel considerably. Partially, that’s because business travel took a nose dive in 2020, while companies reconfigured to remote during the pandemic. 

But, also, Wardle is an innovator. When plans or trends change, he looks for what’s new, exciting, and energizing. In 2021, that means running some of his signature workshops in Virbela.


Ideation Everywhere

Wardle’s engagements rest on a fundamental belief that everyone is creative. To his way of thinking, creativity is a timeless human truth—one that will remain relevant even as artificial intelligence takes over problem solving.

This tenet runs through his virtual workshops, where he hosts up to 85 people at a time in a private campus designed by a partner company. During these sessions, Wardle brings his characteristic exuberance to enterprise-level audiences. In summer 2021, he’ll be testing an open-format workshop, geared towards a broader range of leaders.

Ideation is core to the workshop experience. Wardle likes to start by generating laughter, creating connections between the conscious and subconscious mind. He plays word association games to prime creativity.

Once it’s time for breakout sessions, Virbela’s features help shape the workshop in ways that feel like real-life, only better. Wardle names a few of his favorite features:

  • Private volume areas in the auditorium allow breakout sessions to chat and ideate without the distraction of noise of surrounding groups. Wardle calls them magic circles.
  • Sticky notes allow workshop attendees to jot down inspiration or ideas for later reference. With his partner company, Wardle has customized the notes, so that they work for his quick thinking and ability to create from anywhere.
  • Seasonal themes add charm and fun to virtual campuses. Snow falls in winter; a rainbow and pot of gold adorned the sky for St. Patrick’s Day. 

Check these out while visiting Virbela’s Open Campus, too. Themes are easy to spot: Just look up from the concierge area upon entering Open Campus.


Good Ideas from More People

Real-world references, like snow and rainbows, delight Wardle’s attendees, because they make workshops more fun. Seamless features like this are throughout Virbela, making the experience intuitive and engaging.

Wardle reports one major impact from how easy it is to work in Virbela: people who might not normally contribute feel more comfortable speaking up, sharing ideas, and contributing to growth.

He points out that, in person or even over video, extroverts do most of the talking in meetings or brainstorm sessions. In Virbela, his experience is that those who might not normally speak up are sharing their thoughts and developing inspiration with the group.


A Rapid Shift to Virtual

For an executive and frequent speaker like Wardle, business is always changing. Innovation requires knowing the landscape and coming up with what comes next. 

In Wardle’s opinion, virtual campuses are a low-risk way to enter the future of work. The current shift to virtual is only the beginning. He sees virtual reality, artificial  intelligence, and associated technologies taking over rapidly. The benefits are that great.

The reduction in real estate and travel costs are a definite plus, but the improvements in productivity are most attractive to him. 

With Virbela, there are fewer pressures to get ready for work: no 200+ flights to jump,  no daily commute or figuring out how to handle the rest of life. Compared to video, the real-time group conversations and other high-tech features streamline processes and keep ideas moving.

Leaders like Wardle can simply get down to the business of innovating. For more on developing innovation at work, read Usher in a Culture of Innovation with These 5 Tips from Duncan Wardle.

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