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February 5, 2021

Usher in a Culture of Innovation with These 5 Tips from Duncan Wardle

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The ability to innovate is within everyone—finding it is usually a matter of removing idea-crushing barriers. Duncan Wardle, former Disney Head of Innovation and Creativity, recently spoke to a packed house in the Virbela auditorium and shared a few ingenious ways to unleash originality, problem-solving, and fun at work.

1. Build on Ideas

It’s easy to come up with reasons why an idea won’t work, especially when you’re experienced in a certain field and know the industry challenges. You can let inspiration flow by saying yes more often, even if you don’t follow through on every thought. By doing this, you’re opting in to the togetherness of the creative process. 

TRY: Boost brainstorming by saying “yes, and . . .” to new ideas. Keep tacking on more, so ideas get bigger instead of smaller. 

2. Reorganize for Agility

Team structure based on departments is great when you need a summit of experts in one area. 

However, a flatter structure with multiple viewpoints creates a livelier kind of powerhouse. And don’t be afraid to invite unexpected guests to meetings, either. Wardle values these “naive experts” for their fresh takes.

TRY: When you want to unlock ideas that drive business forward, reorganize teams based on project goals and invite new voices to contribute. 

3. Make It Real

Quick pitches can get to the point with slide-based presentations or write-ups, but for the ground-breaking ideas that attract big clients or dazzle customers, companies need to go deeper.

Wardle shared a couple of jaw-dropping experiences that got results. The big one: a visit from a live tiger to highlight the emotions of interacting with animals. 

But simpler moments derive power by touching upon deep empathy, too. For instance, in the Disney-Pixar movie WALL-E, a “mute robot,” as Wardle refers to the title character, garners instant audience connection by holding hands with a cockroach. It’s a feeling we all know and putting it upfront resonates.

TRY: Make pitch solutions convincing by reframing them in ways that feel real to clients or customers. 

4. Energize Creativity

The amazing innovations that revolutionize a company’s outlook require abiding creativity. Keeping that flow going doesn’t have to be a challenge.

Wardle likes simple games or tournaments. In person, a few rounds of Rock Paper Scissors can get people laughing (skip the hand contact during social distance!). Remote teams can design fun adaptations or rituals based on their own teams.

TRY: Tap into creative brainwaves by having fun together in everyday ways.

5. Make Time

Explore how to create the breathing room that lets people be their best. Inspiration has a reputation for appearing out of nowhere, but consistently innovative thinking comes from a place of relaxed engagement and happiness.

Free staff to create meaningful work-life balance. When everyone is together, focus on project milestones and business goals over who did what when. Like Wardle says, “There’s no present like the time!”

Ultimately, innovation isn’t desk-bound. By letting your teams’ best ideas happen from anywhere, your company is poised to stay creative and capture the business you want.

TRY: Encourage staff to take time to develop high-impact ideas. Support them by giving them the freedom they need to do their best work.

Join Virbela as we bring industry experts to the virtual stage to share their experiences, learnings, and best practices. Don’t miss our next event on Feb. 25, featuring a discussion about igniting a remote work culture with Melissa Daimler.

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