ASAE Annual Meeting

Innovation During Times of Crisis

By Association Adviser staff • August 28, 2020

Duncan Wardle, former head of innovation at Disney and founder of iD8 & innov8, shared with attendees how we can spark creativity and open the door to innovative thinking. He explained in Wednesday’s fast-paced and engaging keynote that there are five barriers to innovation:
1. We don’t have time.
2. We’re risk averse because we have quarterly results to meet that leaves us thinking in the short-term.
3. We’re product-centric and not focused on our consumer.
4. We have too many layers of approvals.
5. We all have different definitions of innovation and fail to speak the same language.
Think of what kids do better than adults: They play, are curious and honest, use their imaginations, and ask “why?” over and over again. That type of creative thinking, Duncan said, is under attack from a young age, Duncan said, which is why adults are often better at strategy, planning, critical thinking and analysis. Both styles of thinking, however, are required in an innovative process.
As adults though, how can we practice creativity when it’s not our natural tendency? “Creativity is a muscle; the more you use it, the better you get it,” he said.
People and groups often have their own ways of thinking – rivers of thinking – that are deep, fast and one-way based on our experiences, but we can get out of those rivers of habit if we actively change our perspective or the questions we ask, including:
  • Ask, “What if?” Every industry has rules, so metaphorically break those rules. What if … this weren’t a challenge or that didn’t stand in our way? Then reimagine your industry, product, service or organization without those rules in place.
  • Include naive experts: This person may not have experience or expertise in your field, but they are an authority in an area you’re seeking to learn more about or they have a new perspective to your thinking. “If they don’t look like you, they don’t think like you. And if they don’t think like you, they can get you to think differently.”
  • Ask “How else?” Give yourself permission to reframe how you look at things and even the words you use, like how Disney refers to its customers as guests or its employees as cast members.
  • Follow your intuition: While most days we do get buried thinking about meeting quarterly or annual goals, real innovation happens when we stop to think how might we attack the biggest pinch and pain points and take away major barriers to success.
  • Be curious: We are creatures of habit – we eat the same foods, sleep on the same side of bed and drive the same route home day after day – but being curious creates new stimuli for our brain. Look for opportunities for unplanned collaboration and bring people together for unexpected conversations.
  • Be brave: “The opposite of bravery isn’t cowardice, it’s conformity.”
While not all ideas make it, we can create an environment where more ideas can be developed and visualized, and that’s when true innovation will begin to happen.