Duncan Wardle

Former Vice President, Creative Inc. Walt Disney


"It is my belief that companies that embrace the global community of creative thought partners and makers will be the most successful."

— Duncan Wardle


About Duncan Wardle

Duncan Wardle is the former VP of Innovation & Creativity for Disney, where he founded the Creative Catalyst team.  He developed a design thinking toolkit enabling both individuals and teams to increase their capacity to innovate.  This approach helped unlock creativity using tools to help them ‘Think Differently’ in solving any size of challenge and create innovative new storylines, products and services.

After 25 years at Disney, Duncan has gone on to found iD8&innov8.  The objective of this new venture is to ignite a culture of innovation and creativity within companies.  Duncan has developed a unique design thinking, innovation toolkit that marries strategic thinking with creative ideation to deliver amazing, meaningful and measurable results. The whole ethos places the end user at the core of the process instantly propelling the future of a business.

Thinking Differently
Innovating @ Disney
Leading for Creativity
Demystifying Design Thinking
Insights for Innovation
Creating Cultural Change

Interview with Duncan Wardle

D isney has sustained its image as one of the world’s most creative and innovative companies. Can you give us same examples of what it takes to create and keep such amazing status across the globe?

The company’s founder, Walt Disney was a perennial entrepreneur and risk taker. He created the first cartoon with sound, SteamBoat Willie, starring Mickey Mouse (1929.) The first full length cartoon movie, Snow White (1939.) First theme park, Disneyland (1955.) First color TV Show, Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (1961.) First live action movie with animation, Mary Poppins (1964.) Since then Disney cast members have always seen themselves as curators of his legacy and as such are all encouraged to be creative and innovative.

In my most recent role as Vice President, Innovation & Creativity I developed a global site to allow all our cast members from around the world to Creatively Problem Solve together, leveraging the diversity of thought from across all our lines of business and cultures across the globe.

Y ou talk about the barriers that exist to innovation. Why do you think there are barriers, why is it important to remove them and how do you go about it?

There are 5 key barriers to innovation:

1. Time,
2. Lack of Common Language around Innovation & Creativity,
3. Risk Averse Cultures,
4. Consumer Insight being under used,
5. Ideas get stuck, diluted or killed as they move through to execution.

As most companies grow they lose their founders vision and that entrepreneurial spirit. They become bogged down in layers and processes and find it almost impossible to innovate. For example when asked where are you and what are you doing when you have your best ideas, most people will say Showering, Running, Commuting etc. No one has ever answered, at work! Leaders need to model the Creative Behavior of Playfulness when they are in an Expansionist forum, to help everyone generate their best ideas.

Most organizations have also become far too product centric today and are struggling to find their why and become consumer centric. Simply spending a day with your consumers can uncover incredible insights for innovation that big data alone can not always reveal.

Giving your team “Time to Think” can achieve amazing results. For example Google’s 20% time, allowed their engineers to develop Gmail and Google Maps.

T hinking differently is a large part of what iD8&innov8 is about. Why do you think this is important and what benefits does this approach bring to a company?

The Innovation & Creativity Toolkit I designed is based on having ideas for Disney for over 25 years, on behalf of Disney Parks, Animation, Pixar, Lucas Films, Marvel, Imagineering etc.
It has been thoughtfully crafted to take the mystic out of Design Thinking and make Innovation & Creativity accessible to all, by designing a toolkit that everyone can use to help them “Think Differently.” By making the Creative Behaviors and Innovation tools tangible, the toolkit can change whole cultures as people are empowered to tackle challenges big and small in new and different ways that are embedded in consumer insight, that truly drive business results.

Y ou promote creativity as being something everyone in a business should be involved with. The belief is that this belongs in the design department. How does everyone being creative help a company’s bottom line?

With the disruption in business that continues to accelerate, we are going to see a lot of storied Brands fold as they continue to iterate and not innovate. Look at the culture of Walmart vs Amazon. Risk taking must become much more prevalent across corporate cultures but can only be achieved if the whole organization has a tangible set of tools they can all use to enable both innovation and creativity across the board. Diversity of thought is one of the most powerful tools an organization can tap into, whether it is their own employees or brand advocates. Crowd Sourcing, Open Source Ideation Platforms and Accelerator Programs allow companies to open up the dialogue and idea channels to a much broader audience than ever before.

I nnovation does not come easy to larger organisations and is usually not top of their priority list. How do you enable innovation to become a way of thinking and acting across the board?

Most companies struggle to both report quarterly results and take smart risks, while creating a culture of innovation and creative problem solving at the same time and no one has stepped in and made it easy for them by creating a tangible process that everyone can use. One that ensures you challenge the challenge at the outset to make sure you have identified the right business opportunity going in. One that allows you to uncover breakthrough insights for innovation by looking in new and different places. One that delivers Moon Shot thinking and finally one that ensures you identify the right idea for both the business and the consumer and allows you to prototype and go to market quickly. That is what the iD8&Innov Innovation & Creativity toolkit delivers.

“There is an increasing desire for individuals, communities, companies and now governments to both co-collaborate and co-create.”

— Duncan Wardle

How to book Duncan Wardle

Duncan shares his expertise through workshops, speaking and consulting. He tailors his workshops to individual clients depending on requirements. He can take participants through a unique creative problem solving process, building confidence, allowing everyone to take smart risks. In his speaking, Duncan engages all participants in his fascinating insights, utilising case studies from Disney, into where the best ideas come from and how some people develop breakthrough ideas that revolutionise an industry.

Duncan also consults for agencies and companies around the globe, helping develop innovative ideas that are embedded in consumer insight. Whatever challenges you face, Duncan helps provide fresh new insight, to deliver tangible results.

If you would like to book Duncan Wardle for your next event, please call Dagmar O’Toole on +44 1628 601 462 or send an email to dagmar@speakers.co.uk.