How to train your brain (and staff) to think differently

September 14, 2017


Culture, Thought Leadership


Leadership Photos 0000 Wendi Koziol

Wendi Koziol

Senior Vice President, Managing Director

We all want to be creative in our jobs, to come up with the big idea that leads to success. But we often convince ourselves we don’t have time to be creative because we’re too busy getting our work done.

Creativity doesn’t have to be time consuming, but it does require many of us to make some changes in our routines and thinking. Duncan Wardle, former Vice President, Innovation & Creativity, Walt Disney Co., spoke about creativity recently at the Public Relations Society of America Health Academy Conference. He shared these ideas for bringing creativity into the workplace and our everyday lives.


Counterintuitively, the number one barrier to innovation is our own expertise; if we’re good at doing something a certain way, we never try to do it differently. Wardle says to blossom and grow, creativity needs a nurturing environment and individuals who are empowered to take risks, break a few rules and have some fun and laughter along the way. A “this is how we’ve always done it” way of thinking is an innovation killer.

Who are the most creative people you know? Most people say kids. And what are kids good at? They’re good at having fun, and being playful and silly. They naturally think outside the box. Adults follow rules. We need to be part adult and part child at work. The child comes up with the wild idea. The adult thinks it through and successfully implements it.


We’ve all been there; a great idea comes up in a brainstorm and it dies on the vine, either because someone shoots it down, or it gets greenlighted and then tangled up in red tape. Instead of saying yes or no to an idea, Wardle suggests “greenhousing” it – taking the time to nurture it. Maybe an idea is creative and exciting, but isn’t practical. Or it’s too expensive. Can it be revised a bit, or give birth to a different but more workable idea? Maybe it’s not exciting enough. How can it be brightened up? Employ a “yes, and…” attitude to encourage people to keep thinking, building and cultivating ideas until they’re exciting and workable.


How many times have you sat through a presentation wanting to be somewhere – anywhere – else? The slides are boring or hard to read. The speaker drones on and on. Wardle suggests shaking up the typical presentation to make meetings active instead of passive. Try ditching the PowerPoint. Draw pictures on a flip board. Make meetings interactive by walking around the room and engaging with your colleagues or clients. Have them help build the conversation along the way. Signal to the audience what you expect from them and your meetings will produce results instead of boredom.

Creativity is all about doing things differently. It’s about being curious, being brave, and allowing yourself and your colleagues to say, “Let’s try something different.”


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