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How to Be More Creative and Innovative

Ex Disney Executive Duncan Wardle Reveals Easy to Follow Creative Strategies

Listening to Duncan Wardle and his Disney stories will reveal some easy to follow techniques that can make you more creative. The sort of creative that Blockbuster could and should have been when faced with their category killer, Netflix. Duncan reveals the approach Netflix took to unpicking Blockbuster’s dominance.Can you be more creative? Of course you can be creative. We all can. It helps though if you have the guidance of a creativity expert.

Duncan Wardle, The Next 100 Days Podcast, How to Be More Creative, Creative, Innovative, Disney, Disneyland

Duncan Wardle spoke to us from Indianapolis, Indiana. He was in a hotel lobby, but you’d hardly know.

Duncan’s Background

At Edinburgh University, he noticed a picture of Mickey Mouse on the notice board. A chance to be one of 5 students at the UK Pavilion at the Epcot Centre. In 1986, he had an interview with Becky, a 6′ 7″ female Texan. He got the gig. He joined lots of other young people and soon discovered that the Mexicans seemed to be having better parties!

He married a Mexican. On June 25th, they will have been married 30 years! No doubt they’ll toast the event with Tequila!

After a year, he returned to London and phone the Disney London office. At the time they had just 16 people. Now there is nearer 2,000 people there. He phoned the office EVERY DAY for 27 DAYS. Until they got fed up of him calling. He got a half hour interview and was given a job as Cappuccino Boy. He’d get coffee for his boss and collate 50 press kits per day. He had his Disney start!

Creative Things Duncan Did in His Early Career

The job of that Disney office was to get Europe acclimatised to EuroDisney.

With a small budget and a lot of guts, they made a name for themselves.

Like flying into the Soviet Union. In a giant Mickey Mouse hot air balloon. There was a deal to tether the balloon in Red Square. It broke loose in the wind and it takes it over the walls of the Kremlin. They landed in the Kremlin. Surrounded by guards with Kalashnikovs. All they wanted though was a picture next to Mickey Mouse!

He persuaded Lord King to add big ears to one of his Concorde aircraft.

That’s creative!

Like a Kid in a Candy Store (Sweet Shop)

Duncan got a promotion to Director of PR to Disney in the States because he’d got in front of then President Bill Clinton. He’d also got an audience with John Major too. Disney was impressed, they’d not been able to do that themselves.

The President pardons a turkey at Thanksgiving. The turkey becomes the happiest turkey in the country. Duncan cut a deal with the White House to take the happiest turkey to the happiest place in America – Disneyland!

He built an Olympic sized swimming pool for Michael Phelps to swim down Main Street!

Michael Phelps, Disneyland, Duncan Wardle, PR, Creative, The Next 100 Days Podcast

Duncan got Buzz Lightyear into space!

The Toy Story went, that Duncan persuaded NASA to bring Buzz (his son James’s Buzz) back to Earth.

Here’s Duncan telling the story of Buzz Lightyear. You have to see that this is creative. If not. Stop reading!

Duncan Wardle, The Next 100 Days Podcast, Buzz Lightyear, Creative

He threatened NASA he’d tell the world’s press if they followed through on kicking him into space rather than brining him home.


Duncan surveyed 5,000 people in the Disney Organisation. He found 5 reasons why people weren’t as creative as they could be.

Time – the lack of time. I don’t have time to think.

There was no single definition of innovation and creativity. To prevent arguments about being creative.

Turning a “we build it and you will come” culture to customer centric. Walt Disneyworld is the largest single site employer in the United States. 100,000 employees!

Consultants who came to Disney, did a project and left again, didn’t leave their how to be creative insight. They took their money and left. The organisation wasn’t learning. So Duncan realised he needed Disney’s own design thinking methodology. Something that didn’t mean you had to be a university graduate to use, everyday. To help attack business challenges whether they are big or small.

His design thinking toolkit was all about with coming up with new products and services that the consumer wants. His last 8 years at Disney were dedicated to this as their Director for Innovation.

He noted barriers like these:

Time to Think

Duncan asked Kevin and Graham to close their eyes and think about an answer and shout it out. YOU do the same.

“Where are you usually and what are you doing when you get your best ideas?”

Kevin: Walking the dog.

Graham: At desk late in afternoon when his mind is tiring.

You don’t normally hear “At Work”.

At Work, You are Stressed and That’s like Being in an Argument

When you’ve had an argument – you are hacked off – 5 minutes later you think of that killer one liner that would have WON you the argument. You wished you had said. It’s because when you are at work, you are stressed. Emails, scheduling meetings, going to meetings etc – you hear yourself say I DON’T HAVE TIME TO THINK.

When you don’t have time to think, you cannot come up with that one liner you wished you’d said in an argument or you cannot come up with that BIG IDEA.

Time is a real blessing.

There is No Agreed Definition of Creativity or Innovation

They created one:

“The habit of continually doing things in different ways to make a positive difference to our working lives.”

It’s about making it a habit.

We stop seeing the potential in things – like a child who plays with a cardboard box – because he sees the potential for it as a castle, oven, rocket ship, car etc. When children enter education, this creative thinking evaporates because they recognise the box as a box, not a plaything.

Children ask why up until when school teaches you there is only ONE right answer.

Then we get told we are NOT creative in whatever role they are in.

We mention Jacob Rees Mogg, a leading Conservative party politician, and possible future Prime Minister. Here he is talking about being not very good at being young!.


It’s about making things a habit.

Duncan had Kevin and Graham fold their arms. Then he asked us to fold them the OTHER way. You can in fact earn new habits.


When Duncan runs ideation sessions, he brings a naive expert to the session. Duncan names an object, draw it, you get 7 seconds. Right, it’s a house….

No surprises – we’d used our “river of thinking” – our experience. Allows you to make fast decisions. Creative thoughts come from getting you out of that river of thinking. They ask the daft lad question.

Mildred from the call centre joined him at a session. She was 73, worked part-time. She loves the company. What didn’t you like? They make me get people off the phone. Every 20 calls she books one family. If she didn’t have to get people off the phone she could book 3 or 4 in 20. The campaign went from $24m to over $180m in incremental revenue.

The Use of Words

Words are important. July 17th 1955 Walt Disney gave birth to Disneyland. He called employees CAST MEMBERS. Costumes not uniforms. Disney treat you well.

Director of First Impressions – re-express the role of your SECRETARY.

Can you go from your river of thinking to a creative solution. Car wash example.


What if the rules didn’t exist?

  1. Write down the rules of your challenge.
  2. Take one of those rules and say what if it didn’t exist. (What if there was no store – for Blockbuster).
  3. IMAGINE IF, image a world if you could make that new solution work.

It’s how Walt Disney created Disneyland.

The more provocative the question you ask. The better.

Intuition – there are more neurones in your stomach than your brain. Gut instinct.

Spend a day with your customer and their homes.


Think creatively. Artificial intelligence will take out lots of jobs, so how will humans compete with robots and computers vastly more gifted? By being creative.

The Next 100 Days

TAKE A DIFFERENT WAY HOME. Your brain gets bored. Commuting – one day a month. Have breakfast with your staff every month – no work talk. Bring people together who wouldn’t normal meet. Diversity is not PC but innovation. Bring in Mildred. Be curious. Get out into the world.


The Next 100 Days Podcast is brought to you by Graham Arrowsmith and Kevin Appleby