Duncan Wardle Cari Courtright

Fee Band

A thirty year veteran of Disney, Duncan worked in global PR and marketing roles before heading their Innovation & Creativity division. Working with all branches of the business from Pixar to theme parks, he and his team developed a strategic toolkit to encourage innovation, dispel the myths that hold it back, embed it into everyday practices, and make a difficult, abstract concept, real and relevant.


Duncan Wardle worked for The Walt Disney Company for thirty years at sites including London, Paris, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Mumbai, and Shanghai. He worked as part of the team that started EuroDisney and the Disney cruises, served as Vice President of both Global PR and of International Marketing & Sales, before being appointed VP of Innovation & Creativity.

With a remit to work across all areas of the vast Disney business, Duncan surveyed all parts of the company including Imagineering, Lucasfilm, Pixar, ESPN and the Disney Parks, asking them about innovation. He led a team of ‘creative ideation consultants’ and ‘cultural change agents’ to bring about a change in how the whole company thought and worked. They looked at problem solving and consumer behaviour; they helped teams make unexpected connections, think differently, and turn that into revolutionary ideas.

One result of Duncan’s work was distilled into five barriers to innovation, and a toolkit to use to overcome them. The obstacles amounted to a lack of time, uncertainty over what innovation means, risk aversion, unused consumer insight, and hierarchies and bureaucracy that kill ideas before they have a chance. He and his team tackled these head-on, dispelled notions that innovation was done by others, and highlighted the value of innovation to both people and profit.

Duncan delivers straightforward, practical advice on how to be innovative in any organisation big or small. With examples like how a simple RFID chip in a wristband dramatically improved attendee numbers and satisfaction (and revenue) at Disney Parks, and the value of asking your own ‘naïve experts’ who challenge conventional wisdom, he makes abstract ideas real and accessible. Duncan also talks about the theory of creativity and C=ME2 (creativity = me empowered), and why he believes believe everyone has the power to be creative.

When delivering his presentations virtually, Duncan makes extensive use of polling and voting functions to ask why new ideas are so often stopped in their tracks, and he invites attendees to join him on screen to illustrate how creative thinking responds to positive and negative answers.

By understanding that innovation is no longer about iteration – the small, regular improvements to a product, service or process that used to define progress - Duncan reveals the key to helping organisations grow, engage people, and be ready for the future. He considers how innovation is not about spending money or time in research and development, nor is it exclusively the job C-level strategic thinkers or ‘creative’ departments.


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