Duncan Wardle

We've had the pleasure of having Duncan speak at three different events in 2017. Each time, he was the audience favorite, hands down. His presentations are work sessions designed to be fun, interactive, and fast-paced. Duncan is true wealth of creative knowledge and inspiration, and he helped our members stretch their out-of-the-box thinking.

– Path to Purchase Institute

About Keynote Speaker Duncan Wardle

Having worked for The Walt Disney Company for some 25 years, Duncan Wardle now serves as an independent innovation and design thinking consultant, helping companies embed a culture of innovation and creativity across their entire organization. Leveraging a unique Design Thinking process, Duncan’s clients include Coca Cola, Disney, Forbes, Ford, Johnson & Johnson, McKinsey and the NBA.

Most recently Duncan was Vice President of Innovation & Creativity for The Walt Disney Company. The Creativity Team works across Disney’s Theme Parks, Pixar, Marvel, Lucas Films, ESPN, Animation and Imagineering, as “creative ideation consultants” and “cultural change agents;” using a creative problem solving process that captures unlikely connections, leading to both fresh thinking and revolutionary ideas.

Prior to heading up Creative Inc., Duncan held the posts of Vice President, Global PR and Vice President International Marketing & Sales for Disney. Over the last three decades, Duncan has served in an executive role for The Walt Disney Company in London, Paris, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Mumbai and most recently Shanghai.

In 2008, he was honored with the “Outstanding American Citizen Award” at the White House, and in 2014 he was awarded an Hons. Doctorate from Edinburgh University. He also holds the Duke of Edinburgh Award, presented by Her Majesty the Queen.

Speech Topics

Customer Experience – The Disney Way

To deliver world class customer experiences, #Think Different!

Rather than to share a paragraph on what Duncan talks about, outlined below are a few stories that demonstrate how by simply Thinking Different and leveraging Creative Thinking, the Walt Disney Company continues to set the bar for Customer Experience.  From the platform Duncan shares these, and other stories, customized for your audience:

What’s a Disneyland?

In 1940 Walt Disney premiered Fantasia in movie theaters across the globe. While it was critically acclaimed it never sat that well with the movie going audience. Such was Walt’s creative vision that we wanted it to mist inside the theater during “Drip, drip, drip, little April Showers.” He wanted heat pumped in during “Night on a bare mountain.” But the theater owners said no. It was simply too expensive for such an endeavor. Frustrated, Walt used a Creative Thinking tool called What If to solve the challenge. He simply listed all the rules of showing a movie in a theater house. Its Dark. Its Dirty. He couldn’t control the environment. He took that one piece of stimulus, “Can’t control the environment” and asked “What If he could? Which was clearly not an option in the 40’s as he didn’t own any theaters. So he asked “Imagine If I could? Which led to asking What If I took my movies out of the theater? Well then they would have to be 3 dimensional. Well, if they were 3 dimensional they would need to be housed somewhere. The characters and the sets would need to be separated from each other so the customer would be immersed in each story. So, What If we created different lands? Adventure Land, Fantasyland etc.? – He decided to call it Disneyland and an entire new industry called theme parks was born.

Re-Expressing Customer Experience

Not content with creating Disneyland and a new industry called theme parks, Walt set about raising the bar on the Customer Experience from day one by using a tool called “How Else?” a creative problem-solving tool that allows you to Think Different by re-expressing your challenge to deliver different ideas. Walt asked How Else might we express the traditional corporate name for employees? He decided to call everyone a Cast Member, not an employee. They would be Cast for a role in the show. They would wear a costume not a uniform. They would work on-stage or back stage. Simply by re-expressing the challenge of his employees Walt created a culture that is still considered a leader in world class customer experience today. He also gave the world “Guests” not customers, which immediately set the bar on how a customer should feel when interacting with the Disney Parks brand.

Disrupting a Product Centric Culture and Creating a Consumer Centric One

Up until 2007 the biggest barriers to Disney Parks visitation where usually the cost and the age of my kids. Out of nowhere a new barrier emerged as a brand called Amazon taught us that we could have what we want now and we all became much more impatient. Thus a new barrier emerged. Guests simply didn’t want to stand in line anymore! So, instead of piloting a project around How Might we make more money, we created one around How Might We solve for the biggest consumer pain point, standing in lines! We asked What If there were no lines?! For front desk, to enter the park, to meet your favorite character or go on your favorite ride. No lines to pay for merchandise or fast food? We simply borrowed from the emerging RFID technology to develop Disney’s MagicBand. The band is your room key, theme park ticket, reservation to your favorite attractions and Disney character meet & greets. You can pay for an item of merchandise by simply touching it and have it sent automatically to your room. Fast food, already reserved on your smart phone now comes directly to your table on entering the restaurant. Had we started the project by asking How Might We make more money we would have iterated, not innovated. As a result, the average guest now has 90 mins to 2 hours free time a day and what do consumers do with free time? It has been the biggest single revenue driver of any investment Disney Parks has created in the past decade. It has also resulted in record guest satisfaction and in terms of big data, every decision a guest makes today, informs all future planning decisions on what products and services will be created.

High Tech vs. High Touch

With the advent of Disney’s MagicBand, we quickly discovered we would not need all of our front desk cast anymore as our guests could now check into their rooms directly. That said, we are still in the hospitality industry so we decided to try a pilot. Instead of laying off our Front Desk cast, we simply brought them out from behind the counter and creatively designed new roles. Instead of checking our guests in and out of their rooms, our front desk cast members now became personal concierges. So now everyone had a concierge who can help them with reservations, meet and greets etc., not just the guests in suites. The level of guest intent to recommend and return went through the roof. So, while many brands enter the high-tech arms race we have learned that high tech also enables high touch and can significantly increase guest satisfaction.


Do you ever wonder why most of your best ideas come to you in the shower? Have you ever pitched a new idea to watch it diluted or killed as it moves through the processes? Ever wanted to know how Walt Disney came up with the idea for a Disneyland or how Netflix completely revolutionized the movie rental industry? Or perhaps found yourself amazed at how some companies develop killer insights that enabled them to break into major new categories. Building on some 25 years experience with The Walt Disney Company, most recently as Vice President of Innovation and Creativity, Duncan Wardle creates an engaging presentation that will not only answer these questions but leave you with the tools to take on your challenges in new and different ways that deliver tangible results. The Keynote includes the following Creative Behaviors & Innovation Tools (the Being & Doing of innovation).

Creative Behaviors

Nurturing – this behavior is all about growing an idea together so it evolves to become “our idea” vs. “my idea,” which is key to prevent the idea getting diluted, stuck or killed as it moves to execution.

Playfulness – here the audience will learn to focus on how to get into the right Brain State required for Innovation & Creativity at work.

Signaling – this behavior will help set the participants up for success in creating the right environment for ideation, whether it’s an Expansionist or Reductive thinking session.

Mindfulness – this behavior shows people how to move between their conscious and unconscious brain to develop “Moon Shot” Thinking.

Curiosity – is all about helping people understand the importance of unplanned collaboration and how best to get new stimulus into their lives to develop new ideas.

Innovation Tools

What If? – by asking what if the Rules didn’t apply, learn how you can get out of your River of Expertise and think differently by challenging sacred cows.

Where Else? – looking around the world of innovation to see where else your challenge has already been solved and borrowing back the underlying principles to help solve your challenge.

How Else? – by simply re-expressing your challenge through the use of different words you can come up with completely new ideas.

The StoryBoard – how to land a complete idea that engages both introverts and extroverts.
Naive Experts – leverages the brain power of the most unlikely sources to get you out of your River of Expertise to come up with new and unique ideas.

Imagination Emporium™ A Design Thinking, Innovation Toolkit Workshop (FORMAT: 1-DAY WORKSHOP)

The Imagination Emporium was created to address the 5 biggest barriers identified as obstacles to being more innovative and creative at work. The Design Thinking, Innovation Tool Kit allows all of us to step out of our “River of Thinking” (our expertise) and provide fresh thinking and new approaches to problem solving, by providing us with a set of tangible Creative Behaviors and Innovation Tools that everyone can use on challenges big and small. The workshop is designed to allow each of the participants the opportunity to actually use both the Creative Behaviors and Innovation Tools in a series of exercises that will really deepen the learning experience and their ability to convert those learnings back to challenges they are currently working on.

“Think Different” – Do you ever wonder why most of your best ideas come to you in the shower? Have you ever pitched a new idea to watch it diluted or killed as it moves through the processes? Ever wanted to know how Walt Disney came up with the idea for a Disneyland or how Netflix completely revolutionized the movie rental industry? Or perhaps found yourself amazed at how some companies develop killer insights that enabled them to break into major new categories. Building on some 25 years experience with The Walt Disney Company, most recently as Vice President of Innovation and Creativity, Duncan Wardle creates an engaging workshop that will not only answer these questions but leave you with the tools to take on your challenges in new and different ways that deliver tangible results.

The workshop includes Creative Behaviors and Innovation Tools (the Being & Doing of innovation) providing the following deliverables:

  • The workshop integrates all three key learning styles; visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
  • The participants will work on a fake challenge, empowering them to try each tool and behavior
  • The workshop is broken down into small teams to engage both extrovert and introverted thinkers.
  • Everyone will learn how to lead a variety of Energizers to move the team into a Creative Brain state for ideation
  • The team will have a common language around Innovation & Creativity moving forward.
  • Each participant will leave the workshop with a workbook and card set highlighting each of the Tools and Behaviors.

Imagination Emporium™ A Design Thinking, Innovation Toolkit Workshop (Format: 2-Day Workshop)

The Imagination Emporium™ is a Design Thinking, Innovation Toolkit that everyone can use. Duncan calls it the Imagination Emporium™ because there is no limit to which your imagination cannot achieve. As Albert Einstein once said “Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

There are 4 elements to the Toolkit.

  • The Imagination Emporium™ – a simple, common sense framework for delivering innovation
  • The Creative Behaviors – ways of behaving that help us think more creatively
  • The Innovation Tools – an ever-expanding set of tools to help us think differently
  • The Energizers – that move us from a stressed brain to a creative one

You can use the Behaviors, the Tools and Energizers on challenges big and small. They can be used on any business that is in need of innovation and it can be used in its entirety or just one or two components at a time, depending on what you are solving for.

The Imagination Emporium™ is built on 25 years of having ideas for Disney, and has been thoughtfully created to take the mystique out of Design Thinking and Innovation and make them accessible to everyone. It delivers business results in a whole new way by trying something different, developing both strategic and creative ideas that area deeply embedded in consumer needs. As Walt Disney once said “It’s kinda fun to do the impossible.”

There are 8 unique Creative Behaviors that help you to uncover human truths, develop big ideas and get them to market. Having a structure and tools in place is important. It gives us a framework to work within to get things done. But tools and structure alone will not help us innovate and think creatively. It’s all about both the BEING and the DOING of Creativity and how best to combine them. The framework of the Imagination Emporium™ Innovation Toolkit provides attendees the process and the tools to be more innovative. But the tools and framework alone will not produce innovation. It is the people who use the tools inside the store that determine how creative the thinking is and how well an individual session or a project runs. Think of the tools and framework as the DOING of innovation. But it is the Creative Behaviors that determine how we interact with the tools, the framework and one another. This is called the BEING of innovation. It is the human element. This is where the real magic happens! This workshop presents in detail the Creative Behaviors needed to drive innovation – Nurturing, Playfulness, Signalling, Intuition, Mindfulness, Curiosity, Prototyping and Bravery. Duncan will be providing what he calls “Innovating Inside the Imagination Emporium.” Attendees will delve into 4 stages of an innovation project:

  • Initiate – Clearly defining an opportunity and aligning and inspiring a team around it
  • Investigate – Discovering the consumer motivation that meets our business goal
  • Ideate – Challenging ourselves to think big and develop breakthrough ideas
  • Activate – An efficient and effective execution of the plan

This 2-day workshop provides the following deliverables:

  • Each participant will learn how to use all of the Creative Behaviors
  • Everyone will learn how to moderate and facilitate an ideation session
  • The workshop is designed to engage both introverts & extroverts, and all three learning styles
  • The team will learn how to gather consumer insights for innovation
  • We will cover the 5 Lateral Thinking Tools that help get people out of their “River of Thinking”
  • Everyone will have a common language around Innovation & Creativity
  • Each participant will get a workbook and card set with each of the Innovation Tools & Behaviors

Speakers Videos

An Introduction To Duncan Wardle

The Theory of Creativity

Books & Media

There are currently no books for this speaker.

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