The Why Behind the Why: 4 Ways to Think Differently

25-year veteran of Disney tells c-store retailers how to promote creativity, innovation
Photograph by CSP Staff

NEW ORLEANS — What are some barriers to being creative and innovative at work?

Fear of failure, risk aversion and time are some of the top answers people give to that question, according to Duncan Wardle, former head of innovation and creativity for Disney.

Wardle, a 25-year veteran of Disney, spoke Tuesday morning to hundreds of convenience-store retailers at Winsight Media’s Convenience Retailing University event in New Orleans. He followed a presentation by Donna Hood Crecca, principal with CSP sister company Technomic, Chicago, who offered a blueprint to help drive successful c-store operations.

Skills such as creativity, imagination, curiosity and intuition can’t be replaced by artificial intelligence, Wardle said. So companies that want to succeed in any industry—including the c-store industry—need to think about how they can foster those skills.

Here are four tips Wardle gave that can help c-store retailers promote innovation and creativity on their team.

Ask “Why?”

Who are some of the most creative people? Children. And what to they always do? They ask, “Why?” Wardle said.

Your data stops at the first or second “why,” Wardle said.

He gave the example of asking someone why they go to Disney World. A person may say it's for the rides. But if you keep pushing by asking again why they go to Disney World and why they like the rides, you may find a different answer. Someone may actually go for the nostalgia of the amusement park, Wardle said. 

It’s not until the fourth or fifth “why” that the real reason becomes apparent, he said.

“If we stop at the first ‘why,’ we don’t get to what’s really important,” he said.

Reverse the Question

Another way to drive innovation is to reverse the question you’re trying to answer.

Wardle asked retailers to answer the question: What ingredients do you need to make a car wash? Then he reframed it: What do you need to make an auto spa?

Answers changed from the typical air freshener, water and soap amenities in a car wash to include a bar, a barista and a masseuse for the auto spa.

Change 'No Because' to 'Yes And'

Many managers at CRU raised their hands when asked if they had ever had a new idea shot down at work. To encourage their employees to come to them with new ideas, Wardle said managers need to start changing their “no because” responses to “yes and.”

While managers can’t say “yes” to every new idea, saying the phrase “yes and” during innovation brainstorming sessions can help lead to bigger and better ideas, whereas saying “no because” too often may prevent employees from coming to you again to propose new ideas, Wardle said.

Give Yourself a Day to Think

One of the main reasons why employees said they can’t innovate or be creative is because they don’t have time to think, Wardle said. Meetings, weekly reports and urgent daily tasks can get in the way of time for brainstorming new ideas.

Wardle’s solution: Once a month, give yourself a day to think by not scheduling any presentations or meetings and not getting caught up on email.

Next year’s Convenience Retailing University will be held Feb. 23-24, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. Click here for more information.

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