Thinking differently (more effectively) is the key to success in everything you do. Those who have mastered one way of thinking, borne of a specific scholarly discipline, craft or profession (like accounting, engineering or medicine) are especially vulnerable to the vicissitudes and ambiguities of incessant change.

As technology advances at a relentless, breakneck pace, many specialist-only jobs will disappear. Artificial intelligence (AI) now surpasses our capability in reading comprehension. Deloitte (2018) says AI will automate 39% of jobs in the legal sector. In a recent experiment, a computer algorithm correctly diagnosed 90% of lung cancers while doctors had a success rate of only 50%.

In classic human reasoning, we tend to think these changes won’t impact us. Newsweek reports that 90% of Americans believe half of today’s jobs will be lost to automation within five years. But more than 90% of the respondents say their jobs won’t be the ones axed.

Clearly, the first to go will be those who collect and analyse data, like tax preparers and auditors. AI is digital and analytical; humans are binary and creative. To survive, if not thrive, accountants need to build their cognitive reserve and augment their thinking skills. AI can easily replace analytical tasks but creative tasks not so much. And that’s the primary purpose of Smart Leaders 2020 – to strengthen your innovation and thinking skills.

Whether discovering hidden possibilities, dealing with uncertainty or risk, conceiving brilliant ideas or solving complicated problems, creative thinking is neither a gift nor a consequence of magical inspiration. It’s simply a learnable skill. But, unfortunately, it’s a skill we weren’t taught in school. (If you were too creative, you were punished.

To lead, you must develop your intelligence as a futurist, risk-taker and innovator. Faced with the overwhelming unpredictability of our times, and increasingly learning that business-as-usual remedies no longer apply, smart leaders know there are answers for these “new paradigm” circumstances. They know yesterday’s solutions aren’t just inadequate, they’re entirely counter-productive.

Each of us has a mental model of how the world works – it determines what we pay attention to and how we decide what must be done. If your model is rigid, if you can only think on one cylinder, you make decisions in the same way with the same results. As they say, if you only have a hammer as a tool, every problem looks like a nail.

In the alternative, if you have a toolbox of approaches for filtering and framing your experiences, you can choose the best tool for the job and become far more effective as a decision maker. To achieve this proficiency, you must cross-train your brain to make it more open, flexible and adaptable. The smartest leaders are those with the biggest toolbox for solving their problems.

Most executives today manage risk with analytic processes that quantify known variables. They believe the future can be forecast through spreadsheets, that the world is an extension of what they already know. In a volatile, ambiguous world, straight-line extrapolations are no longer valid.

The purpose of this one-of-a-kind leadership program is to give you the principles, tools and insights for changing the way you think (and maybe the organization you lead). Extraordinary leaders are just ordinary people who think differently. Without this skill set, you cannot navigate the obstacles that impede progress towards personal happiness and professional success.

Whether you seek to run your business better, build it through revenue growth or transform it entirely, an in-depth understanding of the innovation process (from origin to execution) and the skills required to both nurture and sell new business concepts are critical to your success.

Warning: This program may change your life. It will contradict just about everything you know about acquiring information, reconciling paradoxes, solving problems and making better choices. It will make you aware of the unproductive mental traps, blind spots and biases that prevent you from achieving your full potential.

This program is offered once a year, has a limited enrollment and sells out early – don’t miss your opportunity.


This program is aimed primarily at those in positions of executive responsibility. Its premise is that, no matter what your starting point, you can always get better. And the most significant competitive advantage you will ever possess is the ability to think on all cylinders. Your destiny lies not in what you know, but rather in what you do with what you know. How you think determines who you are and what you can become. And know this – what you will be responsible for tomorrow will be very different from what you are doing today. 


  • It forced me to better understand who I am and where I have weaknesses in my thinking. I feel far more confident in trying new techniques with my staff/company to generate creative solutions that resolve a number of current problems. My new understanding of frames of reference will force me to better understand others’ points of view and better appreciate their input rather than being so judgmental based on my own frame of reference.
  • It provided me with a framework to approach tough problems and the tools to work on same that will enhance my productivity and effectiveness. It also renewed my desire to invest in continuous learning.
  • You provided me with the tools to employ when I hit “the wall.” 
  • I obtained the thinking tools needed to instill a culture of innovation within the organizations I lead. I gained insights into my blind spots, biases and in-the-box thinking – a humbling experience. One recurring theme for me is take the time to focus on what is truly important.
  • It forced me to think about thinking; to think about what I want, where I want to be and how I am going to get there (both professionally and personally); about what I will do when I do get there and even about what I will do if I don’t get there.
  • I feel energized and invigorated and ready to try a few new ideas. I now recognize the importance of pushing one’s self to achieve new heights. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear and benefit from the wisdom you have learned – distilled from your vast experiences.
  • It challenged my belief in myself. You get to think over time that your direction and way of working is “the way forward.” This course makes you reflect on inner confidence, then provides a way to re-direct that confidence in a more constructive and productive manner.
  • The pre-course work was almost as valuable as the course itself  because it forced me to answer some very important questions about my work and family/life issues. You gave me a better understanding and many tools to look at these problems differently.
  • It opened my mind to new ideas and approaches to use with people in my work. I am now more aware of the flaws in my thinking and can better see the issues that hold me back personally and professionally. I now see new opportunities before me where previously I only saw closed doors.
  • The extreme value I derived from this course goes beyond leadership – it will affect how I observe, listen, analyze and react with my peers. I came to learn how to “think differently.” Not only was that objective fully satisfied but it went beyond by showing me how to see different colours and shapes in the box. Highly enjoyable. (The only way to improve this course is to make it longer.)
  • You showed me the value of allowing myself to change my point of view, take the time to explore possibilities, to pause … and ask questions. You reminded me that it is better to allow others to solve problems than to provide them with the answers.
  • It opened my eyes to some preconditioned behaviours I need to address that have affected my decision making and how I view the world. It also confirmed some things I suspected about myself which are positive and that I can build upon.
  • I now better understand how much potential I have just by better using my brain. I especially enjoyed your holistic approach (including health, sleep and nutrition). I now better understand why people think so differently and I have a rich resource to draw from.
  • I was a captive of my analytical approach to solving problems. I rarely sought out the questions that would change that frame. While also humbling, this course has made me a better leader simply because my ability to ask questions and actually listen has forever changed.
  • You’ve given me the tools to solve problems, help others solve their problems, a process for introducing innovation to our centre, ideas about how to solve my personal issues and a list of great reference materials. Great course – I enjoyed every minute of it. 


This program commences on Monday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. sharp and concludes on Thursday at 3:00 p.m. Evening activities include a competitive team assignment and opportunities for networking and attitude adjustment. The team task is to invent a new business concept and take it from conception through acceptance to feasible implementation. Daily sessions run from 8:30 a.m. until almost 6:00 p.m. The format is practical and highly interactive. You are encouraged to bring your personal, professional and organizational problems with you for resolution. Attendees are expected to complete a number of tasks contained in a Pre-Course Workbook prior to their arrival.

The following is an outline of the session topics to be covered in 2017:

  • The Mind and True Genius of a Smart Leader
    How accountants think. What current science tells us about our thinking and where it is taking us. The critical leadership competency and challenge today. What is a “smart leader” – how do we define them, why do we need them? Forces that will shape your future: The law of accelerating returns. Minds needed for the future. The downside of disciplined thinking. Becoming a synthesizer. The creating mind. Linear vs. lateral thinking. The mindset of a Smart Leader.
  • A Framework for Innovation: From Origin to Execution  
    The uncomfortable truths. What is innovation? The keys, the basics and the process. Finding real problems. Why most ideas / proposals fail. Gaining acceptance: The art of the pitch pitch – getting your point across in 60 seconds. Invention and ideation: Two thinking tools to get started (forced relationships and morphology). The competition: creating and selling a new business concept.
  • Thinking Styles: As We Think So Shall We Become
    What is thinking? How we were taught to think (and how we will learn in the future). Different ways of thinking and solving problems. The truths about analytical thinkers. From analysis to delusion. When to use analytical thinking. Head vs. gut: Understanding our internal conflict. How we became so analytical in our thinking orientation. Social conditioning. School problems vs. real-life problems. the path to becoming smarter.
  • Cognitive Tendencies That Lead to Really Bad Decisions
    “Diseases” of the mind: Thinking traps and blind spots. Why we (all) engage in delusional thinking. The mother of all biases. Leadership ascendancy: Where are you? Motivated reasoning. The fallacy of certainty. Faulty memory. Confirmation bias. How to counter: Antidotes to flawed thinking. Minimizing cognitive distortions and breaking bad habits. Attributes of transformational thinkers: who are the truly creative ones? Defining “the box” and overcoming its limitations.
  • Neurology:  Imagination, Intelligence, Intuition and Insight
    Understanding the hardware: How much thinking do we actually do. Brain physiology and Function. Neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. The brain at middle age. Why we rarely think: Cognitive autopilot. Seeing vs. perceiving. The creativity paradox. Intelligence: Analytical, practical, creative, emotional, social and strategic. Multiple intelligences and self-perception. How smart are you (really)?  Developing your intuitive aptitude and insight. The power of creative dreaming.
  • Barriers and Constraints to Enhancing Creativity and Innovation
    Social and organizational conditioning: We are what we repeatedly do. Rethinking your small-cage habits. Dealing with the paralysis of fear. Enhancing risk intelligence. Addressing the notion that “it can’t be done!” The relentless pursuit and value of information. Where research fits in the creative process. The two sides of judgement. Problem definition and the antidote to complexity.
  • Fostering Workplace Innovation: Practical Realities and Critical Necessities
    First principles for managing innovation. The primary objectives. Rooting out dogma. Overcoming “groupthink.” Building the culture. Auditing organizational DNA. Types of innovation. Managing the paradoxes: Efficiency vs. creativity. Making your organization “smarter”: Essential principles, rules and tactics. How to evaluate and sell your ideas internally. Intelligent failure. The easiest, simplest and fastest way to get there.
  • Group and Individual Thinking Tools, Techniques and Methods
    Attention management: Shifting frames of reference. Attribute listing. Forced relationships. Brainstorming: Flaws and fixes. Nominal grouping technique. Synectics. Bio-heuristics. Six thinking hats. Morphology. Mass collaboration and idea sharing groups. Smart listening, reflection and journal writing. Reverse PoV. CoRT thinking tools. Future forecasting. Brain mapping and strategy maps. Optimal time and place. Meditation.
  • Competing for the Future: Winning over Demanding, Savvy Customers
    Discovering, defining, developing and delivering a new business concept, product or service: Where (and how) “the rubber hits the road.” Assessing presentations for inventiveness, marketability, return on investment, impact and clarity. Lessons learned.
  • Unleashing the Creative Genius Within: Personal Liberation and Transformation
    Optimal time and place. Nourishing a healthy brain. Reducing stress. Meditation. The power of sleep and levels of consciousness. How long will you live and will your brain keep up? Mental fitness: Building your cognitive reserve. Investment planning: Personal and professional development. Perfecting your Smart Leader recipe. What is genius? The rules for personal transformation.   

This program will be offered November 26 – 29, 2018, at White Oaks Resort and Conference Centre, Niagara-on-the-Lake under the auspices of the Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario and is also open to the general public.

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