Smart Leaders 2024: Thinking & Innovation Skills

Smart Leaders 2024: Thinking & Innovation Skills

Organizations live or die on their leaders’ ability to solve problems. This advanced learning experience has been offered to hundreds of senior executives across the country for almost two decades. It is re-engineered each year to keep up with the incessantly changing, unpredictable challenges they must confront. The testimonials from prior attendees are all you need to read to understand the benefits of “going back to school” to contend with the demands of an ambiguous, volatile, complex business environment.

Thinking differently (or more effectively) is the key to success in everything you will ever do. Your brainpower isn’t the issue; we are born with intelligence. But having it and knowing how to use it are two entirely different things. And those who’ve mastered only one way of thinking, as the result of a specific discipline or profession, are especially vulnerable to the radically different issues and challenges we face today.

To lead in an uncertain, disruptive, and error-prone business world, you must develop and rely on your capabilities as a decision maker, risk-taker and innovator. You must be plugged into the future and know how to reframe old-paradigm strategies into new-world solutions. The answers to yesterday’s problems are no longer inadequate, they’re counter-productive. Creative thinking – a skill you were never taught – is neither a gift nor a consequence of magical inspiration. It’s an essential mind-set every leader must acquire.

Our internalized models of how we believe the world works determine not only what we see but what decisions we make. Our beliefs and biases can be an intellectual “disease” that weakens our ability to think critically and creatively. If your mental model is inflexible, if you can only think on one cylinder, then you make important choices in the same way with the same results. In the alternative, if you have a toolbox of different approaches for filtering and framing your problems, you can choose better tools for leading others. Smart leaders have the biggest toolbox and the best tools for solving problems.

The purpose of this proven, one-of-a-kind program, which has evolved over the course of five decades of research and dedicated practice, is to give you the techniques and insights for changing the way you think (and the organization you lead). Extraordinary leaders are just ordinary people who know how to think differently. (Warning: This program has changed lives. It is offered once a year, has a limited enrollment and sells out early.)


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 as a leader is the ability to think on all cylinders, deal with uncertainty and risk, and solve real problems. 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 will become. And know this – what you will be responsible for tomorrow as a leader 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.
  • Great course – I enjoyed every minute of it. 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.


This program has been re-engineered and rebuilt into a webinar series to be offered in November, 2021. It will be offered over the course of three weeks (with a “semester” break in between) and consists of six three-hour webinars. Registration is open to anyone regardless of location. Participants will receive two pre-course workbooks prior to each “semester” and a 100 page manual of supplemental notes. The curriculum for this redesigned online learning experience is as follows:

The Mind and Genius of a Smart Leader
❏  The premise, objectives, caveats & roles
❏  What will determine how you actually lead
❏  VUCA: Old vs. new & future world realities
❏  Linear growth vs. exponential disruption
❏  Managing big data, connectivity & AI
❏  Five minds for the future: Which ones count
❏  Integrative thinking: The Smart Leader thesis

Thinking Styles: As We Think So We Become
❏  Perception: How the brain makes up your reality
❏  Hard truths about creative & analytical thinking
❏  Head vs. gut: Understanding our internal conflict
❏  How we became so analytical & why it now matters
❏  A simple, effective & better way to solve any problem
❏  Cognitive tendencies that lead to really bad decisions
❏  Tricks our brains play on us: Consequences & antidotes

Overcoming the Barriers and Constraints to Creativity
❏  Getting beyond The Box: Self-imposed limitations
❏  The biggest impediment to creative thinking
❏  Can you overwrite counterproductive habits
❏  The neurobiology of fear: How to overcome it
❏  Neurology 101: Understanding the hardware
❏  Imagination & intelligence: Does IQ matter?
❏  Why educated people do really dumb things
❏  The origins of every brilliant business decision
❏  How to speak to your brain & make it listen

Fostering Workforce Resilience and Innovation
❏  Why we’re so bad at it: Consequences & solutions
❏  Building the culture: Dogma, groupthink & you
❏  Auditing DNA, the options & the paradoxes
❏  The innovation framework: Origin to execution
❏  How to design, evaluate & develop the proposal
❏  The art & magic of the pitch: How to sell “any” idea
❏  Leave behinds: The secret sauce of proposal writing

Group and Individual Thinking Tools and Techniques
❏  Why we need tools: the essence of creative thinking
❏  Finding new ideas: Reframing existing paradigms
❏  The power of groups vs. going it alone: When & how
❏  Eight alternative group problem-solving techniques
❏  Seven individual ideation methods for real problems
❏  The pathway for analyticals to become more creative

Protecting and Liberating the Power of Your Genius
❏  Brain health: Five ways to prevent cognitive decline
❏  Aging & dementia: Will you have enough in the tank?
❏  Brain fitness: Use it or lose it & why there’s no choice
❏  How to invest in your continued growth & marketability
❏  A map for your future: Destinations worth considering
❏  Defining your inner genius: What smart leaders know