Smart Leaders 2023: Thinking & Innovation Skills

Smart Leaders 2023: 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 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.
  • 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 is being re-engineered into a webinar series to be offered in November, 2021. The curriculum that follows was offered prior to COVID in 2019. The revised program content will appear when finalized. Thank you for your patience.

Introductions, Objectives, Methods, Caveats, Purpose and Personal Needs Assessment
Why we need Smart Leaders. What current science tells us about our thinking and how it influences leadership. What impairs an accountant’s ability to learn. What this program will tell you about yourself.

The Mind and True Genius of a Smart Leader
The critical competency, key challenge and major issues facing leaders today. What is a Smart Leader? What forces that will shape your current and future role (and why)? The law of accelerating returns and artificial intelligence. Five minds for the future: Which is more important? Becoming a synthesizer. The creative mind. Linear vs. lateral thinking. The SL thesis. The mindset of a Smart Leader.

A Framework for Innovation: From Origin to Execution
How tough is it to be an innovator? What exactly is innovation? The uncomfortable truths and the essential problem. The process of innovation. Finding real problems. Why most business ideas / proposals fail. Structuring the proposal and gaining acceptance: The art of the pitch – getting your point across in 60 seconds. The team competition: creating and selling a new business concept.

Thinking Styles: As We Think So Shall We Become
What is thinking? Why does everyone think differently How emotion, memory and birthplace distorts our thinking. The scientific relationship between intelligence and analytical thinking: Fallacy and truths. The differences between analytical, creative and probabilistic thinking. When (and when not) to use analytical thinking. Head vs. gut: Understanding the internal conflict. The tricks our brains play on us (and the consequences). How we became so analytical and why we have such difficulty solving real-life problems.

Cognitive Tendencies That Lead to Really Bad Decisions
Mind traps, cognitive baises and delusional thinking. The difference between behaviours and blind spots. The mother of all biases and how it impacts decision making. Leadership ascendancy: Where are you? Motivated reasoning. The addiction of knowing. How reliable is your memory? The bias that will destroy you as a leader. How to counter your bubble knowledge. Attributes of transformational thinkers: Who are the truly creative ones? Defining “the box.”

Neurology: Imagination, Intelligence, Intuition and Insight
Understanding the hardware. The skinny on our neurons. What the brain is capable of doing. Neurogenesis and neuroplasticity. The brain at middle age. Imagination: The brain’s navigation system. The eight forms of intelligence and how you stack up. Why intelligent and educated people do really dumb things (and why). The relationship between intelligence and creativity. Why most brilliant business decisions are based on intuition. The power of creative dreaming. How to speak to your brain. Finding and liberating your inner genius.

Barriers and Constraints to Enhancing Creativity and Innovation
The primary reasons we fail. Aggregation of marginal gains. Defining your small-cage habits. What switches off creative thinking faster than anything else. The neurology and antidotes for fear. Understanding risk and enhancing risk intelligence. Addressing the biggest impediment to creativity. The relentless but unproductive pursuit of information. Where research fits in the creative process. The two sides of judgement. A simple but effective way of solving any problem – what we were never taught to do.

Fostering Workplace Innovation: The Practical Realities and Critical Necessities
What neds to be addressed first? Rooting out dogma and overcoming groupthink. The power of groups. The innovation premium. Auditing organizational DNA. Types of innovation. Reconciling paradoxes: Efficiency vs. creativity. Making your organization smarter: Essential principles, rules and tactics. How to evaluate and sell your ideas. Intelligent failure. The easiest, simplest and fastest way to get there.

Group and Individual Thinking Tools, Techniques and Methods
Attention management and reframing existing paradigms. Brainstorming: Flaws, fixes and alternatives. Nominal grouping technique. Forced relationships. Synectics. Morphology. Six thinking hats. Sharing and mass collaboration. Smart listening, reflection and writing. Bio-heuristics: Changing the frame. Doodling. Reverse PoV. CoRT thinking tools. Future forecasting. Visual thinking: Brain mapping and strategy maps.

Competing for the Future: Winning over Demanding, Savvy Customers
Discovering, defining, developing and delivering a new business concept, product or service. The pitch – where (and how) “the rubber hits the road.” Assessing presentations for inventiveness, marketability, return on investment, impact, clarity and connection. Lessons learned: Feedback on dos and don’ts.

Unleashing Genius: Personal Liberation and Transformation
Does creativity have an age limit? How places and spaces affect how you think. Nourishing brain health and reducing the risk of cognitive impairment as you age: What to know and what to ignore. Increasing memory and reducing stress. The power of sleep and levels of consciousness. How long will you live and will you have sufficient cognitive reserve? Investment planning: Perfecting your own Smart Leader recipe. What constitutes genius: What smart leaders know that others don’t.

New Book: The Game of Life available on Amazon