Andy Stefonovich

Main Event: “Mind Games”


Fast Company’s fifth RealTime event began under a canopy of Florida sunshine Sunday evening at the Disney Institute in Orlando. The motivator of the moment, Andy Stefonovich took the stage with characteristic playfulness and energy, challenging the crowd of roughly 600 participants to follow this simple yet essential mantra: “Look at more stuff, and think about it harder.” Through the story of his young nephew, Ben, and his Tonka truck reflections, Stefonovich shared the vision and vitality of Play — the creativity company he co-founded in Richmond, Virginia ten years ago.


To begin the session, Stefonovich introduced two new terms to the Fast Company vocabulary: “brilliance” and “tight.” When a member of the RealTime crowd overheard a great idea — on stage, in a breakout session, or over a bottle of beer — they were to scream “Brilliance!” in order to share the thought with others. When an attendee connected personally with a stream of thought or brainstorming idea, they were to shout “That’s tight!” A good idea, Stefonovich insisted, only becomes great when it is shared.

Creativity. Organization. Risk. Energy. Passion. Those additional vocabulary words characterized the remainder of Stefonovich’s talk. The foundations of business at Play, those key words form a backbone of innovation and implementation at Stefonovich’s vigorous organization. After introducing Play anecdotes and memorable quotes to the RealTime audience, Stefonovich challenged the crowd to experiment with those principles at the “Sit Down, Smackdown” — a team-building experiment designed and implemented by Play and FC:Live.

Divided into 60 groups, RealTime participants sprinted around the Disney campus trying to connect and begin work on their Smackdown assignment: to collectively design, build, and market a product that could support the human body. Groups were allocated various supplies ranging from duct tape to markers, and given 60 minutes to collaborate and construct. Standing on the sidelines were venture capitalists, merchants, and staff police trying to keep renegade RealTimes from pillaging competitors or passing caterers. Following is a snippet from the Smackdown directions:

Take your ideas and smack them down to the person next to you and see what you can create. We hope you engage in and use this activity to your own advantage. Share ideas, frustrations, solutions, and inspirations. Remember, it’s all about how you play the game.

Here are our rules — play hard and play fast:
1. A great question beats a right answer.
2. Say something outrageous.
3. Nothing beats a good story. The more grounded and personal your comments, the better.
4. Laugh out loud at least once.

This is your starting point. Where you take it from here is up to you.

When the hour was up, the first ten groups to market were encouraged to pitch and present their product to a team of judges, which continued to review and analyze the results throughout RealTime. In the end, it was not the best chair, hammock, or towering pyramid of picnic tables (participants did get creative with their supplies, which also included pool supplies lifted from the nearest watering hole and silverware intended for dinner) that won the contest, but the group that demonstrated the best mix of teamwork, communication, creativity, and well-rounded business thought.

All in all, a rousing start to RealTime Orlando and the theme of “Imagination and Implementation.”

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