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Brenda Williams

Session I and III: “Are You Building Your Next Great Idea?”

Brenda Williams‘ working life has been a series of one great idea after another. Though she has not followed a natural career progression, the founding partner of Leo Burnett’s Lab in Chicago has amassed an expansive range of skills and a fool-proof method for generating great ideas. “Creativity is all about making connections between seemingly dissimilar things,” Williams said during a break-out session in Florida.

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How can we create environments where ideas flow? How can we blend disparate ingredients within an organization or a group? These are the questions that pervaded Williams’ RealTime sessions and pointed to the Collision Theory that she has honed over years of career experimentation “You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a shining star,” she said. “Are we out of your minds?”

After dissecting the process for idea generation and energy flow, Williams spoke with Fast Company about human nature, energy, and community:

What message do you hope to convey to the RealTime audience?

Strategy is human. No matter how good your idea, if you don’t take into consideration the human element — that people need to think as well as feel — the idea will never come to fruition.

Where do great ideas come from?

The energy that is used to create great ideas also has to manifest itself in the implementation of great ideas. A lot of times people forget that. Ideas come from everywhere and I don’t think you can overestimate the value that comes from experiences with music and art that can be applied to the business world. You need to keep your eyes open and learn to connect seemingly unrelated things in order to create that new thought.

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The primarily role of companies to help ideas develop within organizations is to create and foster an environment that nurtures good thinking and does not kill it. That means giving people the space to take risks, the space to act silly like kids in order to unlock their imaginations, and to find ways to reward and incentivize people to take those risks.

Why are you here at RealTime?

This is a community where I can be myself and not feel as an outsider. This is a place where new thinking is celebrated rather than punished, and I can come here and communicate with and meet new people.

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