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Alumni Spotlight: Leo Chan (BDes ’05)

Alumni Spotlight: Leo Chan (BDes ’05)

Innovator, entrepreneur, designer and creator, Leo Chan loves unleashing potential in people. It’s truly a joy for him to empower others with the transformational power of innovation.

“People want to make a difference where they work, and innovation is the way to make incredible and lasting impact. The thing is, not everyone knows that they can innovate, but I believe anyone can. So many people have innovative potential – but it takes the right know-how to harness that potential in and unleash it in them,” said Leo.

Leo Chan photo
Leo Chan

Leo credits his time at York University as integral to his journey into the field of innovation. A formally trained graphic designer turned innovator and entrepreneur, he fondly remembers his time at York where he earned an undergraduate degree in design at York’s School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design.

“I believe the way designers think can help change the world. Designers are able to see things in ways that are different than most people. I don’t see things the way they have to be but rather how they could be,” said Leo.

As a master in the art of innovation, with over 20+ years of experience in innovation and creativity, Leo has inspired and coached innovators with his ability to unleash innovative ideas and practices that guide leaders to stay ahead of the competition both systematically and strategically.

Surprisingly Leo didn’t start out in the innovation field – upon graduating he completed a Masters in Theological Studies and worked at design firms. He later secured a role in design for State Farm Insurance Canada. Two years into his role, he had the opportunity to move to the United States to State Farm’s Corporate Head Office and later established himself in a new position as in their innovation department. Leo says what drew him to this position was the opportunity to “craft the future for the company, create new ideas to solve problems which could impact the business in new and exciting ways”. It was an opportunity for him to bridge his passion for creativity, technology and dreaming up of ideas for the future.

Leo fell in love with the world of innovation. He knew it was the career of his dreams. He embarked on a new journey as senior innovation lead at Chick-fil-A, where he left his mark by redesigning Hatch, Chick-fil-A's 30,000 sq. ft Innovation Centre. He turned Hatch into the company’s epicenter of innovation. He also led and developed the Innovation Coach Program, where he turned regular employees into confident innovators.

Leo understands that a culture that empowers and trains new innovators can create a thriving atmosphere for dynamic work with exponential impact. “We need to shift our narrative out of expert brain into the beginner’s mindset, where we are looking at things with fresh eyes and a new perspective so we’re not getting stuck and trapped in old ways of thinking and doing”, he said.

Leo is a sought-after trainer, speaker and consultant for all things innovation. He is passionate about creating the next generation of innovators to ignite organizational transformation. He has presented at many well-known conferences such as Front End of Innovation, the Creative Problem Solving Institute, STORY, Design Thinking Chicago and IAF Global.  He is the founder of Abound Innovation Inc. which focuses on innovation capability training and development, innovation facilitation and LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® and is based in Markham, Ontario.

Leo also loves training and leading LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® sessions. The methodology is his favourite and is used for innovation, creative problem solving, design thinking, group decision making, business strategy, communication, team development and so much more. LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® sessions uncover deeper insights, harness the full potential of everyone in a meeting, create connections and lead to better outcomes. “There’s so much diversity and perspective in our work meetings, but often, not everyone’s perspective is heard. Generally, only a few people do most of the talking. LEGO SERIOUS PLAY changes that by ensuring all voices are heard and every perspective is shared. ” Leo is always impressed by the insights, innovation and creativity that comes when people use LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®.