By Saeed Khan
We came back recently from a family vacation in Florida. Aside from just missing being hit by hurricane Isaac (thank goodness), we spent several days at Walt Disney World. We went to Disneyland in California several years ago, and I did blog about it back in 2007.
While some of the experiences between the parks were similar — I’m still a fan of their parking system! — some were quite different. The scale of DisneyWorld in Florida is daunting. I found DisneyLand in California to be on a much more human scale, if you understand what I mean. This definitely impacted our experience there as traveling between different parts of DisneyWorld can take a fair bit of time.
Aside from the various attractions in the parks, one thing caught my eye. In various parts of the park there were plaques (like the one on the right) that had quotes by Walt Disney related to innovation. I couldn’t resist stopping to read them and took pictures of several of them.
So in no particular order here they are:
1. You don’t build it for yourself. You know what the people want and you build it for them.
This is pretty fundamental but well said as it frames the context correctly. You need to understand the needs of others and build for them. Innovation is all about building/creating with the needs of others in mind.
2. Whatever we accomplish belongs to the entire group, a tribute to our combined effort.
In today’s world, nothing is created in complete isolation by lone individuals. Disney makes it very clear that it’s the team, and not the individual (figurehead), that deserves credit.
3. Get a good idea, and stay with it. Dog it, and work at it until it’s done, and done right.
Persistence is a key to success. I like the final part of the quote above – “work at it until it’s done, and done right”. Far too many people are willing to take short cuts or let “the little things” slip by. But it’s those little things that distinguish good products from great products. Why? Because so few people and companies are willing to invest the extra effort to really polish their products to make them great!
4. When we consider a new project, we really study it — not just the surface idea, but everything about it.
This quote emphasizes the need to truly understand what problems you are solving and why. A lot of products today only address surface issues and don’t go deeper to provide lasting and strong benefits and thus fail (or fail to reach their potential) in the market. Albert Einstein had a good quote in this area:
“If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.”
Wise words indeed.
5. Most of my life I have done what I wanted to do. I have had fun on the job.
You hear this kind of quote a lot from successful innovators. They do what they enjoy and enjoy what they do. Thomas Edison is quoted as saying:
“I never did a day’s work in my life, it was all fun.” Not surprisingly there’s this quote from Richard Branson – ““Some 80% of your life is spent working. You want to have fun at home; why shouldn’t you have fun at work?””
And I’m sure if I spent 10 seconds searching, I could find a similar “fun” quote from virtually every famous innovator. Fun is about enjoyment, about passion and emotion and those are pretty powerful forces. If you don’t like what you’re doing, how much passion and emotion will you put into it?
6. Of all the things I’ve done, the most vital is coordinating those who work with me and aiming their efforts at a certain goal.
This ties into the teamwork quote above, but also identifies Disney as thinking like a leader. The “most vital” thing he believed he did was work to make others successful at what they were doing. This reminds me of a similar quote by Steve Jobs –
“The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh. My job is to create a space for them, to clear out the rest of the organization and keep it at bay.”
i.e. one of the responsibilities of a leader is the help ensure others do what they need to do in as unhindered a way as possible.
7. Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved.
I left this one to last as it’s my favourite of all of these quotes. And not simply because I just came back from DisneyWorld and was thinking the same thing while there! (Which I was though).
It’s my favourite because ongoing thought and improvement of any system is critical to innovation. Those eureka moments don’t just happen randomly. And you’re not going to have a eureka moment without a lot missteps and even failures. James Dyson (inventor of the Dyson vacuum) said the following:
And he should know. He had over 5000 (yes five thousand) prototypes of his vacuum before he got it right.
So there you have it. Aside from some pictures, sore feet and some happy memories for my kids, this is what I got out of a visit to Disney World.
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