At Disney, we have learned that innovation is the product of intentional leadership. It requires a deliberate, intentional, and ongoing focus to create an organizational culture where creativity and innovation can flourish on a daily basis, at every level, and within every function.
The way we face these challenges is to ensure that creativity and innovation are not just "the CEOs thing." In our case, Bob Iger has said that our companys strategic platform is based on three pillars: creativity, globalization, and technology. Since we believe that everyone is inherently creative, the role of the leader is to create the environment in which that creativity is unleashed.
Be Our Guest Restaurant at New Fantasyland in Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort recently won an award at the National Restaurant Association’s Innovations Awards for its unique behind the scenes technology. During lunchtime, Guests order at state of the art kiosks and the food magically appears at the table thanks to a system that utilizes automation and radio frequency technology.
How does Disney come up with these types of innovative solutions? Try this brainstorming exercise from Michelle Baron, Talent Development Manager with Walt Disney Imagineering. Michelle uses sensory training to inspire the imagination and practice immersion by opening up the senses.
Participants are asked to look at a painting and then respond to questions:
“What does it smell like in this picture?”
“What do you see to the right of the picture painted?”
“What do you see to the left of the picture painted?”
“What is the temperature of the air in the picture?”
This exercise can be expanded to a specific topic. For example, restaurant design. Ask participants to divide into groups and focus on enhancing or creating the design for a restaurant. One group would focus on audio: what would the restaurant guest hear on arrival? Other groups focus on other senses: what would the guests smell; what would they see?
Identify all the elements a restaurant needs: menu, server, kitchen, etc. Break down the overall experience. Then turn the idea on it’s head (180 degrees). What if there isn’t a waiter? Take each element and consider other ways of making the experience different and memorable (or innovative).
Thats just one technique used by one leader. Every leader should arm themselves with "right brain" warm-up activities to help people get out of their comfort zones and into their creative zones.
Walt Disney once said, “Every child is born blessed with a vivid imagination. But just as a muscle grows flabby with disuse, so the bright imagination of a child pales in later years if he ceases to exercise it.”
For more to help exercise your teams imagination you might read, The Imagineering Workout: Exercises to Shape Your Creative Muscles, by The Disney Imagineers.
Remember, everyone is inherently creative in their own right – its your job to unleash that creativity!