Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

Leadership Lessons from Walt Disney: Never Stop Asking Questions

January 23, 2014 by Jeff James, Vice President & General Manager, Disney Institute

The best legacy is not one that is fondly remembered, but one that is actively emulated. Walt Disney’s legacy lives beyond the stories we tell. He provides leadership lessons that can be applied to every organization. 

Curiosity. Strong leaders never stop questioning. While some individuals become encompassed in daily rituals, leaders ask “Why?” and then “Why not?” Walt Disney was once quoted as saying, "I happen to be kind of an inquisitive guy and when I see things I dont like, I start thinking, Why do they have to be like this and how can I improve them?" 

Imagine Walt Disney seated on a bench at an amusement park watching his daughters play and wondering why it had to be dirty and unsafe, and why the parents had nothing to do. As Walt traveled the U.S., he continued to imagine what would become Disneyland, and an entire new theme park industry. While he visited places like Thomas Edisons Workshop and the Wright Brothers Bicycle shop, he was thinking of ways to improve things and how to put existing ideas together in new ways, which defines being innovative. 

Following Walt’s legacy, Walt Disney Imagineering encourages us all to regain curiosity in the workplace. To spark new ideas “The Imagineering Workout” book (authored by the Walt Disney Imagineers) suggests:

  • Get an attitude! Get confident: When questions are asked confidently, they come across as requests for verification. If you don’t feel confident, stand up straight, speak up, and act that way!
  • Do your own research: Never believe people who tell you not to bother because they’ve tried something already. They may be right, but in finding out for yourself, you may be inspired or learn something.
  • Relax, live, and absorb! Creative people never stop being curious and don’t have a nine-to-five attitude. Instead, if they find something that improves them, they fit it into their lives.

At Disney, creativity is embedded in today’s leaders. We continue to believe in and support the inherent curiosity of our people and encourage organizations to bring back childhood creativity.

What idea has sparked curiosity for your organization? How do you regain creativity?

We’d love to hear from you! 
Post your response below, or respond to us on Facebook or Twitter using hashtag #DThinkBlog.

If you’d like to learn more about our approach and adapt it to strengthen your own personal leadership skills, consider enrolling in our Disney’s Approach to Leadership Excellence professional development training course.

For nearly three decades, Disney Institute has provided engaging and insightful learning opportunities for business professionals and organizations, teaching them the Disney approach to business….focusing on Service, Leadership, and Culture. To learn more about how you can attend an upcoming course at the Disneyland Resort in Southern California or the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, see our full Course Calendar. Not sure which course is best for you? Try our Course Recommender.


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Posted in Business Excellence | Tagged Creativity, Innovation, Leadership, Leadership Training, Leadership Skills, Walt Disney, Leadership Lessons From Walt Disney, Jeff James

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