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Walt Disney - Imagineer Extraordinaire

Bill Jarrard's picture

EPCOT Centre Disney World Yesterday I fulfilled a desire I have had for more than 20 years, which was to visit EPCOT Center at Disney World in Orlando Florida, and it did not disappoint. 

Back in the mid-1980s I first heard the story of Walt Disney's vision for Disney World, and how many years before it was build he created such strong images of it that anyone he spoke to about it could 'see' clearly what the Magic Kingdom would be all about. This was his role - to Imagineer the future, so those that followed could continue to build it.

Perhaps the most important part of that vision was EPCOT the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow, which was a sort of permanent World Expo where visitors could experience the different cultures of the world, and get glimpses of possible futures. 

The EPCOT we see today is different in many ways from what Walt imagined, but my feeling is it still contains much of what he would have wanted, and he would have been happy enough with it.  Wikipedia has some good background information on the full story - and I recommend having a look.

I have for many years admired the imagineering power of people like Walt Disney, and have aspired in my own way to be an imagineer of sorts.  Of course what Walt imagined was a place where young and old could not only have fun and be entertained, but would also learn some wonderful lessons.  For example  'The Land' at EPCOT is a great example of eco development, while new attractions like Turtle Talk at The Seas - an interactive discussion with Crusher from Finding Nemo, is fantastic at getting kids to consider the health of our planet.

But not all imagineers work in this 'fantasy' area.  Many political, business and spiritual leaders also imagineer the future - some for the greater good, some for evil.

While here in Florida we also went to  The Kennedy Space Centre, which is a fantastic example of a leader's imagination and goal setting coming to reality.  On the flip side we have also seen in the past, distant and recent, the havoc reaped when charismatic despots create images of a future that many buy into, which ultimately lead to terrible outcomes.

There is no doubt the power of imagination and vision, when combined with tangible action to create the reality, is a powerful leadership attribute.  Leaders of all types display this power, but everyone one of us also has it, and I have been able to work with young trainees and members of the board to help them engage this process.  And it is wonderful when we see real results.

As you move ahead look around and wonder at the many accomplishments you see, all of which would have come from someone's imagination being engineered into reality.  And then reflect on your own accomplishments - with yourself, your career, your kids, your team, your company, etc.  For you too are an Imagineer.

Mickey Mouse Walt Disney Self Portrait Lastly as I finish, here is the one thing I bought at EPCOT and it will have pride of place in my office.  It is titled Mickey Mouse Self Portrait.  I love it.


By the way I have an eModule on Imagineering in our online Deliberate Creativity & Innovation program.