To understand why I left Disney, you must first know how I began there. In 1986, I started as barman at the Rose & Crown Pub at Epcot in Florida. I later moved to London and wanted to continue my work with Disney, but they weren’t hiring at the time. I called the Marketing office relentlessly, and after 27 days of calls the manager realized that I just wasn’t going away and opted to put me to use. My first six months were spent sorting papers, delivering folders, fetching coffees, and most importantly… observing. There, I quickly learned that PR was the ability to walk in with a big idea, go sell it and get it to market. I immediately knew that that was my calling.
From sending Buzz Lightyear into space on a space shuttle, to creating an Olympic sized swimming pool for Michael Phelps to swim down Main Street USA at Disneyland, to creating the Super Bowl halftime show for the new Millennium; I’ve given life to some of the biggest ideas imaginable. My career at Disney was nothing short of magical.
One of my most transformational days was when I received a call from the Chairman of Disney Parks. He explained – “we need to increase our capacity to innovate at scale. You’re the guy having the big ideas and getting them through, so Duncan, you’re going to head up Innovation & Creativity”.
First, I had to figure out exactly how to create and streamline processes and techniques to support Innovation and Creativity, and so the research began. My team surveyed thousands of people at Pixar, Lucas Films, Marvel, Imagineering, ESPN, ABC, Disney Parks, etc, and asked : “what are the barriers you’re facing to being more innovative and creative at work?” We found 5 major problems repeating themselves across the organizations, which I’ll cover in greater depth in a future blog post. These barriers were to become the catalysts to the creation of my toolkit.
I then attended numerous well known courses and seminars around innovation and creativity and I found they all had one thing in common… they were all very inspirational and motivational, but they weren’t tangible. The leading consultants will come in and run an innovation project for you (and charge accordingly), and then they’re gone leaving creative culture exactly as it was before their arrival. The traditional ways of doing business are getting completely upended, and no one is giving companies a tangible toolkit that they can utilize throughout their organization.
After decades of working with some of the most incredible people at Disney, and the planet for that matter, I received a bronze Jimminy Cricket statue in honour of my 30th anniversary. Reflecting on my career I thought to myself, if I could do what I’ve done for the most creative and innovative company in the world, I could surely go out and do that for everyone else. And so, I left to do just that.
The toolkit I have created is designed to be simple and straightforward for absolutely everyone in every industry to use. It includes not only motivational and inspirational moments, but also tangible, actionable tools that people can use to think differently and to truly innovate. I am very excited that I can now support other organizations to harness the inspiration that their own teams have, and to give them the practical tools they so desperately need to compete in a time of unprecedented disruption.