A Quick Hint About Being Creative

There are a lot of reasons for the success of the Disney parks. Customer service has to rank right up there. And volumes could be written on the concept of the “immersive” experience. However, innovation has to be considered one of the most important reasons the Disney parks excel.

Let’s go back to the beginning. It all started with Walt wanting to do something that had never been done before — build a place where his movies and cartoons would come to life. And he wanted to do it while setting his park apart from the rundown, dirty, unsafe, seedy amusement parks that were the norm in the mid 50s.

Innovation number one: Do something no one else thought possible.

To help him accomplish this, he brought together a group of creative people from various disciplines within his studio — writers, artists, engineers. It didn’t really matter where they came from; more important to Walt was their commitment to craft and their ability to believe the impossible could be accomplished. (Build an amusement park in one year — an amusement park that was designed like no other? Impossible! Yet, it got accomplished.)

Innovation number two: Imagineers — the name Walt came up with for that group of people who engineer with their imaginations.

Over the years, while continuing to create the impossible, these Imagineers have released a number of books on various subjects. I recommend any of them. (One good example that gets right to the heart of creativity and innovation: The Imagineering Way: Ideas to Ignite Your Creativity.) But some of the best books are those which describe the design and building of the various parks.

Any of these books are required reading for a fan of the Disney parks. And so, last week, I was reading the most recent one - Imagineering: A Behind the Scenes Look at Making MORE Magic Real — and stumbled across that quick hint on creativity I promised with the title of this post.

But, first, one more sidetrack.

Creativity seems to be a big issue with internal auditors and I think I finally figured out why we, as a profession, are so bad at this creativity thing. It is the nature of internal auditors to avoid risk; which means it is also our nature to avoid creativity. (Embracing creativity is about embracing the chance of failure. Hence, we “de-embrace” creativity.)

When I am asked how a creative environment can be developed, I often share an approach I learned a number of years ago. It is natural, when people are presented with a new idea, to focus on why it won’t work. If you are serious about thinking creatively and instilling creativity, do not allow anyone (including yourself) to say why something won’t work until you have come up with three reasons why it will. I’ve used this myself with great success, and I challenge anyone to do the same.

But the Imagineering book I mentioned above has gone one step further. (Sheesh — for a quick hint he certainly took his own sweet time getting there.) I quote from the introduction written by 50-plus-year Imagineer Marty Sklar:

“The key attribute that has fueled more than fifty years of Disney park innovation in planning, design, storytelling and immersive entertainment was Walt’s aversion to the word no. [The people who worked with Walt] determined early on that you could say, 'Yes, if…' to Walt and explain the options. But you could never say, 'No, because…'  'Yes, if…' is the language of the enabler, 'No, because…' is the language of the deal killer.”

This is powerful stuff. And it is also frightening and dangerous. But, in spite of what you may think, it is a tool internal auditing can use to establish that creativity it claims it so seriously wants. And it may be the way to make your internal audit department more than it thought it could be.

But I’ve already gone on far too long for a “quick hint”. Join us Monday when we’ll all get together and talk about how this can really be put into practice (no matter what you think about situations where auditors have to say no) and how it might fundamentally change the way you think about your work.


Posted on Jul 15, 2011 by Mike Jacka

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  1. My dear friend.

    Did you hear about creative finance especially creative finan?ial reporting. For me it sounds the same creative auditing. You should be kidding ;)))

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