Attention all Disney fans!!!! I’ve got a question for you. How many of you have had the chance to visit the new Cars Land at Disneyland? (Well, actually, to be picky, Disney California Adventure – but, you get the gist of the question.) Have you seen this amazing addition? Have you ridden the new rides? Is there anyone who has visited who doesn’t believe the experience of visiting Radiator Springs doesn’t harken back to the magical experience we all remember from our first visit to a Disney park?
Wait. You haven’t been? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Well, here’s the story. Back in 2001, Disneyland added a second gate, a park called Disney’s California Adventure. It had a couple of hits, but was a park made up of multiple misses. The Disney folk have been tinkering and adding ever sense.
In 2009, they made a multi-million (actually, just over $1 billion) commitment to redo huge sections of the park. This included building an entire land based on the Pixar movie Cars, including a recreation of Radiator Springs.
They added new rides, one of which is “Luigi’s Flying Tires.” To fully understand what Disney was trying to do with this ride, we have to backtrack an additional 50-plus years. Shortly after Disneyland first opened (July 17th, 1955 if you really must know) a ride called “the Flying Saucers” was added to Tomorrowland. People still fondly remember this space-age bumper car type ride. “Luigi’s Flying Tires” was built with the Flying Saucers in mind. In a similar vein, they are hovercraft which have been designed for riders to safely bump into each other while held aloft on cushions of air. In this case, they are themed as tires.
People’s fond memories of the Flying Saucers tend to forget the multiple headaches that occurred in loading and maintaining the Flying Saucers – a ride that was down more often than it was running. After a few years, Walt himself pulled the plug on the ride.
For those of you who refuse to listen when I make a request for you to visit a website, let me give you the “A” ticket version. Ron Dominguez is often considered the “first” employee of Disneyland. His family owned part of the land upon which Disneyland was built. He eventually became Executive Vice President of Attractions. Shortly after Luigi’s Tires opened, he was spied in line. When he got where he could actually see the ride, he was quoted as saying, “Oh, God, not those things again”, and walked out.
(So why is he telling us this?) I’ll tell you why. I seem to be stumbling across more and more examples where total disregard for institutional knowledge has caused various organizations to waste time, money, and people; where a refusal to learn from the past has led to (as the old saying goes) repeating the past. They are the types of situations where uncounted headaches could have been avoided by just drawing on the knowledge of people with fifteen, ten, even as little as five years’ experience.
I see more and more organization ignoring or throwing out the past – focusing on the new so much that the lessons from the past, while still relevant, are uniformly ignored.
Just look at Disney - a well-respected company with seemingly unending amounts of creativity and innovation. They also have an incredible history, and they still have available to them the people that made that legend. And we see millions of dollars spent on a new ride that is meant to be a nostalgic reminder of a ride from years ago, and they made all the same mistakes that they made with the original ride. Yet, apparently, no one turned to that experience to learn from those past mistakes.
Here is your auditing takeaway – go to those people who know what happened in the past. I don’t care if you are turning to them for knowledge about internal audit or about your organization or about a department or about what color socks the old CEO used to wear. Just find where that knowledge resides and draw from it as much as possible. That institutional knowledge will give you a head start on any work you are doing within internal audit – whether it be making your department or the organization better.
Never throw out your history when you are throwing out the old and useless. No, you don’t have to keep everything; but pay attention to the valuable knowledge you may be discarding.