Niki and I spent some time in Chicago this summer. While there, we stopped by the Museum of Science and Industry to experience the excellent Science of Pixar exhibit. As we were walking into the gallery, I was struck by a quote on the wall by Ed Catmull, President of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, “Creativity is about solving problems.”
Think about that for just a moment….creativity is about solving problems.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly have some challenges in my life, my business, and my career that could use some creative problem solving!
As we walked through the exhibit, I also reflected on the fact that the museum sits inside the former Palace of Fine Arts from the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. The Columbian Exposition celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the so-called New World.
It was at the 1893 World’s Fair that Americans rode their first Ferris Wheel, heard the first performance of our National Anthem, The Star Spangled Banner, and crunched on their first box of Cracker Jack. It was also at this fair that a young man from Canada, Elias Disney, worked as a dollar-a-day carpenter. Elias eventually used that money to build a home in the Hermosa neighborhood of Chicago. It was in this house that his fourth son, Walter Elias Disney, was born on December 5, 1901.
Like Walt Disney, Pixar is all about story. In honor of both, I want to share with you a story from that famed fair.
On a hot and humid summer afternoon, an ice cream maker at the fair found himself overwhelmed with customers. At one point he ran out of clean bowls and had to stop serving the ice cream that his customers were craving. Next door was a waffle maker. Because of the heat and humidity, no one wanted to be anywhere near a hot waffle or hot waffle iron so he had the opposite problem—zero customers.
Rather than both businessmen giving up and going home they decided to get creative. Thinking outside the box and combining resources, they started using the waffles to serve customers the ice cream—and it was on that day that America’s favorite summer treat was born—the beloved ice cream cone.
I want to encourage you to take a break today. Go get yourself an ice cream cone. In your defense, Dr. Disneyland is giving you permission! While you are taking your break I want to encourage you to think. Think not about your problems, but instead focus on solutions.
How can you get creative?
How can you think outside the box?
How can you combine what you already have to create something new? Something special? Something that is amazing and magical that will wow your guests, wow your customers, wow your audience?
When I started writing The Wisdom of Walt in 2014, I really had no idea what I was doing. What I did know was that I didn’t want to write another Disneyland history book. Those already existed and I really didn’t think the world needed another one. Nor did I want to write another Disney business book. Again, those already exist and as an educator I didn’t want to presume that I had anything to add in that arena, either.
Instead, I wanted to combine the history of the park with proven strategies for life, leadership, and success. While I didn’t create anything as incredible as the ice cream cone, I have managed to carve out a nice niche in a crowded market of Disney books and Disney speakers. My main goal is to motivate and inspire people to start changing their world by getting serious about their ideas and their dreams before time melts away like your favorite ice cream in the summer sun.
You still have time.
Walt Disney didn’t open Disneyland until he was 53 in 1955. That same year, a milkshake machine salesman named Ray Kroc, also 53 years old, was just getting started on his dream, McDonalds. Oddly enough, both Walt and Ray were from Illinois, both served together in the same ambulance unit during World War 1, and both lied about their age in order to enlist.
Despite his late start, Kroc would go on to create the world’s largest restaurant chain. Walt and Ray remained friends throughout their lifetimes and rumor has it that the world’s first McDonald’s franchise in 1955 could have easily opened outside of Disneyland rather than the restaurant Ray eventually opened in Des Plaines, Illinois.
Just like Walt Disney didn’t invent the amusement park, Ray Kroc didn’t invent the hamburger. Both, however, found creative solutions to take what already existed to new and different levels. Today, it is impossible to imagine America without McDonalds or the world without the Disney parks.
Again, go get yourself an ice cream cone and think about creative solutions. If not an ice cream cone, then maybe a milkshake.
After all, you and your dreams deserve a break today.
Never Stop Dreaming!
“Creativity is about solving problems.”
Jeff Barnes is the best-selling author of The Wisdom of Walt: Leadership Lessons from the Happiest Place on Earth and Beyond the Wisdom of Walt: Life Lessons from the Most Magical Place on Earth. Known as Dr. Disneyland, he teaches the only accredited college course on the History of Disneyland. He is an international Disney motivational speaker, higher education administrator, university professor, and leadership/success coach.