Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Thoughts on Innovation from a Disney exec

CNET asked Chris Heatherly, vice president of technology and innovation, Disney Consumer Products, The Walt Disney Co., how he defined innovation. "I think innovation is understanding people and what they need and giving them the most perfect solution you can to their problem even if they might not know they have it yet."

Heatherly talks about why companies like Apple, Google and Target have succeeded in their industries; why it's imperative to have management that nurtures the innovative spirit; and some examples of what's worked and not worked for Disney. He also discusses which comes first: technology or the art?

(Oh, to be a Disney imagineer and dream up ideas all day long! Talk about creative story telling.)

Some highlights from the piece:
"I think too many people confuse innovation and technology. I have seen a lot of designers try to make a mediocre concept innovative by putting Bluetooth or some other whiz-bang technology du jour in it. That's not innovation. It's cheating. Innovation is about solving problems for people."

"What are the most important areas of innovation in your organization (product, process, IP, marketing, etc.)?
To be a creative company, you have to have a creative core, whatever that means for your company. For Disney, that's people like storytellers, animators, and Imagineers. For a company like Apple, it's designers and engineers. The people at the core of what you do have to be the heart that pumps innovation through the vessels of the organization. ... Pixar is very clear that it is about telling stories and that everyone who is there is there for that purpose. Technology plays a really important role for them. They like to say that 'art challenges technology and technology inspires art.' They don't look at technology as being a second-class citizen to their artists. It's a respected peer. There are lots of other parts of the organization that have to be part of an innovative mission."

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