How do you get to be an imagineer? Imagineering is most closely associated with the Walt Disney Company though, according to the Source of All Wisdom and Knowledge (Wikipedia), the term was first used by aluminum giant Alcoa in the 1940s. I was first introduced to the term and concept by a guy who had been a Disney Imagineer through a creativity workshop he led for professional speakers and trainers. Imagineering is the blending of imagination and engineering to create new ideas or expand on existing ones. The usage has expanded a little bit beyond traditional engineering to include other fields as well.
Since then I’ve gotten to know two other imagineers that I think you should know as well. Though neither ever worked for Disney or Alcoa, both are imagineers in that they have become expert in tapping, developing, and sharing their creativity for development of ideas that serve greater good.
Mike Wagner is a friend from my home state of Iowa. His company, White Rabbit Group, helps organizations and companies develop a “Strategic Brand Compass” that aligns and guides decision-making. Mike has become an imagineer by being strange. That’s a self description, by the way, because I don’t really see anything strange about Mike. (Uh oh. Does this mean I’m blind to Mike’s strangeness because I’m strange as well? Probably, but that’s not such a bad thing.) Recently Mike sent me a link to his TEDx talk, “The Positive Power of Being Strange.” It is well worth the 17+ minutes of your time it will take to watch it on YouTube or from the link on Mike’s website.
Jeff Logan is another friend whom I first got to know in 2009 when we worked together in the first of many team projects to be thrust upon us in a PhD program at Eastern University. Jeff is a guy that just oozes creativity, even when he isn’t trying. I knew Jeff and I had connected on a deep level when he showed up at one of our residencies with a gift for me – a pop-up book featuring the cartooning of MAD magazine on the subject of American politics. Jeff is linguist, researcher, teacher, and a former political cartoonist. We are both working on our dissertations and his, not surprisingly to anyone who knows him, is on the role of humor in leadership. Jeff has been featuring a number of his cartoons and commentaries on his blog, Leadership of Fools. It is well worth checking out and following.
So, what can Mike and Jeff teach us about becoming an imagineer?
- First, you don’t need a contract or title from Disney to be an imagineer.
- Second, you don’t have to be the brightest bulb in the pack – see Mike’s TEDx talk for more on this.
- Third, don’t take yourself so seriously – in his other life, Jeff is a Baptist minister and it would be oh-so-easy to take everything very seriously.
One last thought I’d like to throw in about being an imagineer. For me it begins with taking the risk to do something different from the routine. I’m a person who really likes routines. But I also know that routine can be lethal for a person like me who works in the world of ideas. I’ve found simply doing something different from the way I usually do it can often fuel my own creativity by tapping into my own strangeness and shaking me out of the routine.
Here’s to the imagineers among us and the imagineer within each of us!
Copyright 2013 by Thomas W. Klaus