Incorporating the Creative Disney Mindset in Healthcare

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible.” –Walt Disney

Creative thinker and former Disney Imagineer Marty SklarA group of Jump employees recently got the chance to watch a Walt Disney Company legend speak about the innovative thinking that goes into creating the “Happiest Place on Earth” and other attractions. Former Disney Imagineering vice chairman and principal creative executive, Marty Sklar, recently spoke at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. Sklar is Disney’s only “cast member” to have been involved in all 11 Disney Parks.

He was joined on stage by two current Disney Imagineers, who contributed to Sklar’s book, One Little Spark: Mickey’s Ten Commandments and the Road to Imagineering. The trio discussed many of the projects they’ve been part of, what it takes to succeed as a creative visionary, and how to land the coveted position of Imagineer.

While most people think of Disney as an entertainment company, the presentation also described other insights and skills that culminate into what we see as the magic of Disney theme parks: physics, electrical engineering, human behavior, chemistry, sensory perception, creative innovation, experiential design, and an overarching creative vision. These, and the insights below, can be employed into the work we do every day at Jump to improve healthcare outcomes and reduce costs.

  1. To be a true creative, lose your fear of being wrong. It is ok to fail and if you don’t, you are not doing anything new. (Marty Sklar)
  2. Success before work only appears first in the dictionary.
  3. Create work that brings the good out in people.
  4. Transcend cultures.
  5. Make every day of your life the best day of your life. (Walt Disney)
  6. Take a chance. (Walt Disney)
  7. Educate people, but don’t tell them you are doing it.
  8. A blank piece of paper is either intimidating or the greatest opportunity in the world.
  9. Re-invent yourself every few years and you will have great stories to tell. 

Creative Minds in Healthcare

Disney Imagineers have a history of contributing to the healthcare industry. The simulated ride inside of the human body in a miniaturized submarine at the Epcot Center in Orlando, Florida was inspired by the motion picture, The Fantastic Voyage. Former Disney Imagineer Frank Armitage (who created the Academy Award-winning set design for the movie) also created the early concepts for the Epcot experience.This rare image was a concept drawing for the Fantastic Voyage done by Frank Armitage. It is a scene within the lung.

I am blessed to have known Mr. Armitage as a mentor, friend, and a major influence in my life, as he was regarded as one of the finest medical illustrators in history. Frank was also awarded the prestigious title of Disney Legend in 2009. He passed away earlier this year, but his beautiful work is immortal and reflects true genius, a genius of the "artist-scientist" visionary in the tradition of Leonardo daVinci, Dr. Frank Netter, and Steve Jobs.

In 2006, the Biomedical Visualization graduate program at the University of Illinois at Chicago initiated an endowed annual lecture series honoring Frank Armitage. The lecture honors "visual genius in healthcare". The first Frank Armitage Lecturer was Marty Sklar. Many of the original paintings and drawings that Frank Armitage created were on display at the first event. This included paintings, designs, and concepts for Epcot, Life Magazine, classic Disney animated movies (Sleeping Beauty, the Jungle Book, Mary Poppins), Disney theme park murals, and Fantastic Voyage set designs.

This year, I have been asked to present at the 2016 Frank Armitage Lecture, and it will be an honor to share his legacy with new generations of visionaries, future leaders, and fellow lifelong learners, and share how Mission Partners at Jump are applying the same thinking to challenges in healthcare.

Cultivating the Next Generation of Creative Thinkers

Experiential learning, edutainment, interactive design, engaging media, mobile access, and simulation in education are not new, but as technology and information delivery continues to evolve and integrate into our lives, many tremendous opportunities are ahead. The impact will influence both what people learn, and how they learn. The stakes may be the highest in healthcare, wellness, distance education, sharing innovation, telemedicine, and changing unhealthy behaviors with wearable devices (and personal health data feedback).

George Lucas recognized the importance in developing future creative minds and new ways of thinking when he launched Edutopia for K-12 educators. Lucas and others like the Imagineers at Disney understand the importance of fostering creative thinking in children as a critical component for the future of the world.

For the innovators and visionaries at Jump, the idea of incorporating the Disney style of thinking into the work we do is not a bad thing. Borrowing the tagline from Apple in "thinking different", creative problem-solving at Jump is a fun ride into the present and future of healthcare. It is a creative ride that will improve healthy outcomes and practices, as well as educate and inspire new generations of providers, students, and patients.

Categories: Audiovisual (AV), Communication, Disney Institute, Event, Events