One of the things you often hear people say is you need to “think outside the box.” You’ve probably heard this cliché so many times that you want to punch that proverbial box out. So when I heard Ziad Adbelnour say “Don’t think outside the box. Think like there is no box,” it got me thinking how you might do this for today’s radio.
I just spent a week in Orlando. I went to Disney World and experienced an environment Imagineered by Walt. Imagineering, Disney said, was a blending of creative imagination with technical know-how.
Carousel of Progress
I first experienced Walt’s Imagineering at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York City. My dad worked for General Electric Company. We got discount tickets to the fair and went both years a couple of times each year. My favorite exhibit was GE’s “Carousel of Progress.”
It was a theater that revolved around a center series of stages that showed how technology evolved over time improving the lives of families and ended with a glimpse into the future.
That exhibit still exists in the Land of Tomorrow at Disney’s Magic Kingdom in Orlando and I went to re-live one of my fondest childhood memories.
Walt conceived of the Carousel of Progress himself.
8 Principles of Imagineering
Alex Wright explained the way Walt Disney worked in his book “The Imagineering Field Guide to Disneyland.” There are eight principles: 1) Area Development, 2) Blue Sky, 3) Brainstorm, 4) Dark Ride, 5) Elevation, 6) Kinetics, 7) Plussing and 8) Show.
So how would these apply to radio? Let me take a whack at that.
- Area Development: means the first impression your radio station gives off; the grounds, lobby and overall look your facility make on everyone who comes to your station. Have you stopped seeing what others see when they arrive? Look at your property again with fresh eyes.
- Blue Sky: means when you start thinking about anything new generate as many ideas as you can. Anything is possible. Nothing is out of bounds. The sky’s the limit.
- Brainstorm: When any group brainstorms the only rule is there are no rules. Nothing is a bad idea. The whole reason for brainstorming is to generate as many ideas as you can.
- Dark Ride: While in a Disney theme park this means a ride that is all indoors, where every element can be controlled, in a radio station, this should mean the layout of your broadcast studios. Are they able to be lit to individual tastes? Does everything work as it’s supposed to and kept in operational condition through preventative maintenance? Is the chair comfortable? Can a person(s) stand if they want? How about the HVAC? When I toured the famous RCA recording studios in Nashville where Elvis recorded, I learned that they had multiple light conditions to bathe Elvis in the kind of mood lighting to fit the song he was recording. When recording “Are You Lonesome Tonight” Elvis decided none of the available lighting schemes worked and so he had every light turned out and the band, engineers and Elvis recorded the song in total darkness. If you listen to the end of that recording you can actually hear Elvis bang his head against his microphone because he forgot where he was and couldn’t see it in the dark.
- Elevation: A series of drawings to bring clarity to the project and guide construction activities. In radio, this would be a fully written out plan of action so that everyone is on the same page in executing the plan.
- Kinetics: Walt wanted to know how everything would move in one of his attractions giving it life and energy. For radio, our remotes need some serious kinetic thinking. Taping a station banner to a card table and calling in the breaks on a smartphone is not getting the job done for the listener or the advertiser.
- Plussing: This is perhaps my favorite one of Walt’s eight principles. With Disney, nothing was ever finished. He was always thinking how everything could be made better. Plussing is non-stop Imagineering to provide continual surprise and delight to all.
- Show: For Disney everything was part of the show. It’s why all of the people who work at Disney are considered cast members, even the people picking up the trash. How important is it to be so fanatical? Very. In addition to Disney World I spent a day at Universal Studios in Florida. I only have one word for that day’s experience: disappointing. I won’t ever be going back. Those that were with me maybe summed it up best when they said of the rides, “they are all the same ride, only a different movie is played.”
More Outside the Box Ideas
One of the things I try to do in this blog is look at other industries and find the lesson for radio, broadcasting or education that can be applied.
Another is reading a variety of things that literally have nothing to do with one another. Being a curious personality helps here, but it also exposes you to new worlds.
In fact, my office at work and home is filled with a variety of knick knacks that to the casual observer have nothing to do with one another. That’s because they really don’t. But they caught my attention and stimulate my thinking.
“Today you hear people talk about ‘thinking outside the box.’
But Walt would say, ‘No!
Don’t think outside the box!
Once you say that, you’ve established that there is a box.’
Walt would refuse to accept the existence of a box.”
-Jim Korkis, Disney Historian