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The ever-changing tradition of Disney

It was the very early 1960s and I was about five years old when I went to see the movie Pinocchio—the classic Carlo Collodi story of the wooden puppet who dreams of being a real boy. It may have been my first movie seen in a theater; I’m not sure.

What I am sure of is how I was gripped by the tale. I cried when Pinocchio tied a stone to his donkey tail and dove into the ocean in an attempt to find Geppetto, his maker and Father-to-be. It all seemed so hopeless and freightening. Of course I was delighted when the little puppet saved Geppetto and was eventually granted his wish. Happy ever after.

Pinocchio, released originally in 1940, was Disney’s second full-length movie. The company’s success is well documented and it’s hard to imagine that anyone reading this isn’t familiar with Disneythe man or the brand he created. A tradition that was still in its early stages when Pinnochio was first released was in full swing as I watched two decades later. Today, it is one of the great brand stories of the 20th century.

Indeed, it’s hard to think of a contemporary company where tradition plays a more significant role in their competitive capability than Disney. So when the current CEO Robert Iger warns today’s business leaders that “You can’t allow tradition to get in the way innovation” it is cause to stop and think.

In a recent Harvard Business Review interview, Iger comes across as a no-nonsense CEO who sees clearly that the competitive environment has changed, and whose determination to truly compete fuels an equal determination to do those things which truly drive innovation.

Earlier this week I wrote about IBM CEO Sam Palmisano’s focus on long-term, sustainable success. So I’m delighted to see that Iger is also building a company focused for long-term success. He goes so far as to confess that today’s executives are “overcompensated for what they deliver short-term.” He goes on to say “we’re really trying not to run the company on the basis of short-term analysis.”

But what really caught my eye was this pull-quote:

“There’s a whole set of mommy bloggers who write about Disney. We’ve started to engage with them. We invite them to events. I sat with a group of them on our new cruise ship. The world has changed a lot.

A CEO who makes $28 million a year sitting and, hopefully, listening to a group of mommy bloggers. Indeed, that is a new kind of world.

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