A response to “The Four Success Principles of Walt Disney” and how they apply to The ZIPPER JUNCTION Project

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Over the course of developing the concepts for The ZIPPER JUNCTION Project™ and further through the many months of spreading the word of what we will be doing, I have spoken about my interest and reliance on many concepts from within the Disney organization. Sometimes when I mention Disney folks automatically love the topic and tune in closer, other times the mere word Disney turns them off. Make no mistake; I love the way Disney operates in terms of operations, logistics, creativity, etc. Not at the top of my list is the enormous corporation it has become, far removed from the direct control Walt Disney had so many years ago.

As I was developing this blog I came across another blog by Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson, authors of a book called The Disney Way. I read through it and decided to write my blog as a bit of a reply to theirs, with a twist on how it is similar to The ZIPPER JUNCTION Project™. The original blog was titled “The Four Success Principles of Walt Disney” and it appeared in the McGraw hill education business Blog recently. Although it was mainly written as a guide regarding customer service excellence, it has the main elements of much of what I take away from Walt Disney. Here are some excerpts below in red with my take on things.


Walt Disney explained his success this way:

“I dream, I test my dreams against my beliefs, I dare to take risks, and I execute my vision to make those dreams come true.”


These words reverberate across the decades of Disney achievement. Everything Walt did – every choice he made, every strategy he pursued –    evolved from these four principles. And as the bedrock upon which his life and work rested, they naturally informed the basic values that dictated how he ran his Company.

The Walt Disney Company continues to achieve year after year, decade after decade, for affirmation of Walt’s way.

In much the same way, The ZIPPER JUNCTION Project™ has taken shape. Yes, it was me who came up with much of what The Project is; a dream, if you will, of what could be. Testing, testing, and more testing for myself. Risk in the form of resources, time, and potentially ridicule. Execution – well we are in the thick of it, and it has only just begun.


      “A dream is a wish your heart makes.” – Jiminy Cricket

It is no easy matter to convey a dream. Dreams, by nature, are deeply personal experiences. But true to his imaginative genius, Walt Disney was able to transform his dreams into stories that effectively articulated his vision to others. More importantly, the stories served to draw others into his fantasies, thereby marshalling the power of their collective creativity for the benefit of his dream. It doesn’t matter if you are writing the next Disney song, developing a line of cosmetics, or preparing to open a new long-term-care center. A story must be told in a fresh and engaging way. And, like Disney, everyone in the organization must tell it over and over again.

Yes, I have been called a dreamer! To think up and plan to actually build and operate a place like ZIPPER JUNCTION™ is certainly the things dreams are made of. But what today that we now take for granted was not but a dream of some creative person so long ago. Vehicles that could travel to space or dive down to miles below the ocean, smashing of atoms or curing diseases, communicating with anyone on the planet instantly and wirelessly – ALL were considered dreams at one time. A dream is the beginning of the future and we should listen very carefully to them and those that have the courage and wherewithal to try to make them a reality.


“When you believe in a thing, believe it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable.” – Walt Disney

From those early years growing up in a rural environment, Disney formed beliefs and values that stuck with him throughout his life and from which he never deviated.

Perfectly complementing Walt’s firmly held beliefs was the philosophy expressed by his brother, Roy: “When values are clear, decisions are easy.” Together, these precepts formed what is, in effect, The Walt Disney Company’s mantra: “Live your beliefs” — or what we simply call Believe.

Belief is a critical piece of this puzzle we are trying to put together, as are the values behind it. As Walt Disney always believed in things all the way, I too have first convinced myself that what we were suggesting could actually be built, and operate as I had envisioned it to. Many years and much treasure was spent to first create a concrete belief in The Project, for both myself and a select few. From that point forward we knew we would have a huge task to spread that belief to many others, skeptical and all. Over time we are seeing that the sincerity we put forth is received with the continued strengthening of belief of more and more folks. Our intentions are good, for the many, and can indeed be made real. This is the stuff that keeps our belief in what we are doing strong!


“When you’re curious, you find lots of things to do. One thing it takes to accomplish something is courage.” – Walt Disney

Premier players can be found in all corners of the business world, and one thing they have in common is a willingness to take bold risks. Walt Disney was such a player.

In fact, if there was a cornerstone upon which The Walt Disney Company rested, it would have to be inscribed with one short word: Dare. Throughout the 43 years that Walt ran the Company, he dared to meet challenges, he dared to take risks, and ultimately, he dared to excel.

I have always been one to do my own thing, never really worried about what others think. Now don’t get me wrong, I still seek advice from those that know better, as I am eternally curious, but I am also intensely critical of any information, of where it comes from, and why it is what it seems to be. I am also one to consider others when decisions I make could affect them for better or for worse, and this is very important to me as I look for it from others. That curiosity I guess translates into courage, the courage Walt Disney spoke of. Let me tell you, this endeavor has required its fair share of courage to pursue. From a personal standpoint there has been strain. From a financial stand point, well, strain is all I could use here. Finally, the courage needed to ask others to believe in something, something you conceived for the betterment of many.


“When we consider a project, we really study it – not just the surface idea, but everything about it… and we work hard to do the best possible job.” – Walt Disney

Vision without a means of execution is like a plane without wings or Dumbo without his ears — it just won’t fly. No matter how deep an organization’s resources are, the progress of their projects greatly depends on the strength of execution, and proper execution requires thorough and detailed planning, a reality that Walt Disney understood completely.

But Walt realized it took more than dreams, believing in values, taking risks and making plans to be successful; the real pixie dust was LOVE. Love is just not a topic that is typically discussed in the boardroom. Yet, love is present in nearly every aspect of our lives. And Walt Disney knew it. He exemplified not only love for his product but also for his Cast, his Guests, and for himself.

I have been called many things in my day, but things like perfectionist, anal retentive, and downright crazy come to mind when it comes to things like details. But as I see it, there is never enough planning when it comes to big, complex, hairy monstrosities to design and build! In order to actually get to the doing of The Project I turned to my rational side. What would it take to actually do this thing I dreamed up? Literally years of research and planning commenced to first convince myself that it could be done, and then how it could be done. That portion, the execution, is now underway in the very first phases, through the outreach and feedback loop we have created. Cannot wait to get to the doing of some tangible stuff soon!


“The way to get started is to quit talking and get started.” – Walt Disney

It is little wonder why so many cultural initiatives fail. Many show a lack of passion, a lack of understanding of what it takes to make serious improvements in customer service, and a lack of commitment to the long-term. Becoming “customer-centric” is not an activity to be “checked off” during an annual strategic planning process; Instead, top management must drive an organization-wide customer-centric culture initiative, while also inspiring their frontline leaders to take ownership in its development and results.

After three years of working in the shadows by ourselves, testing, researching, designing, and planning, it was time to take to the airwaves, newspapers, and meetings to get the word out. We quit talking about it amongst ourselves and began what would be a very long process of getting it done! As we continue to put it together, we must never lose focus of WHY we are doing this; similar to the customer focus Walt Disney spoke of. We are going to create a place that literally overwhelms folks with experiences and opportunities, things they CANNOT get from the internet, so they may first find that passion within themselves, and then share ways for them to leverage their passion into a self-sustaining career.

This road we are on is long and we are only at the very beginning. This journey will take time, lots of time, and it will take determination, lots of determination. But there is great necessity in what drives us, our future literally depends on it, and this project, to have a chance.

Dream, Believe, Dare, Do – We are working on it Walt, we are working on it!

Original Article can be found by clicking here