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31 Jan 2011 / Julie

honoring the past: a lesson in change

I had the opportunity to go to Disney for a couple of days in November. I haven’t been since 1998? – the year i remember riding my favorite ride (Horizons, in Epcot) a gillion times (probably an actual count) before they closed it to put in Mission:Space (although at the time, I was told they were putting in Test Track so that’s the ride i held my grudge against until this year).

I was nervous about seeing the place and how it would match up to my memories- especially in Epcot. I have distinct recollections of Disney and I was afraid at how my other favorite rides (still there, while changed) will have survived time.

While Horizons has been gone for over a decade now, and Spaceship Earth has changed a lot, there was something that gave me calm when i was riding Spaceship Earth. An ease came over me towards the end of the ride – they hadn’t just ripped away my childhood without consulting me – but rather honored the past in their changes and new futures.

In the last bit of Horizons you could choose your own adventure- you could see the future in space, on earth, or underwater. I usually chose space (no surprise there) – everyone in your omnimover vehicle could choose something but majority ruled. Once the scene was selected, your omnimover would get blinders and you’d see a screen with your choice of future.

In a wonderful honor to this old wonderful ride, the new Spaceship Earth has a choose your own adventure ending now too – you answer various questions on a computer screen in your vehicle about what you care most about and it builds your future based on your choices using “technologies we happen to know about.” I have to say i was very happy when i heard references to augmented reality and remote home control. i rode Spaceship earth easily half a dozen times, making different choices each time just as i said i would in Horizons.

Disney has a history of doing things like this – honoring previous incarnations or now-defunct rides- taking pieces of or references to them and scattering them in various appropriate places. Journey to Imagination with Figment is another one of those that has changed too. for the worse*, i think, but the honor and deference paid to the original ride are there too. In the last moments of the ride after you’re blasted with a cold shock of unexpected air, a screen lowers and you see all the figments doing various things (riding a bike, flying in a hot air balloon, etc) that used to be scattered throughout the original ride.

Change is necessary and inevitable. But, as you can tell by my words above, not always welcomed (Figment should not be messed with). Regardless, we move on and the world moves with us. But we can’t throw out or ignore history just because we want to move away from it.

I’ve learned many times that change is a process – one that’s difficult to control because people happen upon it at different times in the change cycle and to different degrees.

for most of us, change looks like this:

a straight shot from what is to what will be with very little issue and battle. not so fast, mister. in reality change usually looks something like this:

Any significant change requires a “hold on – letting go” process. this process ends up looking like the abstract seagull above. people are going to be okay with things, not okay with things, fight to keep things, and then eventually, slowly, move forward in order to align with the change (or you’ll help them out). Here’s my (short and incomplete) list of things to keep in mind when trying to get an organization or group of people to change or make a change:

  1. identify what will stay the same. some people need something to hold on to.
  2. make the change safe for discussion and invite conversations. give honest answers and keep people informed as soon as you think you know something.
  3. support soul searching while in the pit – that bottom of the curve where people start to wonder if all this is really needed.
  4. clarify principles and expectations and make sure changes are still aligned with previously agreed-upon core values.
  5. acknowledge loss through rituals and honor the past in a way that feels real for each situation/need
  6. help people suggest adjustments, keep them involved in the process. allow for mistakes
  7. take time to examine lessons learned
  8. celebrate completion

Once you’ve gotten your advocates to help you spread the word and make light the work, helped the well poisoners out of the way and convinced everyone else you know what you’re doing, you proceed through the process above. But throughout it and after, you have to show deference to what has come before – it helps make the change easier as well as letting people know that you’re not just coming in and shaking shit up because you feel like it- but because this is the next step in a processional of next steps that started long before you.

In Disney’s case, i was never consulted. Change happened without me so the best they can do is keep parts of the past around for those of us who see them for it. It helps.

* Among other things, Figment is now an orphan as they completely removed any mention of the Dreamfinder as far as i could tell. In other childhood memory-shattering news, while they still have things to play with after the ride in the Imagination Pavilion, the tunnel of rainbow lights is gone. If i ever end up VP of Epcot, guess what’s first on my list? you betcha. I never approved this change.

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