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Walt Disney’s Best Advice is "Don't Accept No"

Good morning innovators, change-makers, and entrepreneurs. This newsletter and podcast feature stories about the people – past, present and future – who change the world. They make decisions and take actions enlivened by what I call The Entrepreneur’s Ethic. The Entrepreneur’s Ethic infuses people, organizations and places where the future is created, and the world is made a better place.

One of the Entrepreneurs featured in my upcoming book, The Entrepreneur’s Ethic, is Walt Disney, American animator, film producer and entrepreneur. Disney was a pioneer of the American animation and entertainment industry, and he had some battle scars to prove it.

There are seven parts of The Entrepreneur’s Ethic. Disney’s work exemplifies Ethic 4: Invest for Tomorrow. This is the future-orientation of entrepreneurship.

In last week’s show, we explored an historic case study from Walt Disney’s early career in the 1920s that explored how early mistakes and business betrayals helped shape his later decisions. This week, I explore the entrepreneurial legacy of Walt Disney with David Bossert. David is an award-winning artist, filmmaker, and author. He is a veteran of The Walt Disney Company, and a Disney historian, and an authority on Disney art and animation history. We discuss Oswald the Lucky Rabbit – a book David wrote about it was the primary source for last week’s historic case study – what it was like to work with Disney, and his core strengths and legacy.

Good Reads

When Technology Goes Bad – Matt Clancy, What’s New Under the Sun Thomas Edison, tinkerer – Eric Gilliam, Works in Progress Chickens and Neutrons and Long-leggedy Horsies and Things that Go Pump In the Night – Robert Grayboyes, Bastiat’s Window

Three Things I Think (I Think)

I remember Patti and I taking our three kids to The Incredibles in 2004, the computer-animated superhero film produced by Pixar Animation Studios and Distribute by Disney. As we were walking out, I asked Patti why an animated film like The Incredibles had characters so much more interesting than films with real people. But after diving into Walt Disney’s career and legacy, I learned that I was asking the wrong question in 2004. I should have asked what it was about any film that makes it good. One answer: Good story telling. Disney realized early in his career that what made his animated characters better than his competitors was how he brought them to life and made his audiences deeply interested in what they were doing and what they might do next. What does story telling have to do with entrepreneurship and innovation? Well… everything! Getting a co-founder or partner, gaining a new team member, making a sale, snagging an investor; any of these things involves persuasion. And persuasion, at its best, is story telling. There are few universals in dealing with people, but one is that people like to be told a good story. What does it take to tell a good story? That’s more than a newsletter can communicate, but I’ll offer three questions you can ask as your consider stories you tell. 1. What makes you interesting? – Economist Tyler Cowen asks guests on his podcasts occasionally something on the order of ‘what makes you weird?”. There are always reasons to conform, but everyone should have at least some bit of non-conformity. 2. What makes something surprising? – Innovation is the search for surprise. But surprise is also what makes stories engaging. The plot twist. The page-turner. The bingeable series. And good humor is just about the well-timed surprise. Learn how to use surprise in storytelling. 3. How do you make other people interesting? – My undergraduate advisor at the University of Nebraska, Professor Jim Kendrick, told terrific stories about the importance and impact of his former students. One of them included Clayton Yeutter, who had been a legendary student at Nebraska and had career of considerable impact, eventually as Secretary of Agriculture. Dr. Kendrick always had stories placing himself and his former students at the center of significant events in agriculture and agribusiness, and it was motivational to want to join those types of people eventually in making a dent in the universe. I kept up with Dr. Kendrick after I moved away, stopping by Lincoln to visit once or twice per year and eventually becoming an email correspondent with him. A few years into my career, I am an economist, low-on-the-totem-pole guy at Pioneer Hi-Bred International, the multi-national seed business. I run into a current University of Nebraska undergraduate student at an industry conference and introduce myself. She looks at me with wide eyes. “You’re Kevin Kimle? THE Kevin Kimle? Dr. Kendrick tells stories about you in class. You’re in charge of strategy at Pioneer Hi-Bred. That’s so cool.” I tried to explain that the CEO was in charge of strategy at Pioneer, but really, why burst her bubble? Anyway, exaggeration may have a role in storytelling, but do monitor the boundaries of reality!

Farm to my table

ISU alumnus Danny Rittgers invited me for a cupping at Curious Joe’s, the coffee business he and his wife, Gigi, started. It's not a massage-thing; a coffee cupping (also known as a coffee tasting) is a globally standardized method for evaluating the qualities of a coffee. It's a ritual held by every contributor to the coffee supply chain: producers, importers/exporters, roasters, and baristas.

Danny and Gigi work directly with farmers from Peru and other countries to import very high-quality coffee. We learned a lot about coffee supply chains, about what makes for quality coffee, and about properly using our French Press for our morning cups. And our morning coffee has had a significant upgrade. I took a few bags of beans home, and just ordered more.


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