Monday, February 10, 2014

Between Books - Lessons From Epcot: In Leadership, Business & Life

When the idea of a business book themed around Epcot was mentioned to me, well the first thing I thought is a lot of Disney fans are going to be interested in that!  There are several business books in the Between Books library.  The life of Walt Disney and the training techniques of the Walt Disney Company fill the pages of those books.  But I cannot think of one that has focused on a niche like Epcot, a niche with a loyal and engaged fans.

J. Jeff Kober in Lessons From Epcot: In Leadership, Business & Life provides a principled tour of Epcot.  Kober works his way through the park visiting Innoventions Plaza, Future World East, Future World West, World Showcase East, World Showcase South and World Showcase West in his nearly 150 pages.  Each of these sections is further divided into the attractions or pavilions which fill these areas paired with a lesson which can be applied in business or honestly life.  For example, in World Showcase East Kober takes his readers to the Nine Dragons Restaurant and provides a discussion of bad leaders!  In this case, the discussion focuses on how Disney has been proactive in creating critical behaviors in leaders who may have shown expertise in their prior position and then were promoted with little management experience.  The tours through the Epcot areas are based on information linked to the specific attraction or pavilion, historical facts from beyond the parks linked to the discussed topic, or the history of the Walt Disney Company and Parks.  Kober ends his book with an illustration that shows the importance of one person.

Overall, I found this book clear, easy to read and provided me much to think about.  While Disney fans will likely find Disney facts they are very familiar with they are still likely to be surprised as they go more deeply into topics like the inspiration of The Victoria Gardens in Canada, Art Frohwerk, or Department 510.  The Disney history is very sound with the only misstep being linked to Walt Disney's 1935 trip to Europe,  But it is only recently when books like Disney's Grand Tour have begun to separate fact from myth about this trip.  And many have repeated these once believed stories in other texts, likely serving as sources for this book.  Personally, I believe there is more than enough Disney to keep a Disney fan engaged and thinking.  The color illustrations also help to engage and entertain the reader as they dive into the book.  A problem I have is my team that I lead no longer want to hear about Walt Disney or Disney Parks!  But even in this difficult situation, though I may not use these examples with them directly, the Ask Yourself questions at the end of every section provide plenty of thought for self-reflection and assessment.   

I myself wondered how I could implement Bob Iger's rule that all meetings start on time, especially since the day I read that section I attended a volunteer board meeting which started 15 minutes late.  I really did enjoy the examples of Everything Speaks, especially from the China pavilion since it discussed the park and Chinese culture.  I had recently given a presentation in my own field that used Disney parks as my own example of how elements of a whole add up to one (hopefully) unified message and I love finding and understanding more examples of this concept.  And Kober's discussion of Test Track makes it clear what can happen to companies that are not courageous and change with the times.  These are just a few of the many lessons found throughout Lessons from Epcot's pages.

Lessons from Epcot by J. Jeff Kober provides something that will catch many Disney fans' attention, Epcot front and center.  But beyond the hook Kober provides a clear and well-organized text which many will enjoy.  And once one enters it pages self-reflection is impossible to avoid.  Readers come for Spaceship Earth, but stay as one dwells on courage, time-management, and motivating others.   

Review Copy Provided by Author

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