How do you move an idea off the drawing board and bring it to life? Two engineers who have devoted the past few years to turning dreams into reality are sharing their passion for innovation – and their experience at achieving success – with others who want to dream big.
IEEE Members Jonathan Chew and Leo Szeto have written a two-part e-book that provides individuals working in any discipline with valuable insights on how to lead and implement change. Now available, Secrets to Being a World Changer, Part 2, The Doing of Leadership, describes how to implement world-changing actions. In the first volume, published in late March, the co-authors discuss how to establish the mindset of a world-changing leader.
Both men speak from on-the-job experience as Disney Imagineers, in the company’s research and development division. Disney Imagineers include illustrators, designers, architects and engineers – among the other professionals with that designation. They are encouraged to employ “blue sky speculation,” a process where no limitations exist. Each man worked for several years on Imagineering’s design and construction of Shanghai Disneyland, which opened in 2016.
Part 2 of their e-book deals with what they call “’the doing’ of leadership. And it might well have been inspired by one of the iconic Walt Disney’s favorite sayings: “The best way to get started is to quit talking and start doing!”
Building on the Circles of VICtory concept detailed in Part 1, The Being of Leadership, the authors believe the “doing” of leadership can be best described with three verbs, each of them fundamental to the implementation process:
- Dream: To evangelize for a better future
- Play: To assess all possibilities
- Build: To make something that matters for others“
These are the core things that leaders do to change the world, whether by spreading a message, finding an innovative solution, or putting bricks to mortar,” they write. “Regardless of the verb that’s used, the overall idea is that leaders take action.”
Take Time to Dream
According to Szeto and Chew, the first step in making real change combines two of the Circles of VICtory: Vision and Imagination. They define a world-changer’s “dreaming” as the result of desiring a better future – a “burning desire” for a future so compelling, it stirs the imagination to devise how to make it a reality.
The authors provide three very different examples of leaders whose dreams led to world change: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Elon Musk and President John F. Kennedy.
“Dr. King had a dream so strong, he started a movement that gave a voice to an entire oppressed generation, and changed decades of political intransigence and the views of an entire nation,” they write.
The authors note Elon Musk, founder of PayPal, SpaceX and Tesla Motors, determined the Internet, sustainable energy and making life multi-planetary had the greatest potential to help the world – while in college. “His ambitious dreams became the driving force that created the companies he founded, and his ventures have all become multi-billion dollar companies,” they write.
And in 1961, President John F. Kennedy inspired the nation to become an aerospace leader – challenging us to land a man on the moon by the end of that decade. “Leaders set deadlines and make concrete goals,” write Chew and Szeto. “It is a blueprint that inspires and aligns a group, daring all to contribute to great things.”
Take Time to Play
Within the co-authors’ Circles of VICtory, the attributes of Imagination and Creativity combine to create Play. Blending these leadership qualities uses Imagination to create various perspectives, and Creativity to generate fresh solutions to problems. Play demonstrates using both skills simultaneously, to assess all possibilities.
The business magnate Richard Branson is an example of how starting one industry – in this case, Virgin Records – led to expanding into such areas as air transport (Virgin Atlantic Airways), mobile devices (Virgin Mobile) and space tourism (Virgin Galactic). Branson has said that business is about giving people what they need, and what they want. He also believes there’s no such thing as failure, regarding less-than-successful ventures as: a First Attempt In Learning.
Take Time to Build
For Chew and Szeto, Build – the final step in bringing a mental concept to real-world actuality – means creating something that matters for others. The authors stress that being an effective leader specifically includes the quality of building something that matters. “Take time,” they warn, “to understand how the creation of such an idea, product, or solution will positively or negatively create change for others.” But they also caution, building something that matters is also an effort one must undertake in a timely manner. “The core of being an effective builder lies in the practiced straddling of these two conflicting forces,” they write.
To underscore the Build step’s importance, the co-authors borrow Steve Jobs’ famous statement, “Real artists ship.” The writers emphasize that the envisioned art, product, or idea must also come to life – everyone has ideas, but real artists deliver on them.
Jonathan Chew joined Walt Disney Imagineering in 2011 in Glendale, Calif., and is currently a program manager overseeing much of the inspirational Blue Sky projects for potential immersive experiences. He has a B.S. in electrical engineering from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA); and he was president of the UCLA IEEE Student Branch.
Leo Szeto founded and heads Codeate, a company that develops immersive experiences using new software technologies in virtual and augmented reality. Previously, he was with Walt Disney Imagineering for four years, working mostly as a ride controls software engineer. Szeto has a B.S. in electrical engineering and computer engineering from UCLA.
Both Parts 1 and 2 of Secrets to Being a World Changer are available at http://shop.ieee.usa.org. Each volume is $2.99 for members and $4.99 for non-members.
Helen Horwitz is an award-winning freelance writer who lives in Albuquerque, N.M. She was with IEEE from 1991 through 2011, the first nine as Staff Director, IEEE Corporate Communications.