Wednesday, March 01, 2006
The result of Research and Development
Back in the old days of WED Imagineering there was no separate Research and Development department. You know why? The whole place was one big R and D department!
Imagineers back then were a different breed of animal. They were allowed to multi task and provide whatever they could based on their individual talents. Sure there were separate departments then too; the model shop, MAPO, sculptors, designers, engineers, production specialists and more. But the working atmosphere was a lot more casual and Imagineers had much more freedom to experiment with different ideas. Each department consisted of individuals that were considered masters of their craft, and they were encouraged to advance their art.
About a dozen years ago or so an outside source convinced Disney Corporate that they needed a separate R and D department. So a crew of new inventors were hired and put into a new separate building with lock tight security. And no ordinary Imagineers were allowed in as a rule, only some of the top creative designers and executives.
At the same time Imagineering began to be run as more of a production shop, with every hour of the employee’s day to be strictly accounted for by job and task. After all, research and development was now a separately funded entity, so regular Imagineers no longer had any business wasting time on special projects or new ideas. Managerial hierarchies evolved to keep track of everyone’s time, and big new planning and scheduling departments were created to calculate exactly how it was being spent. Charts and graphs were created that assigned every required job a separate number, and every number was allotted a certain amount of hours. Every Imagineer’s work day needed to be accounted for by one of those numbers. Even today, they use that job number system and if a woe Imagineer goes for a little while without a number on their time sheet – they’re out. (Truthfully, long careers have and can be had by those that excel at obtaining job numbers to prove to management that they are always busy.)
Meanwhile, the R and D department flourished in their own world. They were well funded and answered to Corporate at the studio, totally separate from the rest of Imagineering. The interface they had with the rest of Imagineering over the years has been awkward at best. Although well meaning, it has not been a practical relationship, and they function as more like two separate companies.
I think it would be a good idea to try to merge the R and D department back into WDI, and get some more creativity back into the entire place.