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The Real Problem with Tomorrowland: Creating Is Difficult

Astro Orbitor

Adventureland drew from real life: plants, animals and explorers. It was meant to complement Disney’s pioneering and award-winning wildlife documentaries.

Frontierland drew from America’s history. With the unexpected Davy Crockett craze, Frontierland also had a surprise star, even in absentia.

Main Street, U.S.A. took its cue from small town America, specifically, Fort Collins, Colorado and Marceline, Missouri. It had Harper Goff’s and Walt Disney’s memory to draw on.

Fantasyland drew from the movies and storyboards that Disney had already made or was planning on releasing in the relatively near future: Snow White, Pinocchio, Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland and others. The research and creation had already been done. It just needed to be adapted into 3D.

Tomorrowland was a problem. Its subject matter didn’t really exist, yet.

“[Tomorrowland] was the most difficult because everything in it had to be created, while the other lands were the result of research” said Imagineer Marvin Davis (as cited in Walt Disney’s Imagineering Legends and the Genesis of the Disney Theme Park, Jeff Kurti, 2008, p. 35).

Tomorrowland has always been a problem for the Disney Company. In Paris, it solved the problem by recreating the tomorrows of yesteryear based on H. G. Wells and Jules Verne writings. In the U.S., they haven’t been able to solve the riddle. Americans are less familiar with classic science fiction writers, so the Disney Company went a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and to infinity and beyond while shouting “Excelsior!” and “Just Keep Swimming!” without really considering the subject of tomorrow.

Space Mountain, and the Monorail are the only attractions left that represent the future, with an honorable mention to the Astro Orbiter. Tomorrowland has stopped moving forward because Disney found that as soon as they created something it was already on the market and no longer from the future.

The future can’t be researched. It must be imagined and created. Unfortunately, creativity is messy, time-consuming, and a matter of trial and error. A business can’t rely on creativity to make a profit, so it settles for what’s easy, what’s already made, and what will bring in the most amount of money.

That makes it our job to imagine a future we want to live in and then to create it. Sure, Tomorrowland is a lot of fun, but in order for the real tomorrow to be fun, we have to be its originators. Live to improve the planet, your life, and the lives of your progeny. Keep moving forward.

Try our Tomorrowland quiz at penguin8.com.

For more on the Disney Company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company” and think deeply about the house that Walt built. For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The ABCs of Creativity: New

The textbook definition of creativity involves making something new that has value. “Something” can be defined to include new ways of doing things or thinking, but it is the new that’s important. Depending on the situation, creativity can include things that are new to the person doing them (personal creativity) or to the world at large.

A New Way of Seeing

Human beings have to sort through a lot of information every second of the day. This leads to focusing on some things and ignoring other things altogether. You probably have already seen this video. If not, count the number of passes the team in white makes.

Did you see the gorilla? Selective attention is what helps us sort through the stimuli. It allows us to ignore both the very common place and the very out of place.

According to Kevin Ashton’s “How to Fly a Horse” (p. 97), one study showed that 75 percent of people walking and talking on their cell phones did not see a unicycling clown that had been put in their path. Their brains decided that the clown was someone else’s problem and not pertinent to the phone conversation. This is called inattentional blindness, and one reason you should never drive and use your cell phone. Your brain prioritizes the phone conversation over the information you are seeing, or not seeing as the case may be, on the road in front of you.

The problem for creativity is that it takes the combination of two or more pieces of information in a new way to be creative. If we’re ignoring information that doesn’t fit in with what we think should be there or our world view, or we’re adding information that isn’t there because we think it should be there, we can’t be creative.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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The Problem with ‘the Single’ in Disney’s Movie Business

Disney movie tie ins

In his examination of Disney’s “Dumbo,” “Forbes” writer Scott Mendelson laments the Disney Company’s penchant for releasing big budget films that have already been made, including the live-action remakes of animated classics and the multiple sequels that Disney has released over the course of roughly the last decade, and while he acknowledges that the studios are in part to blame, he also lays the blame on movie goers. “The studios can’t responsibly green-light what they know audiences will not go to see in theaters.”

The Dollars and Sense of It All

In 1984, when Michael Eisner became CEO of the Disney Company, the top grossing movie was “Beverly Hills Cop” with almost $235 million and $316 million worldwide. Disney’s movie releases were in the tank and not making what they should be with a few exceptions. In 1984, Touchstone’s “Splash” opened at No. 1 on the chart and grossed over $69 million (Box Office Mojo) by the time it finished its run; it cost $8 million to make. The film was a huge success at the time, and it brought in about $62 million profit.

Eisner looked at the situation and decided that Disney and its movie making companies would make smaller budget films that would make money rather than hope for a summer blockbuster that could fail. They were going to hit singles rather than try for homeruns. In 1986, “Ruthless People,” “Down and Out in Beverly Hills” and “The Color of Money” were released with grosses of $71, $62 and $52 million making them the 9th, 11th and 12th highest grossing movies of the year. Eisner’s strategy was successful, and Disney carved out a niche with these low budget, over-performing types of films.

Flash forward to 2018 and the surprise hit (not Disney) “A Quiet Place.” With a budget of $17 million dollars, this is the type of film Disney would’ve happily made in the 1980s. The movie made $340 million dollars worldwide ($323 million profit). Marvel’s “Black Panther” cost about $200 million to make and brought in over $1.3 billion; domestically, it was the top grossing film of the year. It would take about three “A Quiet Place” size releases to make the same amount of profit as “Black Panther.” However, “Black Panther” was a surprise in its own way.

Marvel’s sure thing for the year was “The Avengers: Infinity War” – a sequel, which according to the just over $2 billion box office gross, you’re probably familiar with. The estimates for the cost of the film run between $300 million and $400 million. Even on the high side of the estimate, the film brought in $1.6 billion, or the rough equivalent of five “A Quiet Places.”

I understand these numbers aren’t exact. There are marketing costs to consider as well as what the actual theaters make, which is different depending on the country. However, the point is it doesn’t make any sense for a company that brings in $12.6 billion (2018 net income) to worry about $10 or $20 million, the budget of “A Quiet Place” for a return of only $323 million. As Mendelson pointed out, Disney had taken risks with “Tomorrowland” (profit at a scant $20 million), “The Finest Hours” (losses estimated at $20 million), and “The Queen of Katwe” (estimated loss of $5 million). These movies didn’t return enough profit to justify their existence.

Other Sources of Income

When “Star Trek” dolls were released and the series ended, the sales of the toys dried up as well. There wasn’t anyway to remind people about the purpose of the toys without the show. When “Star Trek: The Next Generation” returned the Star Trek universe to television, toy sales skyrocketed.

In 1983, Funimation released “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” after Reagan deregulated children’s programming. The show was designed to sell He-Man action figures. Once it made it on the air and He-Man sales sky-rocketed every toy company got involved in Saturday Morning Cartoons: “Transformers,” “Go-Bots,” “M.A.S.K.,” “Jem and the Holograms,” and “G.I. Joe” to name a few. Whether the show or the action figures came first is of little consequence, what mattered was that some of the cartoons were pulled from the air not because of the cartoons’ popularity, but because the toys lacked sales.

Disney’s synergistic approach to marketing means the media giant isn’t looking just at the movies. It’s also looking at what it can make from tie-ins. Dumbo’s new movie release, regardless of how it’s received, sells more stuffed Dumbos. Marvel’s movies sell more superhero action figures, Lego sets, and whatever else they put their characters on. These things all bring in more money. Disney princesses outsell Barbie now are a multi-billion-dollar market segment. Their inclusion in “Ralph Breaks the Internet” keeps them fresh, updates them for this generation and keeps the product moving. The Disney company not only needs to create movie sequels and remakes because they are smaller financial risks, but also because they sell more toys, products and Disney park experiences.

What’s It All Mean?

There’s no incentive for Disney to green-light smaller film projects, even if they become the next “A Quiet Place.” The movie industry can only stand so many new films before there aren’t enough movie-goers to see them all. Worse, people say they want new stories, but they only think they want new stories. Audiences still flock to their favorite characters and movie franchises because its an acceptable risk. To spend $10 to $15 on a movie that you may not like or know nothing about doesn’t make much sense when you know that Marvel (or DC or Pixar) has a release right around the corner.

Moreover, Disney can make more money from product friendly franchises that it can tie into its theme parks than it ever could from a movie that has to stand on its own two legs. This all becomes more problematic with Disney’s recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox, and it’s looming control of 40 to 50 percent of the box office. The studios will have to schedule movies so they don’t cut into each other’s profits, which will mean fewer movies and fewer opportunities for a smaller film to get made.

For more on the Disney Company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company.

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Michigan Lottery’s Fast Cash Commercial and What it Reveals about Creativity

There’s a Michigan Lottery radio commercial that plays during Detroit Piston games and sums up the problem with creativity in a business setting perfectly. The commercial talks about Fast Cash, how good it is and how much people like it. The set up isn’t really important to the point. What is important runs like this:

  • Presumably the boss: “Is there anyway to make Fast Cash better?”
  • Suggestion Lackey 1: “Glow in the dark tickets!”
  • Suggestion Lackey 2: “Lemon-scented tickets!”
  • Presumably the boss: “How about new games?”
  • Lackeys are all-in for those.

The first point is one of time. Of course, a 30-second (or fewer) spot doesn’t allow for the development of new ideas. There just isn’t enough time to be more creative. Time is the most precious resource for all of us, and we need a lot of it to get truly creative.

The second point is the boss doesn’t want creative ideas. He asks the question and immediately jumps to an old idea not even paying any sort of attention to the suggestions from his team. New games in the context of the lottery are not new ideas. They are, at best, recycled ideas.

Businesses do not want new ideas. They do not want creative ideas. They want profitable ideas. That means, proven and/or cheap to produce ideas, in this case, new games.

However, let’s take a moment to imagine that the Michigan Lottery really was looking for new ideas, and it had glow in the dark and lemon scented to work with. Fast Cash tickets range in price from $1 to $20.

Let’s start with “lemon scented.” If the tickets were lemon scented and could be used as car air fresheners, would that be an incentive for people to buy them? The advantage for the buyer would be that he or she actually gets something useful out of the transaction while taking a risk at winning some money. The advantage for the environment is that the ticket would be used for something other than throwing away. The cost of tree air fresheners on Amazon is about 24 for $19 plus whatever shipping would run though they can run over $1 each. Big foot is around $5 as is squirrel in underpants. So, depending on the design of the ticket, people may want to buy them for the air freshening qualities. The disadvantage is maybe the winning tickets would smell up the shop where they were purchased.

“Glow in the dark” is a little more difficult to work with because it tends to be nothing more than a novelty. It’s not like the lottery ticket could be used as night light or emergency flashlight, at least not as the idea stands with just the “glow in the dark” moniker. However, glow in the dark tickets would work great for a Halloween lottery game and possibly for a Santa Claus based lottery game.

The disadvantage of both these ideas is that they are a step beyond what most lotteries are interested in doing. A cheap scratch-it or computer printed ticket will keep more money going toward the state, and people are going to pay for them anyway. Adding scent or glow in the dark is also adding an expense.

Another disadvantage is that people may not go for them. They may not be interested in getting something extra for their lottery dollars. It’s a risk, and it’s riskier than just opting for new games that may be unpopular because of the greater expense. Still, for my money, if I have to choose between a $5 air freshener and a $5 lottery ticket that can be used as an air freshener when I don’t win money, I’m choosing the lottery ticket. I’d be willing to bet so would a lot of other people.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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‘Unicorn Store’: Embrace Your Creativity

When Kit (Brie Larson) is kicked out of art school and moves in with her parents, she decides, is coerced into, taking a job with a temp agency that palaces her in a PR firm. Kit puts away her childish things and becomes a business women with a suit she borrows from her mom. She meets the VP of the company, and naive about his intentions, she accepts his invitation to work on a Mystic Vacuum account.

She rejects her initial drawings, a Pokémon meets vacuum amalgamation, and tries to go with more traditional representations of women vacuuming, which she draws on graph paper for added grown-upness. These mundane vacuums and their housewives earn her creepy boss’ approval, but they don’t work for Kit.

She finally gets an idea and recruits her work friend and the delivery guy to help her with the presentation. They come in at the end of the sexy woman, baby, selfie vacuum presentation, and pitch Kit’s idea with glitter, magic, creativity, love and enthusiasm. She has an original idea that would sell vacuums through the sheer differentiation factor.

The woman executive who is in charge of the Mystic Vacuum company thinks it’s too much. She likes the sexy woman with the selfie, baby and vacuum – an idea that says women can have it all, and one that is outdated and done to death. All of the other male ad execs express the same sentiment. So, it comes down to the boss, and Kit has hope.

The boss said earlier that the lack of creativity in the work place was killing him. He still chooses the woman, vacuum, baby, selfie by asking to be told more about the lingerie. Kit loses her job.

While the movie itself is whimsical and freeing, this particular commentary on creativity in the workplace is all too real. On average, creative people get fewer promotions and fewer raises than their less creative co-workers. They face ridicule for their ideas and blame when the idea fails while not receiving commensurate rewards when an idea succeeds. No matter what people say about creativity, most times bosses, teachers and coworkers want the comfort of the known and the safe.

For Kit, it’s all for the best. She seeks her own personal unicorn and finds her creative self and the support she needs to continue being creative. For creative people, it’s important to learn that many ideas will be rejected not because they’re bad or they won’t work but because people fear the unknown and failure, and every new idea carries a risk with it. Life isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but it can be better if you find people who love and support your work, even if they are relative strangers.

For more on creativity, get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.

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Instinctive Archery and What It Can Teach about Creativity

Instincive archery Mediterranean draw

When I was learning instinctual archery, it seemed pretty straight forward. Use the correct form and the arrow goes where you look. So, I worked on it:

  • Feet shoulder width apart.
  • Knees slightly bent.
  • Look at your target; both eyes open.
  • Raise your arms; bow slightly canted.
  • Three fingers on the string; index finger above, middle and ring finger below.
  • Pull the string using your back muscles by bring the shoulder blades together; bring the middle finger to the corner of the mouth.
  • Release.

“You dropped your elbow.”

“What?”

“You dropped your elbow. Everything should be in a straight line.”

Again, the elbow dropped. Again and again and again and again. I took video (and posted it on my YouTube channel), so I could see what I was doing. I practiced in the mirror at home without a bow. I practiced on the range. I practiced concentrating on the elbow, then something else would go wrong. My arrows generally made it to the target, some hit the bull’s eye. But it took me a long time to get my form correct, even with Armin Hirmer and Andy Hillsden at Malta Archery coaching me and reminding me about smaller form issues.

It took a lot of practice and patience, and at some point, I learned from my failure and got better at archery. Creativity takes practice, patience and the willingness to continue even after mistakes and failures.

Trust Yourself

As an instructor, I found that most people were afraid to trust that their minds and eyes will work together to get the arrow on the target. There’s no aiming. You simply point and trust yourself that your body knows where to send the arrow. Most people wanted to look at the arrow, but you don’t look at a ball when you throw it. You look at the target.

With instinctual archery, you have trust yourself. You have to trust that your body will do what you want it to do. In creativity, you have to trust your judgement. You have to understand that you know what you want to accomplish and experimenting will get you there as long as you have knowledge in the field or domain. You are creative.

Keep Learning

Sometimes, beginners would come in and just want to shoot the bow the way they wanted to shoot the bow. They saw it on TV or had made their own bow when they were much younger. Some thought the bows were toys, so they didn’t need instruction. Whatever the reason, they didn’t want to learn how to shoot the bow with any form.

People who shot guns also would not want to learn how to shoot a bow. They thought their gun shooting skills would transfer to the bow. Either they shot too high or didn’t get the power out of the bow they should have.

Olympic style archers don’t want to learn instinctive archery. They would come in and shoot in the Olympic style even though the equipment wasn’t made for it. Bows would crash to the floor. Even good archers would miss one out of three arrows. Some were stubborn; some didn’t want to ruin their form.

Instinctive archers using the Mediterranean draw wouldn’t want to learn thumb draw, even when the bow was clearly made for thumb draw. Getting a full pull out of one of these bows required more pull. Instead, the archer was content with getting half as much power and beauty as he or she could have out of the bow. Thumb draw hurts when your thumb isn’t used to it.

The people who enjoyed archery the most were the ones who went in for learning everything and it made them better archers because they could adapt their style to their equipment. That’s true of creativity, too. You need to use the tools you have, and many of your tools will come from what you have learned before. Keep learning and get the most out of your creativity.

For more on creativity, order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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Two Causes of Creative Blocks and How to Break Them

Overcome your creative blocks

The most common cause of creative blocks is fear. Fear of failure, fear of not living up to the hype of a previous success, fear of doing something wrong, fear of not being accepted, fear of rejection, fear of disappointing someone – yourself, your families, you friends… There are a thousand fears that can stymie creativity.

While you will never be able to eliminate fear, you can face it and break through it. Sit down in your creative space and get to work. It doesn’t matter what you create, just start the work. Once you get started, the fear will go away. You don’t even have to work on your next project. Give yourself 20 minutes of freestyle creativity to get the juices flowing and then start on the project that has you scared. And it is always the project that scares you the most that you should work on. It will be the most truthful, the most artistic and lead you to the most happiness and success. Facing your fear and working on that which you fear is the only way to overcome a fear-based creative block.

Another cause is the exhaustion of the creative well. If you’re a full-time creator, chances are you’re on the treadmill of having to produce content or something creative every day. Day after day, you have to have new ideas, make new art, and do everything that comes with marketing because if you don’t you may not eat next month. If you have a job and are creating on the side, just the job can be taxing enough that it makes it hard to come home and spend time on doing what’s really important, being with your family, creating, and not succumbing to (insert addictive entertainment of choice here).

Creators will tell you that ideas come from nowhere or everywhere. But the truth of the matter is, ideas can only come to you when you have a well full of information, experiences and emotion. Being numb is the artist’s worst affliction. Hopefully, you have some tricks that will help you be creative even when you feel like you’re out of ideas.

Keeping a journal, going for a walk, and faking it ‘til you make it are among tried and true strategies. Read a magazine or a book that’s outside your normal reading material. Travel to someplace new, even if it’s a nearby park. Contact your inner child and explore the edges of your yard. Observe, observe closer, observe again; too much of life is spent on auto-pilot engage with your surroundings, ignore your phone and see what you’ve been missing.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improving Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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ABCs of Creativity: Mistakes

shoes basketball nike lebron

If you’re doing something that you know how to do, you might make a mistake. It doesn’t matter what the task is or how many times you’ve done it before, being human means that you make mistakes sometimes, even when you’re doing something you’re good at. Professional basketball player J.R. Smith dribbled out a clock when his team needed a score in the playoffs; he’s on a team with Lebron James. Smith made the mistake in spite of being an NBA player who was probably told by his teammates what was going to happen.

Creativity means you’re doing something new to you. If a pro player can make a mistake when he is doing something he’s been doing for years, imagine how much more likely it is that you’ll make a mistake doing something new. It’s going to happen. Accept it and then do something that will set you apart from others, learn from your mistake.

In creativity, mistakes are the stepping stones to better products, better hypotheses, and better results. As long as the mistake leads to learning something, it’s okay. You don’t have to make the same mistake twice, you can make new ones every day! Go try something new, and make your mistake so you can learn.

For more on creativity, order “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Get “Penguinate: Essays and Short Stories: Improve Your Creativity for a Better Life and World.” Pre-order “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”

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My Niece, the Haunted Mansion and Fear

Niece and Minnie at Disneyland

When my oldest niece was about five, my mom and I took her on the Haunted Mansion. We went through the Stretching Room, down the Portrait Gallery and boarded the same Doom Buggy. As we rolled up the stairs and into the mansion, I was getting into it. The Haunted Mansion isn’t scary, but it’s fun to pretend it is.

So, I was taking everything seriously. The armor, the endless hallway with the floating candelabra, the chair that seems to be staring at you. Each new “horror” made me look more fearful. As we rotated to see the body trying to get out of the coffin, my mom hit me in the shoulder.

“Lighten up. You’re scaring your niece,” she whispered at me.

I switched the way I was looking at the mansion and laughed at its humorous elements. I kept smiling through the ride, and my niece had a great time. She wasn’t afraid of no ghosts.

Fortunately, the team of Claude Coats and Marc Davis helped to provide the elements of a frightening atmosphere and comic presentations. (Of course, there are plenty of contributions from other prominent imagineers, like Rolly Crump and his human-like furniture and wallpaper and the effects pioneered by Yale Gracey with Crump.) So, you can see the Haunted Mansion the way you want to. It is the creativity that the team put into the mansion that makes it a classic attraction that everyone loves.

For more on the Haunted Mansion and creativity, preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.” You can also get “Disneyland Is Creativity” and “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories: Improve your Creativity for a Better Life and World.”

For more on the Disney Company, preorder “Penguinate! The Disney Company.”

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With Creativity, Go Big or Be S.M.A.R.T.?

Big ideas are what people are told businesses want and the world needs. Humanity needs ideas that will solve problems that threaten the planet’s habitability and human beings with extinction. Businesses need solutions that will generate billions of dollars of profit. Big ideas are what propel people to fame and fortune, and they allow us to live up to our full potential.

When you hear sayings like:

  • Go big or go home.
  • Shoot for the moon! If you fail, you’ll at least wind up among the stars (Les Brown or Norman Vincent Peale).
  • Big, hairy, audacious goals (James Collins and Jerry Porras).

You get inspired. Elon Musk’s SpaceX isn’t exciting because it’s successful; it’s exciting because it’s doing something that’s never been done before. Walt Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Disneyland were exciting because they had never been done before. There’s something intrinsically motivation about doing the something that people say can’t be done.

“It’s kind of fun to do the impossible” – Walt Disney.

“Nothing is impossible, the word itself says ‘I’m possible’” – Audrey Hepburn.

But oftentimes, the person with the big idea is shutdown by management, circumstances and other people. Even if the idea is sound, people are afraid to implement it. The would much rather rely on what has already been produced. No one wants to be the first through the door because that’s when things get bloody. The status quo is easy. Maintaining the current situation doesn’t threaten anyone. New ideas do, even when people understand that new ideas are necessary for the survival of the business or the species.

For people who are looking at trying to maintain the status quo while moving forward, S.M.A.R.T. goals are the answer. The anacronym stands for:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Ugh. If you know they’re attainable and realistic, there’s no challenge in these types of goals, even if you think you’re stretching yourself a little bit. People weren’t meant to be just stretch a little. But S.M.A.R.T. goals are a lot less risky than the “impossible” dream. Businesses jump all over these types of goals. A new flavor of chip? A new edition of a phone? A car model based on a successful car from last year? These are all S.M.A.R.T. goals that are profitable and easy to green light. They won’t get you to the next level, but they will most likely keep the profits rolling in.

The truth is it’s a little of both. Set the big goals, go after the grand ideas, and use the S.M.A.R.T. goals to get you there. If you know where you want to go, you can get there, step by step. Cutting the big goal into smaller pieces will help get you there without getting overwhelmed.

For more on creativity, get “Disneyland Is Creativity.” Order “Penguinate! Essays and Short Stories.” Preorder “The Haunted Mansion Is Creativity.”