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Speaker: Susanne Lee, Faculty Fellow, Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions, UMaine
Walt Disney was one of the world’s great problem solvers. He oversaw the creation of some of the most sustainable entertainment solutions – beloved characters, music, films and theme parks – which have a timeless appeal across cultures and generations. The driving force behind Walt’s success was an optimism that things could be done better – “all our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”
But Disney was not just dreamer, he understood that solutions are complex and you need to “work at it until it’s done right.” In this lifetime, Walt pioneered several achievements in animation – including the first full-length animated film – and with his Imagineering team, he developed audio-animatronics bringing people and characters to life. He holds the record for most Academy Awards earned by an individual with 22 Oscars among other honors. So, what can Walt Disney’s problem-solving approach teach us about sustainability solutions?
In her talk, Susanne will discuss Walt Disney’s approach to creating sustainable solutions including the use of highly talented yet diverse teams, understanding your audience’s needs, engaging young minds in the work, setting the highest standards, and learning from inevitable mistakes. She will use examples of how this approach led to long-term solutions in entertainment – full-length, animated feature films and engaging, theme parks for children of all ages. Susanne will also highlight how these Disney tenets align with the Mitchell Center approach that her teams are using to develop sustainability solutions for food waste management in Maine.
“Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true.” – Walt Disney
Susanne Lee is an entrepreneurial senior executive who has created, launched and operated successful multi-million-dollar consumer products brands and businesses with large Fortune 100 companies as well as with lean start-up teams. She specializes in strategic solutions, P&L management, brand marketing, consumer insights, business development, product design and manufacturing, licensing and merchandising, and effective team-building.
Susanne worked for nearly a decade at the Walt Disney Company at the Studios in Burbank, California. She was fortunate to work on film, TV, and theme park projects with Roy Disney (Walt’s nephew) as well as some of Disney’s “Nine Old Men”, the original animators and imagineers who worked with Walt. Creating Disney’s own line of collector products, Susanne learned firsthand about the Disney approach to problem-solving.
Susanne was formerly the Executive-in-Residence at the Maine Business School (MBS) where she utilized her business management and marketing background to bring a “real-world” component to student courses and experiential learning opportunities. She built bridges between UMaine students and leading Maine-based businesses with the goal of engaging Maine’s employers in student programs to make UMaine students “work-ready” and help support sustainable economic growth for Maine.
In 2019, Susanne was awarded a Mitchell Center grant to fund a multidisciplinary student research project identifying sustainable food waste solutions for Maine businesses bringing a real-world “sustainable business” opportunity to the Maine Business School.