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Are You "Bumping The Lamp"?

February 21, 2009
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Please bear with me for a minute...Question: How can a CIO of a healthcare enterprise learn from Disney? Read on…

A few years ago I had the pleasure of attending a seminar at the Disney Institute in Orlando. While I clearly respect Disney for the entertainment giant they are – this seminar was supposed to share values and lessons on quality. How? Ok – I will admit it. I did not make the connection (at all). I was skeptical at how I would walk away with a few “nuggets” that I could implement in my own business from a Disney seminar. Did I say skeptical? Didn’t think so…

One of the agenda items was titled “Bumping the Lamp”. What did this mean and what did it have to do with quality? The Disney speaker told us about the filming of the movie “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. Disney wanted to do something that was unique and different… something they had never done before. This film was a masterful use of live action with animation. To create the animation, over 85,000 hand-inked and painted cells were created and composited with the live-action backdrops, live-action characters, and hand-animated tone mattes (shading), and cast shadows using optical film printers. Remember…sophisticated computer animation in motion pictures was in its infancy when this movie was filmed.

In one scene, Roger, hiding in a darkened room bumps his head on a lamp which causes shadows to continuously move throughout the remainder of the scene. As originally written (and animated), the "bump" did NOT occur. It was an accident! The director, after seeing the rough cut, decided that it would be funnier if the "bump" occurred. Disney instructed the animators to go back to the drawing board re-create the entire animation sequence. This meant they had to re-do hundreds of drawings, to accommodate the shadow. All of this effort, just to make a better product? Tons of time and effort went into making the shadows match between the actual room shots and the animation on Roger. For most viewers of the film – it was not even noticeable and most assume it was some computer animation at work here. As previously stated - there were no computers doing this kind of animation when this movie was filmed. According to Disney, this special attention to detail is what actually made this movie unique.

Disney’s CEO, Michael Eisner adopted “Bumping the Lamp” as a mantra for its employees. He created a welcome video for all new employees about this new company mantra. In the video (which I had the pleasure of seeing), Eisner discussed the details behind "Bumping the Lamp" and why each Disney employee should pay attention to details others may not notice. "Bumping the Lamp" was used by Disney to show both new and existing employees how and why you should always put forth extra effort, go the extra mile and do a little bit more than people expect. It’s the Disney way! To my surprise, I found this seminar to be fun, engaging and very useful. I learned a lot from my Disney experience and enjoyed every minute of it!

Did I walk away with any “nuggets” I could use in my business? You bet I did!

As the CIO and technology leader of your facility let me ask you a question:

Are you “bumping the lamp”? Just curious…




Great post! Anthony brings up a very interesting question, which, as somewhat of a perfectionist, I ask myself on a daily basis. Is going the extra mile warranted in this situation, or would my time be better spent elsewhere? Sometimes the answer is obvious, sometimes not so much.

I guess though if my project was destined to outlive me and my name was on it (the Declaration of Independence, a Disney movie, a Healthcare Informatics blog post), I'd be more inclined to go ahead and go the extra mile, knowing that I would always have that nagging regret if I didn't. But that's more about personal pride than ROI.

And btw, Roger Rabbit was not something I could sit through either, so I guess the bigger question remains - Who Did Frame Roger Rabbit?


I completely missed this post when originally published. I think I was bumping a lamp somewhere.

There's one more dimension to Anthony's comment. The ROI for the film 'Roger Rabbit' might not have been there. But, the artistic development associated with doing the work and seeing the result could have intangibly delivered ROI to a subsequent film. Even if the work to get the result using evolving Computer-assisted Animation would drive the skills cost down. The artistic growth could be the ROI. To those of us who believe that Gladwell's Outliers argument has merit, the direct ROI to Roger Rabbit could be the wrong measure.

OutliersTo those of you who have not yet read Gladwell's Outliers, here's the necessary background. Gladwell writes that highly successful people in many domains are characterized by a few things. One of which is ten thousand hours (TTH) of experience time getting good at something; usually about 10 years. He provides concrete examples for the Beatles, Bill Gates, Bill Joy, Athletes including hockey players, and many others. The TTH is not sufficient in and of itself. In most instances, there are a number of other factors that play an important role. Part of the controversy is the fact that most of those factors are completely outside of the success' control or influence.

Nice post Tim. I absolutely agree with the premise of your post (and the Disney philosophy) that going the extra mile makes all the difference in the world. I firmly believe that we need to continually make our products and service better or someone else will, and we will fall behind the competition.

I would, however, like to bring up the angle of ROI and how that should play into the decision-making process. For example, was the improvement worth the effort required to effect it? In a vacuum, sure, everyone can agree that an improvement is an improvement but that is not reality. If tens of thousands of dollars went into adding a bump, with attendant shadows, was it worth it? Though I don't know the math of the formula, there should be a way to calculate if the change was worth it? Perhaps one group could be shown the original version and one the new and improved, each could then rate their impressions but I digress into silly specifics here.

The point is that bumping the lamp might be worth it, and it might not be. We all work to discern when to bump the lamp and when to leave it alone. As far as I'm concerned, I've never been able to watch Roger Rabbit for more than five minutes, and I doubt whether seeing shadows bounce around would make a bit of difference.

What an outstanding book! I've read all of Gladwell's books and think I enjoyed Outliers the most! Great read. Thanks Joe.

Gwen and Anthony - you both bring up good points. I think there is a middle ground here by just providing outstanding service and simply doing what you promise to do. For many in the healthcare space that depend on a vendor or partner to deliver service - the level of service one gets varies and I would suspect the service level gap is fairly wide. I think it's a good policy to do a liitle more than your customer expects.

Glad you enjoyed it. It was probably the most 'human', especially how it ended.

My dad and I read it together he continues to quote different aspects of it. That's unusual for him. You're right - Outliers is an outstanding book.

I think it was that other animated creature from the old Paula Abdul video.

Interesting discussion here. I think the key is not going the extra mile in an absolute sense, but knowing when to go beyond normal exertion, and exacty to what degree in any particular case.

It's not hard to argue your point. And when you begin to think about if you should go to that extreme to get a little more (not to mention the possible financial expense) from a CIO's perspective - that's probably a whole new discussion. I was amazed at the attention to detail that Disney employees take to make each visitor have a unique experience.
I did love your comment about not being able to watch this show for more than 5 minutes - and I must admit, I too, have never seen the movie in its entirety. In then end - customer service has all but vanished from many companies in the US and it's nice to see an example of one (very big) company where it really does matter. I think we can all learn something from that. I know I did! Thanks Anthony.