Bob Iger at Globant Converge: Connecting the past, present, and future of innovation

November 15, 2022

If there’s one person in the world everyone should listen to about reinvention and innovation, Bob Iger is that person. Leader of one of the world’s largest media companies and most respected and beloved brands around the globe, he focused his vision on three fundamental pillars: producing the best creative content; encouraging innovation and applying the latest technology, as well as expanding into new markets around the world. 

He was Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company from 2005 to 2020 and one of this year’s Converge speakers. Iger had an inspiring one-on-one conversation with Globant’s Co-Founder and CEO Martin Migoya about how he reinvented Disney’s global business by transforming how their customers experience their parks through technology. He shared the lessons learned and the opportunities behind his bold decisions, as well as some insightful information about the acquisitions of Pixar, Marvel, Fox Century, and even his relationship with Steve Jobs. Here are some takeaways.

Reinventing Disney’s culture 

Without a doubt, Disney is an example of a brand that has evolved with the times and understands the zeitgeist, adapting to new consumers’ demands, expectations, and needs, while winning their hearts and capturing their imagination. 

According to Iger, Disney had no choice when talking about reinvention; they had to reinvent because the world was not staying the same. “You have to train an organization and develop a culture that is willing to perform well today but also considers what tomorrow will bring and how to perform well tomorrow…When you articulate it with great clarity, organizations tend to start believing it. I think you get people excited about the opportunities that exist. When you do that, you create momentum and a desire to not just be part of the present, but to be part of the future.”

Two ingredients for innovation: the pursuit of perfection and curiosity

One of the things that marked Iger’s leadership was the constant pursuit of perfection. He shared that early in his career, he learned a lot from people who demanded perfection and excellence and refused to accept no for an answer, pushing him to find ways and solutions to achieve a yes. 

Iger’s constant pursuit of perfection was inspired by others early in his career and by the renowned documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi, where the renowned chef continuously strives to create the best sushi at the age of over 80 and who had won three Michelin stars already.

“I took a clip of that documentary and showed it to all the senior executives at Disney, and said this is who we need to be; we need to be him. Whether we are 28 or 88, we need to continue to pursue making things better.”

Curiosity is a crucial character trait, especially when hiring talent. Bob affirms that when you are a curious person, you are also open-minded about the world and are willing to try new experiences. People driven by curiosity know that the world will keep changing and wonder what these changes could mean and the possibilities and scenarios tomorrow will bring.

“I think the heart of innovation is curiosity; you don’t innovate without being curious about what can be.”

Digital transformation and Disney+  

Bob Iger was sure of his strategy and made bold decisions to make it happen. Distribution would be disrupted by technology, so they should invest in high-quality branded entertainment.

“As I stepped into the role, I realized that Disney Animation, which had been the heart and soul of the company for so long, had really faltered more than we even appreciated, ten years of not only no growth but a lot of failures, and I knew that had to be fixed…Pixar, a partner of Disney’s, had eclipsed Disney as a brand in the eyes of parents with kids under 12, which is critical to Disney.”

His relationship with Steve Jobs marked an important moment in his career, a relationship that was powerful and impactful. Find out the full story between Bob Iger and Steve Jobs, at Converge Digital Hub.

After a 7.3 billion dollar acquisition of Pixar in 2006, Bob shared how he focused on accessing high-quality branded content, which resulted in buying Marvel in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012; he claims this was a response to a changing world regarding how content is distributed, accessed, experienced, and consumed. Regarding the success of Disney+, he added: 

“We thought we’d have four to five million subscribers after one year of operation. We signed up 10 million in the first 24 hours, so we more than doubled our first-year estimates in one day.”

 Iger made bold decisions that were natural moves in his view. He decided to invest in the digital transformation of Disney, realizing that in 2010, 55 years after the first park had opened, nothing had changed except the additions of attractions, shows, and hotels. The experience had remained the same, but the world had changed entirely. Most of all, the customer was very different now, with digital devices that go into the park with that technology and have higher expectations regarding a modern, new and seamless experience. 

One of the solutions towards this digital transformation of Disney was building a team to think about what they called the next generation experience who would ask themselves questions like, “What does the next generation theme park experience need to be?” This thinking led to new technology, such as the MagicBand, a wearable wristband that connected to the cloud and stored information about the consumer, such as birthdays, where they were from, the number of children, reservations for attractions, or rides they had made, etc. 

 No matter the moment in time, quality and its creators are always going to be valuable

Bob added that the value of quality will always remain high, no matter how the world changes, and it’s part of Walt Disney’s vision who believed “that technology, as disruptive as it could be, would always be the most powerful tool in the hands of a great storyteller.” He underlines that more things can be created, distributed, and consumed today than ever, so the creator has more opportunities.  

Visit Converge Digital Hub to watch the inspiring conversation between these two business leaders and discover more about the metaverse, how technology is reinventing sports, fashion, healthcare, innovation in companies, and inspiring trailblazers such as Karlie Kloss, Arianna Huffington, and Tristan Harris.


Disney Digital Transformation Insights from Bob Iger

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