Chicago World Fair

Think Big; Plan Big; Achieve Big

“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work…Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us…Think big.”

I first heard this quote from Daniel Burnham on an Architectural tour of Chicago.  Shortly after moving to The Windy City, my family and I boarded a small boat to learn the history of downtown Chicago.  The tour guide mentioned Burnham’s name many times when describing the classical buildings we admired.

He then described the man who changed the face of architecture in Chicago and cities across America because he accepted the challenge to Think Big.  

Daniel Burnham was one of the most sought after architects in America in the early 20th century.  He designed one of the first American skyscrapers: the Masonic Temple Building in Chicago, and was influential in shaping the design of the National Mall of Washington D.C. under the McMillan plan.  He and his company designed over forty well known buildings across America.

His best known work was his design of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893.  The World’s Fair held in Chicago in 1893 celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ arrival in the New World in 1492. It also demonstrated to the world that Chicago had risen again from the great fire which destroyed much of the city in 1871.

Over 27 million people attended the fair during its six month run.   It covered more than 600 acres, and featured 200 new buildings of neoclassical architecture and people and cultures from around the world.  Its scale exceeded any other world fair before it, and it was the first world fair to have international pavilions for forty-six nations.  It was the prototype of what Burnham thought a city should be; the first example of city planning.

The Big Plans of the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893 left quite an impression on the world.  The design brought international prominence to Daniel Burnham, and is said to have inspired the Emerald City of the Land of Oz and Walt Disney’s theme parks.

In his book Built to Last, Jim Collins highlights great successful companies that Achieved Big.  Most had what Collins calls Big Harry Audacious Goals or BHAGS.  Like Jack Welch and General Electric whose BHAG was, “To become #1 or #2 in every market we serve and revolutionize this company to have the speed and agility of a small enterprise.”

In leadership you need to inspire your teams to achieve greatness.  For your vision to be successful you must Think Big; Plan Big and you will Achieve Big.

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