The Disney Strategy should be seen and utilized by any business as a powerful tool for problem-solving, new concepts or projects. It involves creativity and complex thinking in order to create and foresee anything that could go wrong. In groups it’s magic.
What’s the main quality widely credited to Disney?
I bet you’ll agree that creativity is far in the top. So please smile at this. He was fired from a newspaper in Kansas because they concluded he was not creative enough. Isn’t this ironic? It’s pitchy. So forced to follow his true inner voice, entrepreneurship, he launched an animation start-up by the name of Laugh-O-Gram.
After this, a long journey started where he went through challenges, from bankruptcy to being cheated and left without his Oswald character, but even more dramatic without a staff which was all converted by Universal Studios.
Long story short, Disney not only thrived but used all those characteristics of the highly successful people in order to succeed. And as you can tell going through so many grey clouds for so many years he needed to have a clear vision, perseverance, and hard work.
In the end, he bought ABC in 1996, that same ABC who owned Kansas City Star, the newspaper which fired him in the past. I would graciously add here, “The best revenge success.” Sounds like Steve Job’s story right? Or Sylvester Stallone’s when he sold his dog for $25, then bought it back for $15,000
You see? Successful people have similar traits. They don’t give up when the vision and perseverance are in place.
Let’s go straight to the point. So Disney was known as impersonating three Walt’s, and “You never knew which one was coming into your meetings.” That’s because he was a dreamer, an entrepreneur and a CEO as well. He used the different perspectives to approach his characters and his business – leaving out nothing.
The three chairs
It all started with his three chairs. The strategy is based on his three chairs always found in his office which were anchored to three states or perspectives.
1. The dreamer
2. The realist
3. The spoiler
Let’s see how we can envision this.
• A Dreamer without a Realist and Spoiler is only a Dreamer
• A Realist without a Dreamer and Spoiler is a Robot
• A Spoiler without a Dreamer and Realist is just a Spoiler
• A Dreamer and a realist without Spoiler has no quality standards in place
• A Spoiler and a Realist without a Dreamer is called Bureaucracy
• A Dreamer and a Spoiler without a Realist is a bipolar roller coaster
How to Use The Chairs in Business
Of course, you can use the strategy with chairs, but in groups works best preparing some spots such as papers named after the perceptual positions and placed on the floor. You can then take the group for brainstorms, problem-solving, new concepts.
Everything that needs planning, problem solving or creativity can be worked through the Disney Strategy.
It was his creative strategy, but which was broadly used in business. I’m sure you know that the Disney brand owns management products for all industries build under an academic format. So Disney is a lot more then most know.
1. Go into the Dreamer spot and start dreaming. I mean let every kind of fantasy, idea come to the surface. This is not to think outside the box. It’s beyond that.
“Don’t think outside the box! Once you say that, you’ve established that there is a box.”
So let your team imagine anything, envision any idea without any limitation.
Someone could write the ideas, or even better – use technology and record.
Here you are free, there is no setting, expectation, limitation. You can envision anything, doesn’t matter how outrageous or idealistic it is. The rule is that you have no rules.
You’re answering to “What?” and your thoughts are directed to the future.
You can see what you want, you can hear the surroundings when having that thing and feel the emotions associated to that thing. You are traveling into the future where your creative idea is living.
2. Once the ideas are out you’ll switch to the second position where the Realist is. In this position, you are the project manager of that idea/vision/creative bliss. You are the CEO of that thing. If in the first position you were more entrepreneurial, here you are more like a CEO who has different responsibilities. To make things happen.
So you’re answering questions like:
What do I need to make this dream happen?
The realist doesn’t judge. He assumes that the dream, the idea is achievable, so he just needs to make the plan, involve himself building the road, the costs, the timelines, and the final deadline. He answers to, “How?” He is in the real action mode. He’s the creator of the dream.
So you need to understand the dream in a realistic way – to can set up a plan.
This state is for the present. Something like, “I need to make this happen. So let’s go through it, understand it and set up the right, viable plan.”
3. The third position, Spoiler role is similar to your inner critique. What could go wrong with this plan? What’s not right? What did I miss? Here you have a past and future orientation and see things both short-term and long-term.
Disney used this position focused on the “Why?” and his approach at the beginning was, “I know something is wrong with this. What’s wrong?” Then focusing on the why he asked those annoying questions, “Why this way? Why not other way? Why this idea or plan at all?”
In the NLP model based on Robert Dilts’s book Strategies of Genius, volume 1 – after he studied Walt in great detail fir years, you’ll find a fourth position. A Meta, an Observer. From this position, you can set up the frame, or go there after each state and shake it down before entering into the new position.
Your final goals is to have a satisfied Spoiler, Dreamer and Realist – in this order. If the critique is not satisfied you’ll redo the steps until your final plan got the desired agreement. The outcome needs to be, “This is the best we can do.” Your team now can break and take responsibilities to execute the steps that were traced by the Realist.
If you want a bulletproof project for your future business plans use this model. It’s easy, it’s fun and can be done in different ways or settings. You could even create a well-known setup inside your company when on a regularly basis teams gather and solve current problems or gain perspective about what needs to be done.
For bigger plans, you do unique meetings based solely on that plan.
Doesn’t need to take long. If you’re thinking that it can be difficult and long, you can start with smaller role plays. Think about it. Even if you scan an idea through the three positions once, max for one hour your findings will be priceless. It could also save you millions on the road, by finding something extra which before was ignored or not at all perceived.
Everything that was produced at Disney went through this process. Including Disney World in Florida which launched after Disney’s death. But he saw it, because he relieved it so many times before the first concrete steps were even shaped.
The lesson of the story is this. We have different mindsets that are linked to the context. Create the right framework. Like when you are in a doer mode or pure labor. In that state, you don’t see the big picture. Same way in reverse. When you’re planning something you can miss the flaws because your focus is on the steps, what needs to be done.
We can use this in our daily lives. Identify the state you’re in and if something is lacking change your perceptual position to view that missing spot from there. Or use an observer position, a neutral one from where you can get a sense about what’s needed next.
This is such a powerful tool to be used in business. Don’t let this strategy here, take it with you, apply it and see the Disney magic in action.
I’ll let you with another Disney quote:
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”