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Disney's Creativity Strategy

by Walt's Frozen Head June 11, 2012

Up from the Hub archives. Originally published 2007


Well, this wasn't actually my creativity strategy, but it's become known as 'Disney's Creativity Strategy'. Hub member Peter Cook asked a question about it a while ago, and I notice a whole debate is opening up this week in The Hub about creativity and how to lead it (look in Peter Cook's entry in the Ask The Expert section of The Hub), so thought I'd add this  to the theme:

This technique – Disney’s Creativity Strategy -  was not actually identified within the Disney organization, but was developed from outside by Robert Dilts, a pioneer in Neuro Linguistic Programming, who says he developed it by looking at the way I was so successful at turning fantasies into reality.

The strategy separates out the three vital roles in the process: The Dreamer, The Realist and The Critic. It's a bit like de Bono's Thinking Hats - you adopt one of the positions at a time.

1. The Dreamer

This is where the visionary big picture is produced. With no boundaries, limitations or restraint. The dreamer position typically ‘sees’ the ideal future. Ask yourself "What do customers really want, in an ideal world?" Then see it. The three roles (Dreamer, and the two mentioned in the next two items) can all be within the same person, by the way. It’s similar to Edward De Bono’s Six Thinking Hats, if you’ve ever used that approach to creativity – wearing a different hat means adopting that position and outlook for a while. So, you’d say to yourself, ‘For the next hour I am going to dream up what we want for our customers and picture it in as much details as possible.’ This can actually be a group rather than just you – Convene a ‘dreamer group’ to come up with what Ken Blanchard (One Minute Manager author) would call the ideal organization for your customer.

2. The Realist

This is the second role within the Disney Creativity Strategy, where the plans are organized, and evaluated to determine what is realistic. Think constructively and devise an action plan. Establish time frames and milestones for progress. Make sure it can be initiated and maintained by the appropriate person or group. Ask yourself "What will I do to make these plans a reality?" Again, this could be a group meeting rather than an individual. In fact, it could be the same group, with a different brief – The Dreamer Group becomes The Realist Group.

3. The Critic

The third role in the Disney Creativity Strategy, according to Robert Dilts. This is where you test the plan, look for problems, difficulties and unintended consequences. Think of what could go wrong, what is missing, what the spins-offs will be. Remember that a critic is someone who should evaluate - not just point out what is wrong. Ask yourself "What could go wrong and how do we adjust to accommodate that?”

See Robert Dilts and his book Strategies of Genius (Published 1994)