Harnessing creativity on a good day is a challenge. But what do you
do when you're facing client expectations, a tight deadline, and an
even tighter budget? In today's business world of
return-on-investment in ever-shorter timeframes, convincing clients
that a day of creativity is what's needed to achieve their goals
can be a hard sell. Yet when our client challenged us to set a new
standard for e-learning, our first step was a day of creative play
at an arts center. Were we crazy, reckless, irresponsible? No, we
were following a tried-and-true model of creativity, the Disney
The Disney strategy
The Disney strategy was developed by trainer and author Robert
Dilts, who studied Walt Disney's processes, procedures, and
approaches. Dilts discovered that Disney's creative success stemmed
from his ability to harness the power of three very different
- Dreamer, one who comes up with the ideas.
- Realist, one who looks at the ideas realistically and
determines how to implement them.
- Critic, one who evaluates the ideas and figures out how to make
If each of these roles is given its own time and space, and the
working environment encourages each role, organizations can achieve
greater creativity. We used the Disney strategy to discover new
approaches to e-learning and to provide tips for how to apply this
strategy to work projects.
Dreamers think outside of the box and generate new ideas. An
anything-goes attitude in a creative environment guarantees the
most dynamic response from your participants. Get out of the
office. Find a location that will make participants feel relaxed
and inspired. Engage your participants' inner child by using bright
colors, music, games, and movement. Let them write ideas on large
pieces of paper all over the walls. Use icebreaker activities,
word-association games, and arts and crafts to give participants
permission to think and act differently than they do in the office.
Your colorful environment will tell participants to expect the
unusual, but be sure to set guidelines so that everyone knows that
for this session, there are no bad ideas. Inherently, everyone will
want to jump right to solutions and bypass anything that doesn't
immediately make sense. So, you'll have to gently remind them of
the no-bad-ideas guideline. You'll be amazed at how many useful
ideas you'll get just by starting with a random word such as
In the realist stage, you can let loose those critical evaluations
you held back during the dreamer stage. Now is the time to look at
all the dreamer's ideas and determine how or if they can be
Set the right environment by meeting in a business setting. Engage
key stakeholders, especially the people who will have to execute on
your ideas. They'll bring a new perspective to those ideas and help
you evaluate them objectively.
Start this stage by setting the criteria for evaluating your
dreamer ideas. Keep the number of criteria to less than five so the
decision-making process is manageable. Evaluate the criteria by
asking these questions:
- Does this idea support the business or performance objective?
- Will it be meaningful to the intended audience?
- Will the development time fit the deadlines?
You'll also want to look at tools, strategies, and resources you
already have to see if they can offer some shortcuts to
In the critic stage, you fine-tune your solutions. This is where
you develop a detailed vision of how the solution is going to work
and what its impact will be.
The right environment for the critic is any quiet place that allows
for deep thought--your desk, a quiet conference room, or maybe a
This is the time to document your solution. By organizing and
documenting your solution, you can find areas of weakness or fuzzy
logic and eliminate them.
Think about your approach to work projects. Do you allow a time and
a place for dreaming? Typically, people start with the realist or
the critic stage, setting parameters for what they want to create
in an attempt to be practical, but ultimately they limit their
options. The result is the same old stuff.
The Disney strategy opens the door to a completely new set of
possibilities. Then the realist and critic can turn those
possibilities into realistic solutions that meet business
objectives and set new standards.
With the Disney strategy, creativity doesn't have to take a
backseat to business objectives. It's a critical pathway to meeting