Disney Creative Strategy: A Simple Framework For Better Solutions

Bring your team from the creative to the concrete

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

It’s Monday morning, and you and your team meet up to discuss the week ahead. You identify a new problem, and you want a solution set in motion by the end of the week. What do you do?

If you’re short on time or antsy to get going, you’re likely to approach it the way you’ve always done. Who has time to explore new ways when you’re on a deadline anyways?

Now, although jumping right in brings a feeling of tackling the problem straight away, it might actually end up restricting you. After all, there might better, more efficient solutions out there.

I know how it is. Using a familiar approach feels easy and comfortable. It’s automatic; hard-wired into you because it has worked before. But I also know it can lead to mistakes — the type that could have been avoided with a bit more preparation.

As a student of Organizational Psychology, I recently began an internship at a consulting firm in Norway. Here, taking part in their operations, I fully realized the advantages of preparatory work as I saw how affective it was in practice.

One of the frameworks we used was the Disney Creative Strategy, which struck me as simple, time-efficient, and effective. Here’s how you and your team can use it for better solutions:

Disney Creative Strategy

“There were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming to the meeting.” — Unnamed associate of Walt Disney
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What you need

  • Post-it notes/pen/whiteboard-marker.
  • A paper/whiteboard with 3 areas to work in (as shown in the picture above).

How to do it

  • Based in your problem or situation, go through these three stages:

1. The Dreamer

The purpose of this stage is to release your creative potential. Focus on letting the ideas flow freely, without evaluating them or being critical of them. Ask yourself: What do we wish for? How do we picture an ideal solution? What are the potential benefits of this solution?

  1. Write down notes individually.
  2. Share the notes with each other and elaborate on the ideas.
  3. Pick one idea/dream to continue with.

2. The Realist

Now it’s time to switch to a realist state of mind. Here, start with the assumption that your chosen idea/dream is possible to achieve. Based on that, ask yourself: What stages do we have to go through in order to succeed? How can we use the idea? What is the course of action? What is our timeline?

  1. Write down notes individually.
  2. Share your notes.
  3. Discuss subgoals you must have in place in order to succeed, then set up a tentative plan.

3. The Critic

Now that you’ve made a tentative plan, it’s time to consider the risks. Ask yourself: What can go wrong with this idea? What’s missing? What are the potential flaws?

  1. Write down notes individually.
  2. Share the notes with each other and elaborate on the ideas together.
  3. Prioritize risks, from largest to smallest.

The Way Forward

Working through these stages, you go from the creative to the concrete. This produces not only a creative idea, but also an action plan to apply it.

Now, before you start to tackle the problem, have one final discussion about whether your plan needs further iteration. Then go ahead and set things in motion.