How to Encourage Innovation in Your Team with Walt Disney's 3-step Method

Creativity and innovation are arguably the biggest drivers of business progress and growth. They are essential within every aspect of a company, including: product and service development; problem-solving; people management; and what makes you distinctively different to your competition. 

Yet when it comes to innovative and creative thinking in the workplace, there are many things holding us back.

Many of us find ourselves in the grey corporate box or, sat in boardrooms that are designed to be intimidating with long, large desks that highlight hierarchy and create distance from others. - Hardly the type of environments that you need to be creative and let your mind run away with free-flowing ideas!  

Thankfully, we can look to some of the most successful people in history for proven tools and techniques to help us and for creative-thinking methods, who better than Walt Disney?

Walt Disney employed a very clear creative approach, elements of which most of us can implement relatively easily within our workplaces and teams. 


Disney took his ideas through 3 separate stages of progression. Each ‘stage' required him to take on a different perspective: 

💭 Stage 1. The Dreamer:  

With his dreamer hat on, Disney was able to fantasize and create the most fantastic and unique ideas. In this state of mind there were no boundaries or limits, no analysis as to whether the idea could actually work, his ideas were allowed to be as imaginative as he liked. Disney could allow his thoughts to flow freely. 

🤔 Stage 2: The Realist 

Taking on the role of the realist, Disney would then re-examine and re-work his ideas into something more practical - looking closely at how it could be achieved. 

📝 Stage 3: The Critic

As the critic, Disney would poke holes in his ideas, acknowledging the pitfalls and challenges that might arise. 

The ideas that survived this process would be the ones that Walt Disney worked on. 

Don't let one 'stage' get in the way of another

Through compartmentalisation of each of these 3 stages, Disney was able to not let his critic get in the way of his dream-like thinking, or vice versa.  

Disney also knew the impact his environment has on his thinking, allocating a separate room for each of these stages of thought. Allocating different rooms for each of these ways of thinking further immersed him in each of the roles he was taking on. He was also able to ensure that each space could be designed in a way to support his thinking.

Shifting our environment for each of these stages of thought makes shifting our thinking much easier. 

When we brainstorm ideas at work, we often fill the room with a mix of people - a couple of dreamers, a bunch of realists and a few spoilers (you know who you are!) When we do this, the dream ideas don't get further than a couple of seconds of thought when with proper development they may be the solution to our problem.

We also often find ourselves in one ‘type’ of environment, a meeting room or the desk we've been sitting at for hours/days/weeks/months/years. 

💡 To get the best out of yourself and your team, test the power of this creative approach by doing the following: 

  • Be clear on the objective / problem you need to solve 

  • Organise 3 separate meetings in 3 separate rooms, for example: 1 x ‘Dreamer meeting’ in 'Meeting room A', 1 x ‘Realist meeting’ in 'Meeting room B' and 1 x ‘Spoiler meeting’ in 'Meeting room C'  If your team is working remotely then ask them to move to different places around their home, (cameras don't need to be on). 

  • Remember time of day can make a difference: arrange your meetings for around 10am-12pm, when the majority of us are at our peak for productive and creative thinking

  • Keep your team focused on the stage at hand, reassure your Spoilers that their time will come!  


Comments (0)

Leave a comment