We have to keep plussing our show. If we ever lose our Guests, it will take us ten years to get them back.

-Walt Disney

Sometime during the 1940s, Walt Disney coined the term “plussing.” Walt used the word as a verb – an action word. To “plus” something is to improve it. “Plussing” means giving your customers more than they paid for, more than they expect, more than you have to give them. Disney historian Les Perkins recalls an incident at Disneyland during the early years of the park. Walt had decided to hold a Christmas parade at the park – a $350,000 extravagance.

Upon hearing of the parade plans, the accountants approached Walt and said, ‘Why spend money on a Christmas parade? It won’t draw people to the park; they will already be here. It’s an expense we can do without. No one will complain if we dispense with the parade, because nobody’s expecting it.

courtesy matterhorn1959

courtesy matterhorn1959

Walt said, ‘That’s just the point. We should do the parade precisely because no one is expecting it. Our goal at Disneyland is to always give people more than they expect.’

Walt spent the last decade of his life plussing the Disneyland experience. He would continually tell cast members, “Every cast member is responsible for the impression we make,” and “take five minutes a day to make a magical memory for one of our Guests.” Disney would walk around the park with a roll of five dollar bills in his pocket to tip any cast member who worked extra-hard to plus the experience for the Guest.

During the decade after Walt Disney’s death in 1966, and as the excitement of Disneyland and Disney World began to wane with new entertainment options, Van France, founder of Disney University, was determined to reignite the can-do culture of Disney. With Walt Disney’s admonition to “keep plussing the show” in mind, France prepared a refresher course for park management entitled “Gentlemen, This is a Guest!”

Through these sessions, he identified a need to reignite the passion and can-do attitude among managers. Using nothing more than a 15-page memo and a series of short, open forum-style meetings with park management, Van helped a discouraged team reconnect with its roots by emphasizing Disney’s bottom line: a happy Guest. He reminded the managers of their roles by encouraging them to do the following:

  • Think teamwork – thinking “we” is much more powerful than thinking “they,” “them,” etc. Blaming is a bottomless pit.
  • Think audience and Guest – Guests are the audience, paying money to be entertained and find happiness. Guests aren’t “units” or “per capita”; they are human beings.
  • Think happiness for others – Guests come to Disney parks seeking happiness; it is their brief escape from daily frustrations. Walt Disney’s dream of separating the frustrating outside world from the Disney world ensures Guest Happiness. Maintaining an environment of fantasy is the cast member’s job.
  • Practice being friendly – smile and be friendly with each other. Say good morning to other cast members backstage will transfer to friendliness on-stage.
  • Think quality and pride – both are essential in Guest courtesy and showmanship, throughout our backstage activities as well as those on-stage.

Plussing the show is as much about attitude as it is about budget.

France was ardent in challenging excuses for not conducting training for all cast members. He believed that training didn’t have to be a big-budget extravaganza or be limited to activities in a training room. Some of the best training in the world occurs during on-the-job-training sessions conducted by mentors, not trainers. Mentoring, OJT, and role modeling were much more useful and significantly less expensive than classroom training. Jim Cora, retired chairman of Disney International, sums up the training rationale he successfully used during his 43-year career at Disney:

Marketing is the time and money you spend to get people in the door. Training is the investment you make to get Guests to come back and cast members to stay; it creates loyalty.

Plussing the show calls for a keen eye, the ability to focus on the root issues, and a refusal to accept mediocrity. No matter what business you are in, your success depends on your commitment to excellence and attention to detail. If you deliver more than people expect, you will turn Guests into fans. If you go out of your way to make people feel special, they will go out of their way to buy your product or service.

Applying Van France’s Four Circumstances to ChurchWorld Guest Experience Teams

Innovate – Support – Educate – Entertain

Plussing the Show How is plussing the show handled in your organization? How are Van’s Four Circumstances used to differentiate your organization from the “competition” through improved Guest experiences and leadership effectiveness? How are you addressing each of the following five challenges?

  • Doing more with less
  • Keeping team members engaged and motivated
  • Reducing team member turnover
  • Improving Guest experiences
  • Differentiating from the competition

How creative is your organization in taking training out of the classroom? How can you reignite the flagging spirits of your team? Can you create a similarly effective low-budget program that helps plus your Guest Experience?   Disney U

Inspired by and adapted from Disney U by Doug Lipp

Get the book TODAY to learn invaluable lessons for your Guest Experience Teams

 Book     Kindle

Continue the Disney U experience on 4/22/14 with Beyond Orientation

 

Disney U is one of the most significant resources related to the Disney organization, leadership, team development, and Guest Experiences available. In honor of the one year anniversary of the release of Disney U, this is a look back at a series from the book that originally ran last year.

 

As anyone who has been married knows, there is a difference between the moonlight and roses of courtship and the bills and responsibilities of marriage.

- Van France, Founder of Disney University

Anyone who has ever been involved in a grand opening knows the feeling. The energy accompanying the pre-opening, followed by the eventual letdown afterward, can be an emotional roller coaster.

At Walt Disney World, a number of issues were adding to the post-opening blues:

  • Roy Disney, who took over as the company’s inspirational leader after Walt Disney’s death in 1966, passed away in December 1971, barely two months after the opening of Walt Disney World. His enthusiasm and focus motivated all the cast members to push through the challenges to complete Walt’s Florida dream. The company lost its vital inspirational leaders in a relatively short span of time.
  • Cast members were exhausted. There wasn’t an operational road map for opening Walt Disney World. Everything was new; cast members learned as they created. Systems and procedures were developed as the resort took shape.
  • Opportunities for career advancement slowed down. Turnover skyrocketed.
  • Much more than a single theme park, Disney World was a complex environment that involved many professions. Walt Disney World, with the hotels, golf courses, campgrounds, and resorts, was a 24/7/365 operation. The word downtime wasn’t in the vocabulary.
  • The singular goal of opening Walt Disney World, a tremendous source of motivation in and of itself, was gone. What else was there to look forward to? The inspiration and motivation provided by the clarity of a major goal would be hard to duplicate.

Sustaining the intense levels of pre-opening enthusiasm, effort, and momentum is not a reasonable goal for any organization. However, preventing a post accomplishment toxic environment or a mass exodus of team members driven out by crashing morale is a goal that is both attainable and worth pursuing.

The size and scope of Walt Disney World were unprecedented. It faced an equally immense employee relations crisis.

What would Disney do?

Disney executive Dick Nunis began a series of meetings of the divisional vice presidents – but it wasn’t any ordinary meeting, and it was definitely not an ordinary location. In a small, sparse room – more like an unfinished attic than a meeting room – the meetings began.

That room, in the tower of Cinderella Castle, the symbol of the Happiest Place on Earth, would be the location for a miraculous turnaround.

Cinderella Castle 2

The meetings led to a revised employee development strategy of centralized activities controlled by the Disney University and decentralized activities under the control of the divisions.

At the center of the plan was Disney University. It is the keeper of the key, the company’s conscience regarding the Disney brand; it is responsible for setting the ‘big picture’ to ensure a consistent delivery of the product. The new-hire orientation ensures everyone coming on board knows the culture of the company. The decentralized portion of the training strategy is the responsibility of each operating division.

Thor Degelmann, Human Resource Development Manager, Walt Disney Company

And the result – by 1975, two years after the meetings began, the turnover rate at Walt Disney World had dropped from 83 percent to 28 percent, a 66 percent reduction in turnover.

The honeymoon was over, but the marriage would thrive.

Applying Van France’s Four Circumstances to ChurchWorld Guest Experience Teams

Innovate – Support – Educate – Entertain

Crisis Management and Culture Change

  • In your organization, what is the equivalent of a honeymoon coming to an end?
  • Are senior team leaders fully engaged in the resolution process?
  • How could this turnaround strategy be improved?
  • What symbols represent the culture of your organization?
  • How could these symbols be used to help reinforce organizational culture and resolve crises?
  • How do you communicate important messages?
  • Are openness, honesty, and collaboration encouraged?

Disney U

Inspired by and adapted from Disney U by Doug Lipp

Get the book TODAY to learn invaluable lessons for your Guest Experience Teams

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Continue the Disney U experience on Thursday 4/17/14 with Keep Plussing the Show

Disney U is one of the most significant resources related to the Disney organization, leadership, team development, and Guest Experiences available. In honor of the one year anniversary of the release of Disney U, this is a look back at a series from the book that originally ran last year.

Providing the happiest Place on Earth means that cast members must manage a delicate balance of priorities; without clarity, the task becomes overwhelming. Van France and Dick Nunis recognized the challenge. In response, they simplified this inherently complex environment by providing every cast member with crystal-clear marching orders during his or her Disney University orientation.

Dick Nunis came up with a program which, at the time, was a totally new concept for operations. The four elements of theme park operations were listed in order of their importance.

- Van France

Simple service standards can be powerful tools in any organization.

ice cream

What happens when a child drops a Mickey ice cream bar?

  • Is it tough luck for the unhappy child?
  • What about the sticky mess on the busy sidewalk?
  • How would you handle a tired, irate parent?
  • What’s the impact on the bottom line?

There’s not an easy answer for the situation above – or for the tens of thousands of other daily occurrences that happen in a Disney theme park.

How do you train cast members to handle whatever may come up in a normal – or not so normal – day in the park?

The recipe for creating the magical environment at Disneyland involved boiling down park operations into four priorities that represent the values driving every decision:

  • Safety – The most important priority for Guests and cast members. Cast members must often protect Guests from themselves! Guests distracted by the beautiful architecture may walk into lampposts and walls. Every operations and design decision must first address safety.
  • Courtesy – The second most important priority after safety is courtesy. Cast members know the value of the smiles on their faces and in their voices and the importance of engaging Guests. A lack of cast member courtesy will poison the safest and most interesting environment.
  • Show – Once safety and courtesy are assured, attention turns to show. Well-maintained attractions and facilities populated by well-groomed cast members ensure good show, a condition Walt Disney passionately promoted.
  • Efficiency – This last priority refers to the number of Guests enjoying the attractions, restaurants, and retail shops. This is the “hard numbers” portion of a business. By placing numbers last, the SCSE model makes a clear, somewhat paradoxical statement: accomplishing the first three priorities ensures that this fourth one is sustainable in the form of happy and loyal cast members and Guests.

The image of shrinking the massive and complex operations at Disneyland – a pot of soup – into a smaller, more manageable package – a bouillon cube – via the SCSE priority model is powerful.

Disney’s Four Keys serve as a compass for creating happiness and serving others. More than five decades after they were created by Dick Nunis, these Four Keys continue to serve as the foundation for everything Disney does. Any organization would be envious to have several key standards stand that test of time. It is at the heart of what has made Disney the powerful name it is today.

About that Mickey ice cream bar…

Applying Van France’s Four Circumstances to ChurchWorld Guest Experience Teams

Innovate – Support – Educate – Entertain

> Simplify the Complex

How are complex operations and processes communicated in your organization? Are priorities succinct and memorable? How are Van’s Four Circumstances used to convey complex and vital procedures and priorities?

> It’s All about the Basics

  • How do you help team members understand standard operating procedures and priorities?
  • Are team members actively involved as change agents, or do they wait for direction?
  • Are policies followed? If not, why not?

> Great Trainers Transfer Knowledge

  • How does your training staff leverage experience from one area to another?
  • What do you do to encourage interactions with Guests and attendees?

> From Pot of Soup to Bouillon Cube

  • What is your organization’s equivalent of SCSE?
  • Can your team member manual be simplified?
  • What are your priorities? Can you summarize your standard operating procedures and priorities, regardless of complexity, with memorable phrases or acronyms?

Inspired by and adapted from Disney U by Doug Lipp

Disney U

Get the book TODAY to learn invaluable lessons for your Guest Experience Teams

Book     Kindle

Continue the Disney U experience on 4/15 with The Honeymoon Will End

Disney U is one of the most significant resources related to the Disney organization, leadership, team development, and Guest Experiences available. In honor of the one year anniversary of the release of Disney U, this is a look back at a series from the book that originally ran last year.

 

Bob Adams:

Here are some great initial processing thoughts about GENE 2014 from my friend Danny Franks, Connections Pastor at Summit RDU.

Originally posted on Connective Tissue:

Somebody's gotta launch Lego Church. Might as well be us.

Somebody’s gotta launch Lego Church. Might as well be us.

I spent the last few days in a guest services geek’s dreamland: I was fortunate enough to sit around a table with seventeen of the sharpest church hospitality minds in the country. We came from churches of different backgrounds (from maybe-sorta-traditional to hey-wow-you’re-not-traditional-at-all), churches of different sizes (from really big to good-glory-are-you-a-church-or-the-population-of-Montana), and churches with varying philosophies and approaches to how we do just about everything.

But one thing united us all, and that’s our vision that churches nationwide must step up to reach those who are far from Jesus. In addition to being missional communities who send people out, we have to be attractional communities that welcome people in. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and.

By the time the first sixty minutes of our conversation had elapsed, my brain was full. I picked off enough ideas and “aha!” moments…

View original 507 more words

Over the last three days, 18 of the top leaders in church Guest Experiences gathered to answer this question:

What would the DNA of the ultimate Guest Experience look like?

Details will follow, but I wanted to share a few representative photos:

IMG_6936

Participants in the Guest Experience Networking Event 2014 at work creating a Guest Journey Map.

 

IMG_6979

Danny Franks describes his team’s work in creating the ultimate parking experience for their “church.”

 

IMG_6898

Pondering the best ideas for vehicle and pedestrian traffic flow.

 

Charting problems solved...

Charting problems solved…

Table writing...

Table writing…

One-upping Einstein.

One-upping Einstein.

What happens when 18 of the best church Guest Experience minds in the country get together to design the DNA of the Ultimate Guest Experience for churches?

 

DNA1

I don’t know…

…but it’s happening over the next 4 days, so I’ll let you know next week!

Guest Experience Networking Event

Imagine a laboratory filled with 18 of the most creative church Guest Experience practitioners from around the country…

 

…a lab with blank walls and lots of chart tablets and markers.
…a lab surrounded by the energy and vibe of creatives at work.
…a lab stocked with snacks of every kind imaginable.
…a non-scheduled framework guided by a host but driven by participant interaction.
…a lab where Guest Experience leaders share their best practices with others.
…a collaborative learning opportunity with no limits.

 

 

GENE Therapy

 

 

 

 

One jarring element can undermine a host of favorable impressions.

That’s why street cleaners at Disney World are given extra training at Disney University to ensure that they respond in a positive and helpful fashion to questions from departing Guests.

It might seem strange to train street cleaners in customer service, but Disney learned years ago that these cast members receive the greatest number of unstructured questions from park Guests.

courtesy billbergh.com

courtesy billbergh.com

To make sure that a Guest’s last – and lasting – impression after a wonderful day in the park isn’t ruined by a don’t-ask-me-it’s-not-my-job attitude, Disney provides three extra days of interpersonal skills training for the cleanup crew. Disney believes in a proactive approach to head off potentially damaging situations.

That wasn’t always the case.

Walking in Disneyland and interacting with the large number of cast members in 1962 exposed Van France to the inadequacies of the existing organization and training process. He found:

  • Outdated training materials
  • Trainers who were out of touch with the realities of park operations
  • Temporary summer jobs that had become careers
  • Hard work and long hours on weekends, nights, and holidays
  • Exhausted cast members that were becoming burned-out

Van also saw the need to expand beyond the simple orientation program of 1955 into a more complete sequence that included a consistently applied on-the-job training component.

The Disney University was created 7 years after the 1955 grand opening of Disneyland in response to the demands of a rapidly maturing organization.

Our theme of “happiness” was great for the first years, and we still use the basic elements of that program. But now we needed something new, something that would impose responsibility and self-discipline on all of our key people.

Van France

Walking the park also reinforced in Van’s mind the requisite elements for ensuring “substance” in the Disney University.

  • Training staff had to have credibility
  • Trainers with frontline experience were a must
  • Program content had to reflect the reality of the workplace and still convey corporate values, standards, and expectations

The Disney University should be a pioneering force, the world’s first and foremost corporate institution for training in the art, skills, and knowledge required in outdoor show business.

Van France

With this in mind, Van proposed that the Disney University develop employees into “Disneyland specialists,” with emphasis on four areas:

Leaders: We need to develop leaders who have an overall understanding of the complex combination of skills and professions that have made the Disneyland show the world’s greatest entertainment attraction.

People specialists: We need men and women who are professionally qualified to deal with people and their many demands.

Trade Specialists: WE need to develop those skilled in the various unique technical phases of the operations, but they must also have an overall knowledge of the total operation.

History and traditions: Most importantly, we sorely need training in the Disneyland organization and the history and traditions of Walt and his company.

With all the changes to the Disney organizations over the years since the opening of Disneyland, Van knew that it was more important than ever for the University to create programs that would carry on the traditions, philosophies, and dreams that Walt Disney had left for the organization.

Applying Van France’s Four Circumstances to ChurchWorld Guest Experience Teams

Innovate – Support – Educate – Entertain

Be Willing to Change or Be Willing to Perish

In your organization, can you identify the equivalent of Van’s Four Circumstances that support “Be willing to change or be willing to perish,” balancing tradition with innovation? Can those things be applied to ensure that training and team development programs are credible?

  • How does training in your organization remain relevant and credible?
  • How could training processes, programs, and staff improve “substance”?
  • To what extent are the history and traditions of your organization perpetuated and built upon?
  • What traditions should be maintained in your organization?
  • What traditions are impeding progress and innovation?
  • Who in your organization has the influence and desire to implement change?

Inspired by and adapted from Disney U by Doug Lipp

Get the book TODAY to learn invaluable lessons for your Guest Experience Teams

Disney U

Book     Kindle

 

Continue the Disney U experience Thursday 4/10/14 with Simplify the Complex

 

Disney U is one of the most significant resources related to the Disney organization, leadership, team development, and Guest Experiences available. In honor of the one year anniversary of the release of Disney U, this is a look back at a series from the book that originally ran last year.

He didn’t have a particular schedule, but his agenda was always the same: connect with and interact with as many guests and cast members as possible.

 Walt would regularly walk through the Park, looking for problems or things to improve. He was good at it and always welcomed suggestions. I copied his routine. I continually walked through the Park, looking for different things, people problems. Facts are easy to identify; I was looking for feelings that were bothering Cast Members.

- Van France, founder of Disney University

Walt Disney knew the value of learning as much as possible about the front lines by spending time on the front lines.

courtesy of designingdisney.com

courtesy of designingdisney.com

His strategy of walking the park dates back to the construction of Disneyland. He regularly visited the construction site to assess the proportion or size of buildings. A common site was Walt squatting down and then looking up at a building from a lower angle. His determination to view the storefronts and buildings from the vantage point of children ensured that the needs of this large population of guests – an often overlooked but very influential group – were addressed.

courtesy of Disney Imagineering

courtesy of Disney Imagineering

Walt Disney never stopped looking at Disneyland from the perspective of the guest, even years after the park opened.

Van France, like Walt, favored walking the park to gather information. Often armed with his camera, Van tirelessly sought the opinions and thoughts of cast members and guests.

Bill Ross, a former manager of Disney University, says, “More than anyone I’ve ever known, Van put his ear to the ground to get ideas. He had a wide circle of friends and a strong network. If Van were with us today, he would love using social media.”

Walking the park helped Van clarify the problems and then visualize a process by which to bridge the gaps.

After the park had been open for seven years, Van realized the 1955 model of orientation and cast member training that had been so successful during Disneyland’s early years was no longer sufficient. He faced a paradox: preserving the past while preparing for the future.

Van knew that he needed to identify and preserve the components of orientation and training that had led to such heady success during Disneyland’s first seven years:

  • Friendly environment
  • Creative presentations
  • Useful content

He had to balance these fundamentals while preparing cast members – including managers – for a much more complex future, driven by the following factors:

  • Consistency – everyone must attend the new-hire orientation program
  • Systems – specific on-the-job training must follow the orientation program
  • Continuing education – supervisors and managers needed leadership and communication-skills training

The time was right for Van to build a bridge to the future of training for Disneyland. The time was right for the Disney University.

 

Applying Van France’s Four Circumstances to ChurchWorld Guest Experience Teams

Innovate – Support – Educate – Entertain

Gather Facts and Feelings

In your organization, can you identify the equivalent of Van’s Four Circumstances that support walking the park and keeping in touch with the front lines? How do you apply those circumstances to gather facts and feelings from team members and Guests?

Walk the Park

  • What is the equivalent of walking the park in your organization? Who does it, and how frequently?
  • How could this strategy be improved? More people involved? More frequently?
  • If leaders aren’t walking the park, what is the excuse?
  • Walt Disney could carve time out of his day to walk the park. Why can’t every leader do that?

Mind the Gap

  • Is there a reality gap between the ideals espoused in your organization and training programs and the realities of the job?
  • How is the effectiveness of your training assessed? With what frequency?

One Foot in the Past, One Foot in the Future

  • How is the history of your organization kept alive? How could this be improved?
  • How does your organization balance history and legacy with current and future needs? Who supports this?

Inspired by and adapted from Disney U by Doug Lipp

Disney U

Get the book TODAY to learn invaluable lessons for your Guest Experience Teams

 Book     Kindle

Continue the Disney U experience Thursday 4/3/14 with Be Willing to Change or Be Willing to Perish: The Birth of the Disney University

Disney U is one of the most significant resources related to the Disney organization, leadership, team development, and Guest Experiences available. In honor of the one year anniversary of the release of Disney U, this is a look back at a series from the book that originally ran last year. 

 

Want to know more about learning from the front line?

Trying to keep an operation like Disneyland going you have to pour it [money] in there. It’s not just new attractions, but keeping it staffed properly, you know…never letting your personnel get sloppy. Never letting them be unfriendly.

- Walt Disney

Backstory: The Jungle Cruise was one of the most eagerly awaited attractions when Disneyland opened in 1955. Walt Disney had given the ride extensive publicity on pre-opening television shows. Very little else was far enough along for him to show, but the channel was dug, trees were being planted, and Walt was able to talk his viewers through a typical ride. The art of the sight gag was perfected by Disney Imagineer Marc Davis for the Jungle Cruise. Davis had an impeccable sense of timing that allowed his creations to be read instantly – an important consideration in light of the limited time and dialogue available as the audience moves through a scene. His gag sketches for the Jungle Cruise were often translated practically verbatim into the attraction. While the current version and most previous instances have made use of a comedic spiel, filled with intentionally bad puns, the original intent of the ride was to provide a realistic, believable voyage through the world’s jungles.

The visual imagery set the scene, but the dialogue of the boat’s skipper had to complete the adventure.

courtesy disneybymark.com

courtesy disneybymark.com

Understanding the backstory above sets the scene for this real-life event:

Walt Disney got off the Jungle Cruise boat and wasn’t happy. In fact, something was terribly wrong. The problem was with the skipper of the boat Walt had observed. The skipper hadn’t done his job properly, and that simply wasn’t acceptable to Walt. Yes, the skipper ran the boat safely, so that wasn’t the problem. Yes, he had recited his script line for line, so that wasn’t the problem. It was something else: It was in his delivery. He hadn’t acted his part with as much enthusiasm as Walt wanted. He lacked energy and showmanship. – Ron Dominguez, Executive Vice President, Walt Disney Attractions (retired)

Word got back to the director of operations, Dick Nunis, about how upset Disney was. Dominguez, who was area supervisor at the time, recalls “Walt told Dick, ‘I want the skippers to act as if every trip on the Jungle Cruise is their first trip. I want them to act surprised when the hippos suddenly rise up out of the water. The skippers need to be as surprised as the guests.” Nunis and Dominguez and the whole Jungle Cruise team started a marathon training session at the end of the day to ensure that all the cast members knew the script and performed their roles with the appropriate enthusiasm.

Disneyland was (and along with all the other Disney parks) and remains a balance of science and art.

Building and maintaining Disneyland – the attractions, restaurants, shops, and arcades – was just the starting point: the science. Maintaining the feel of Disneyland and cast member morale is the art. Combined, they create a powerful differentiator from the competition: the stores, restaurants, theaters, resorts, and amusement parks vying for the same customers and employees. Walt’s ride on the Jungle Cruise, along with his scathing comment, is a clear example of his focus on the upkeep of the park and the importance of maintaining both the art and science of the show. Cast members and leaders at Disney properties today refer to this process as keeping the property and show fresh.

At the tenth anniversary of Disneyland, Walt’s remarks to the Imagineers whose creativity and genius brought the Jungle Cruise to life set the stage for what continues today – the never-ending pursuit of perfection:

I just want to leave you with this thought, that it’s just been sort of a dress rehearsal and we’re just getting started. So, if any of you start to rest on your laurels, just forget it.

- Walt Disney

Applying Van France’s Four Circumstances to ChurchWorld Guest Experience Teams

Innovate – Support – Educate – Entertain

How would you apply Van France’s Four Circumstances in your organization? How do you apply them to balancing art and science? Which of the Four is strongest? Which is the weakest? Is there an equivalent to an unenthusiastic Jungle Cruise skipper in your organization?

  • If so, why is this tolerated?
  • What needs to be done to change this environment?
  • What are the barriers?
  • Who in your organization can lead the way?

Inspired by and adapted from Disney U by Doug Lipp

Get the book TODAY to learn invaluable lessons for your Guest Experience Teams

Disney U

Book     Kindle

Continue the Disney U experience Tuesday 4/1/14 with Gather Facts and Feelings: Walk the Park for a Fresh Perspective

Disney U is one of the most significant resources related to the Disney organization, leadership, team development, and Guest Experiences available. In honor of the one year anniversary of the release of Disney U, this is a look back at a series from the book that originally ran last year.

Over the years, Ed Catmull, president of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, has developed a deeply realistic philosophy of how to best manage a creative organization.

Managing a creative organization entails a constant balancing act between the potentially opposing goals of encouraging creative freedom and ensuring an orderly process and consistent financial results.

An upcoming book by Catmull was excerpted in the April 2014 issue of Fast Company magazine (online version). An earlier post highlighted eight secrets behind Pixar’s amazing success. Today, here are a few excerpts about a fascinating behind-the-scenes aspect of Pixar’s creative process.

A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that it people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Our decision-making is better when we draw on the collective knowledge and unvarnished opinions of the group.

Candor is the key to collaborating effectively. Lack of candor leads to dysfunctional environments.

Pixar’s mechanism to collaboration is the Braintrust, which they rely on to push them toward excellence and to root out mediocrity. According to Catmull, the premise of the Braintrust is simple:

Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid.

The Braintrust is not foolproof, but when we get it right, the results are phenomenal.

Phenomenal, as in:

 

Pixar1Pixar2

14 movies released since Pixar began in 1995

14 No. 1 Box Office hits

Over $8.67 billion in ticket sales

Which makes it all the more strange to hear Catmull give his opinion about 1 common theme of all Pixar movies:

Early on, all our movies suck.

Catmull says that phrasing is blunt, but he chose it because saying it any softer fails to convey how bad the first versions really are.

Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers in the power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process – reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its through line or a hollow character finds its soul.

No matter what, the process of coming to clarity takes patience and candor.

When questioned about the Braintrust being like any other feedback mechanism, Catmull elaborated:

There are two key differences. First, the Braintrust is made up of people with a deep understanding of storytelling, who usually have been through the process themselves. Second, the Braintrust has no authority. The director does not have to follow any of the specific questions. It is up to him or her how to address the feedback.

If the foundation of the Braintrust is candor, its supporting framework is that the directors must be ready to hear the truth. Candor is only valuable it the person on the receiving end is open to it and willing, if necessary, to let go of things that don’t work.

People need to be wrong as fast as they can. – Andrew Stanton, Pixar director, screenwriter, producer, and occasional voice actor

Leaders who resonate with ideas like the Braintrust but fear they would never work at their organizations should note Stanton’s encouragement:

You can and should make your own solution group. Here are the qualifications: The people you choose must (a) make you think smarter and (b) put lots of solutions on the table in a short amount of time. I don’t care who it is, the janitor or the intern or one of your most trusted lieutenants: If they can help you do that, they should be at the table.

 That’s advice any organization would do well to take.

 

 

Excerpted from Fast Company’s April 2014 cover story and related articles about Pixar President Ed Catmull.
jacket illustration: © Disney • Pixar

Look for Catmull’s new book Creativity, Inc. coming out April 8.

 

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