Monday, November 17, 2008

Walt Disney and the Cooking Cycle

I grew up in Central Florida amid the shadow of Walt Disney World, that sprawling multi-park fantasyland where the fries aren't cheap but the good memories linger for a lifetime. For a short season of my post-college life I even wore the mouse badge, serving as a behind-the-scenes-tech-guy at the "movie studios" where NBC once briefly filmed a revived Let's Make a Deal broadcast.

A T-Mobile colleague recently reminded a few of us of one of the key strategies behind Disney's incomparable success. Disney--who died before the Florida theme park that bears his name even came close to opening its doors--created three separate groups of advisers who helped him take ideas from vague concepts to money-making fruition. The groups included Dreamers, Realists and Critics.

The job of the Dreamers was to cook the ideas, piling in as many ingredients as possible, stirring up the mix and seeing what emerged from the ovens of incubation. The Realists, then, were assigned to operationalize the ideas, to develop the "how" for implementing the "what" spun together by the Dreamers.

Of course, the process would not be complete with out the perilous task of the Critics, who served in an entirely different kitchen called the "hot box," where the ideas often were cooked at such extreme temperatures that some ingredients could not survive and the recipe often changed taste, scent and appearance. They were assigned to punch holes in the concepts, to figure out what would not work, to burn off the dross and leave the best for what would inevitably be a quality serving of family entertainment. By the time an idea had passed through Disney's process twice, you knew it was bound to be a hit.

Present-day companies, institutions, denominations, schools and non-profits of every angle could learn much from Disney's Dreamer-Realist-Critic cycle. Many entities get stuck in one of the three phases, rather than having the discipline to embrace all three. Too many stay grounded in Dreamer mode, uncertain how to give hands and feet and funding to their ideas. Some go through the Realist cycle and believe the job is finished, only to see the product or company flounder after bursting through the gates. And yet some organizations major too fully in the Critic perspective, not giving ideas a chance to cook. They fall into the trap of what Peter Block warns about in his book The Answer To How Is Yes, reacting all too quickly with reasons for how and why something will not work.

People can be microcosms of the organizations and companies they represent or keep afloat through membership or consumption. As individuals, we often struggle to balance the three Disney phases. Challenging economic times like these we face at the moment leave our souls parched in Critic Land, while seasons of abundance lead to the sloppiness that undermines both the Realist and Critic pieces. Pushing ourselves too hard with endless options and little fear of the long-term implications of stress, we take Dreamer mode for granted and assume that when we finally grow up we can be young again.

And so, the Disney challenge: Meditate on a creative idea or heartfelt aspiration that has been gnawing at you for some time. Dare to bring it into the kitchen and let it marinate for a while before submitting it to some heat. Be willing to persevere as you see what it might become, and have the courage from the start to be prepared to toss most of it into the garbage can under the sink and leave only what is the very best on your plate.

A well-baked, satisfying idea that you had the tenacity to put through the test could very well taste like the granting of a wish once placed upon a star. The heart must first dare to desire.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home