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Innovation is not simple

Innovation is neither simple nor easy. When I look at the organisations I work with I see them struggling with their innovation endeavour. By definition innovation is fuzzy in the ‘where’ (where are we going?) and in the ‘how’ (how are we going to make this happen?), and that at the same time.

already 2 of the 3 rooms

So innovation requires a process to help organisations articulate their ‘where’ and ‘how’ at each step. The past months I had the chance to experiment with Disney’s creativity method and its results are great. It does not make the innovation process easy but it simplifies it a lot! Its main advantage is that it clarifies the thinking process of participants keeping them either in the where or in the how.


What is the Disney creativity method?

Immediately at its launch in 1928 Steamboat Willy was a huge success. It was not Disney’s first, but it propelled him front stage. The rest is history, lot’s of history: Snow White, Donald Duck, Cinderella, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.


Walt Disney was creative in a very productive way. It was said of him that


‘there were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler (critic). You never knew which one was coming into your meeting.”


It sounds like Disney’s co-workers where having a hard time preparing for meetings with him. And indeed, Walt Disney was described as restless in meetings, constantly drumming with his fingers on the table. But what was really the big deal here? We’re all dreamers, realists and critics. We all have a healthy mix of these three within ourselves. But according to Michael Michalko, Walt Disney was different in that he was all three of them for a 100% all the time.


The 3 (and sometimes 4) different views explained

So Walt Disney sensed the need to alternate between dreamer, realiser and critic in order to successfully turn ideas into reality. Let’s have a closer look on what this implies:


  • The dreamer’s view: this is about creating your dream, without constraints. It’s asking the question: ‘where do I/we want to go?’
  • The realiser’s view: is about choosing the single best idea(s) and to set a plan for that. It’s about asking the question: ‘how do I/we want to do it?’
  • The critic’s view: is about the risks and the dangers that implementing the plan might bring. It’s about asking the question: ‘should I be doing this in the 1st place?’


And depending on the topic you’re facing, you might use a fourth view: the spectator’s. This brings in the external view and is very useful as analysis. It’s asking the question: ‘what would others think of our where or how (depending on what you chose)?’


Alternating between the different views

Where Walt Disney was able to impose his view, in most of our meetings different views co-exist next to one and other. And that’s where the problem starts. Participants get frustrated because some talk about wild ideas (‘where’) while others are already criticising (‘how’).


So how to get everyone to think with the same view? What about using 4 different rooms for the 4 different views of thinking? Or if not available, use each corner of the room for each view? But the simplest idea might be just to ask participants to leave the room and come back in again with a different the view. It works like a (Disney) charm!


Is there any order in using the different views?

Well, yes there is. More or less.


Usually one would start with the spectator’s view. You start with analysing the current situation. Then you would move to the dreamer’s view in order to elicit the dreams. After that the realiser in all of the participants creates a plan. And you end with the critic’s view.


That’s the first loop. With the critics done most participants go back to the realiser’s view to refine the plan. But sometimes it might be worth starting dreaming all over again, or to think about the external’s view of your plan.


Basically, you see that the order is not static. Apply it with sense, but first and foremost make sure you let participants think with the same view. At least, if you want to boost your innovation…

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