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Walt Disney's Creative Thinking Applied To Coaching

Walt Disney’s team created a technique called the Disney technique, and it was a way to organise ideas, qualify them and help make decisions about what made the final cut and what was left on the cutting room floor. It’s a great technique to apply in coaching, and in this article, we will consider how this works.

There are three stages, each of which are outlined below.

Walt Disney's Creative Thinking Applied To Coaching

The dreamer stage involves removing all limitations and just going for the best things you’d like to achieve regardless of rationale or reason. E.g. I want to be the leader of the world’s finest chain of restaurants. Choose your focus: career, goals you have that are unfulfilled, hobbies, etc.

Dream big here, and don’t let anyone say ‘no’ to your ideas that are not for this stage!

Questions to ask:

  • If I could do anything at all in this situation, what would it be?

  • The choice I would make if money were no object would be...

  • If I were to allow my thoughts to go wild and open to this, I would say…

In the technique, Walt Disney used three different rooms with various stimuli, e.g. the dreamer room was bright and full of energy, and a sense of anything is possible.

The realist stage involves reality checking, so if you’d put that you want to be the leader of the world’s finest chain or restaurants in 12 months and you haven’t got any budget, then this might be a reality check that reshapes the dream to “I want to be the leader of the world’s finest chain of restaurants by 2025”, for example.

This stage is about ‘how can the dream turn into reality. It might be reshaped along the way as facts and information need to be considered, but this is not the negative stage.

Questions to ask:

  • What have I already got in place that supports this dream? How can I enhance this?

  • What else needs to change based on the real world and facts to bring my dream to reality?

As its name implies, the critic stage is ‘the critic’ – it’s the stage that looks at what could go wrong, what are the consequences if it does, and what real risks are out there if or when it’s implemented. This stage is here to safeguard against the dangers but to still keep the dream alive if possible.

This stage could be seen as a mood-hoover, but it’s here for a reason. Think about the Lehman Brothers. Maybe some criticism was needed to avoid the catastrophic impact on the Financial Services Community.

Questions to ask:

  • What challenges or constraints are real and can hinder or completely block the dream?

  • What elements are within my control?

  • What could I tweak and change in my dream knowing these constraints?

Thinking with a negative mind frame, what are the risks, are these real, and what are the chances of these things happening?

What are the legal, moral and ethical concerns about going ahead with this dream?

As you know, we always encourage you to try these models, tips and techniques. So why not grab a piece of paper, think about an idea you have and then dream, reality check and criticise until you have a motivational and realistic plan of what you want to achieve!

Good luck, and drop us a line with your thoughts.


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