The Disney Creative Strategy is a tool for brainstorming and developing ideas. It involves using three sequential roles, or thought processes, namely the Dreamer, the Realist, and the Critic.
As you imagine and develop your ideas, you move from one role to the next, putting yourself into these different mindsets, so that you can better analyze what you’re doing.
The essential elements associated with each role are:
Taking on the Dreamer role in this first phase, you and your group focus on free association and brainstorming of ideas. Anything goes here. It’s your chance to let your imagination run wild!
Next, it’s time to be realistic and decide which of your ideas are actually possible or practical. What would you need to do in the real world in order to make them happen?
Here you need to examine your chosen proposal and its real-world implications from a more critical viewpoint. You want to make sure that your plan is as comprehensive as it can be. Every detail needs to be scrutinized and refined.
Sound planning requires innovators to take on all three roles and work through them in order. Some of your team members may be more naturally disposed to one or other role, and you need to make sure you balance the process so that all roles are used. Not enough emphasis on The Critic phase may mean you produce unrealistic proposals that are doomed to fail. Equally, if you skip The Dreamer stage, your plans could well lack the imagination needed for true innovation to take place.
It’s likely that you’ll only be really successful in your planning when you work through all three roles in the correct sequence.
How to Use the Tool
Step 1: Create Space
If you have space, it can be helpful to use a different room or space within a room for each phase. This will help you and your team to switch mindsets and move into each different role. And it’s also vital that someone is in charge of documenting each stage.
Step 2: Step into The Dreamer
Once you’ve gathered your team, make sure everyone is clear that you’re starting with The Dreamer role. Each person should feel free to brainstorm and harvest ideas around during this time. Don’t introduce any limitations here. Avoid mentioning budgets, time frames or rules. If you and your team could do anything with this project, what would you most want to do? What ideas really excite you?
Step 3: Transition to The Realist
Once you’ve given everyone plenty of time to brainstorm ideas, it’s time to switch into The Realist role.
In this phase, you’re going to refine and adjust your ideas to make them more concrete. This is when your team will focus on taking action: planning, scheduling and evaluating the idea or ideas they find most promising.
Step 4: Transition to The Critic
In this last phase, you and your team must look at your ideas from a critical point of view. You need to question and test every step of the process, pretending you’re a “naysayer” and trying to find fault with any proposition. Your goal is to criticize and refine your plan until it’s as good as you can get it.
Make sure you allow enough time at each stage for ideas to fully develop. Moving from one phase to the next too quickly can stifle people’s imagination.