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Learning from Disney about creativity and innovation

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

I've been involved with the UK tourism industry since 2015 and have seen first hand how the industry has to constantly innovate and respond to customer's changing behaviours and preferences (and none more so than now and going forward).


It has been fascinating to see in the last few years how tour operators and attractions for example have adapted and pivoted to provide more authentic, immersive and interactive experiences e.g. The Making of Harry Potter, Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds Immersive Experience (launched last May), Brexit tours (yes really) and Geotourist - an app accessible on your smartphone that provides 'the stories of the sites around you.'


The industry right now is of course focused on survival but also how it will adapt to coping with visitors once restrictions are relaxed in the coming weeks and months. As we move towards 'recovery' - being innovative and creative will be more important than ever so it was with pleasure that I listened this morning to Duncan Wardle (former Head of Innovation and Creativity at Disney) who provided the following advice:

  • When trying to solve a problem, approach a task or situation – think about who you could ‘bring into the room’ that doesn’t think like you or the rest of your team

  • A good, basic tip for teams who are trying to act and think more creatively is to ask them what they have seen or found that is innovative or creative in the last 30 days.

  • Google apparently has a policy of encouraging its employees to set aside 20% of their working week for ‘thinking time’

  • The opposite of bravery is conformity

  • Creativity, intuition, curiosity, imagination will never be replaced by artificial intelligence

  • To solve a problem or develop a new business idea (Duncan used the example of Blockbuster vs Netflix) use the headings: What are the Rules? (i.e. what are the current 'rules' of your industry) and What If? (you could challenge or change these rules) and Imagine If? (you could change them what would they look like?)

  • Using powerpoint presentations can create a barrier between you and your listeners. Duncan often turns presentations into conversations by putting up copies of his slides on the walls and inviting delegates to walk around the room with him.

  • At the end of a presentation – don’t ask – ‘What did you think?’ – instead ask ‘Could you help me think about this in a different way?’

  • Don’t ignore the shy or quiet people in the room. Extroverts talk first and think later (or think and talk!), introverts generally think first then speak. Typically 70% - 80% of employees in organisations are introverts.

Good luck!





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