Problem-solving with Disney

Posted in : HR Updates ROI on 4 September 2023
Olga Pollock
firmus energy
Issues covered: Team Meetings, Employee Engagement

Ever came out of a meeting feeling overwhelmed at having more problems that you went in with?

This is usually what happens without a clear outcome in mind when you start the meeting.

The Disney Creative Strategy is an ideal tool to apply in a meeting or focus group when you have a problem to solve and avoids things escalating into a complaint’s forum. The strategy sets aside time for people to critique and challenge ideas but also to think outside the box and reflect on more realistic solutions.

The process, which is often used for problem-solving in the business world, stems back to Walt Disney himself who would apply an “Imagineering” technique whereby he started off using his imagination before engineering his dreams and fantasies into something more plausible.

The Disney Creative Strategy has 3 distinct phases, starting with the Dreamer stage. If you’re in a business context this is an opportunity for the group to propose radical ideas to solving real business issues. Nothing is out-of-bounds. Think big, zany, wildcard with no idea being a silly one. The facilitator should write them all down on a flipchart and ensure that the group does not veer off track. It is tempting for individuals to revert to type here and start to pick holes in the suggestions at this stage so it is up to the facilitator to reel them in. There will be the opportunity for that at a later stage.

Once the group have considered all their ideas in the Dreamer phase it is time to move to the Realist stage. Taking the best ideas from the first session, we start shaping them into something more realistic here. It is also helpful to shift mindsets again by moving the group to another room or at least moving seats within the current venue.

Taking each Dreamer idea in turn start to consider how to make them a reality. Think about the essence of the idea to begin with, and then begin to list actions that support this. For example, someone may have suggested buying a magic wand to improve employee morale and engagement across the organisation. The essence of this idea is around engagement so the facilitator should steer the group into proposing ideas to promote employee engagement and staff morale that are plausible to apply.

The final stage is the Critique phase. Again, it is helpful to change to another location where possible to enable people to make a psychological shift in mindset. Taking the ideas from the Dreamer phase, which have been refined in the Realist stage this is when the ideas are pulled apart. Questions might include: Is this the best we can do? What are the risks/ pitfalls? What can make this better? The resulting ideas will be those which are taken forward.

The Disney Creative Strategy, whilst time-consuming is a much better approach than simply focusing on the reasons why something can’t or won’t work. It takes practice to do properly, especially when acting as facilitator, but the process will become more streamlined the more often it is done. By this stage, the days of coming out of a meeting with a feeling of despair will become a distant memory!

Useful Reading
The Disney Creative Strategy - Fusing Imagination and Planning (

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This article is correct at 04/09/2023

The information in this article is provided as part of Legal-Island's Employment Law Hub. We regret we are not able to respond to requests for specific legal or HR queries and recommend that professional advice is obtained before relying on information supplied anywhere within this article.

Olga Pollock
firmus energy

The main content of this article was provided by Olga Pollock. Contact telephone number is +44 (0)79 7389 3448 or email

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