The Disney Way: A book review by Bob Morris

The Disney Way: Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company
William Capodagli and Lynn Jackson
McGraw Hill, Second Edition (2006)

The ROI of “Magic”

According to William Capodagli and Lynn Jackson, “This book tells the inside story of just how Disney’s success was achieved — not by epiphanic flashes of creative insight that produced a Pinocchio or a Dumbo, but by the force of a much-considered, carefully wrought process of managing innovation and creativity and by an adherence to a firmly established system of beliefs.”  In his biography of Walt Disney also published in 2006, Neal Gabler explains that the company’s management evolved over time, gradually adjusting to the increasing complexity of its operations that began with shorts, developed into animated feature films, and then added the first theme park prior to Disney’s death (December 15, 1966). Its subsequent growth helps to explain many of the management systems that Capodagli and Jackson describe but it is also worth noting that four themes continue to serve as “pillars”: Dream, Believe, Dare, Do.

The material is organized within 11 chapters, followed by an Epilogue in which the authors observe that the integration and interplay between and among the ten principles they have examined can be of substantial benefit to other companies. The “Dream, Believe, Dare, and Do Process” does indeed have all manner of potential applications for companies in industries wholly unrelated to entertainment. There must be dreams to believe in and courage to pursue those dreams. Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out Warren Bennis and Patricia Ward Biederman’s Organizing Genius, one of whose chapters focuses on the Disney animation team that produced classic films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Bambi, and Pinocchio.

I realize that the Disney organization has become a vast global network of several “magic kingdoms” but the ten core principles continue to serve as its foundation:

1. Give every member of your organization a chance to dream, and to tap into the creativity those dreams evoke and nourish.
2. Stand firm on your beliefs and principles. Never comprise either character or quality.
3. Treat your customers like guests.
4. Support, empower, and reward employees.
5. Build long-term relationships with key suppliers and partners.
6- Dare to take calculated risks in order to bring innovative ideas to fruition.
7. Train extensively and constantly to nurture and strengthen the company’s culture.
8. Align long-term vision with short-term execution of what achieves that vision.
9. Take full advantage of storyboarding techniques during brainstorming sessions to generate ideas that answer questions and solve problems.
10. Pay very close attention to every detail.

However vast and diversified the Disney organization is today, all of these core principles are relevant to almost any other organization, whatever its size and nature may be. Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to read the aforementioned biography of Walt Disney as well as Capodagli and Jackson’s Innovate the Pixar Way.

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