The Disney Method

How to be more creative by being more systematic

Solving a problem

Have you ever been stuck at a moment where you want to or have to come up with something new and have ideas but don’t feel motivated enough (or at all) to further work on them. Or maybe you’re really engaged in sorting out what ideas are actually usable for solving your current task, but have trouble concentrating. For example, designing new mockups or sketching some new code to implement - I’m speaking of personal experience.

It’s a role play!

Named after Walt Disney, who certainly has faced similar issues when creating new movies or shows, the “Disney Method” tries to help you focus on specific aspects during the creation-process. Being creative doesn’t necessarily mean doing random stuff and hoping for the best. Channeling creativity through systematic processes can lead to great results and help you get more out of your time.

This is where the “Disney method” comes into play. Instead of working somewhat chaotic on new ideas, you go through different steps, each focusing on a single task. You can do this completely on your own, but need to bring the necessary discipline. Let’s take a look at the stages:

The Dreamer

In the first step, all and everything is allowed. Say you’re working on a new website design. Taking the role as the dreamer, you can output any idea you have, no matter how silly, stupid or unusable it might seem. This stage is purely focusing on creating as much data as possible and thinking of solutions that might otherwise look crazy to even think of.

The Realist

Moving on with the accumulated ideas, it’s now time to do a first reality check on them. This stage’s focus is to filter out everything that just isn’t plausible as a possible solution to the problem. While the dreamer doesn’t care about how things will work in reality, the realist has to take a pragmatic look at them.

Picking up the website design as our example, you could rule out super-fancy graphics including lots of videos and animations, as they would slow down the loading times to an unbearably high level. Or ideas where light gray fonts are used on white background, rendering them very hard to read.

The Critic

In the last stage, it’s time to challenge everything you’ve accomplished yet. Being the critic of your ideas, you actively try to find things that speak against a given solution. This stage is probably the hardest and requires some practice before you feel comfortable with it. A great starting point is to think of the people that you will show the ideas to or that have to work with the solutions that are created from this whole creative process.

Using our example one last time, the critic might challenge the design for its responsiveness so that it looks and works great on all devices. Or that it might be usable and nice looking, but would take way too much time to actually implement.

Finish line

After working through all stages, you should now have a much better, ordered collection of ideas and/or solutions that can be realistically used in a real-world context. If no idea makes it to the end, that’s fine too - we’re not interested in outputting a threshold number, but want to get something more usable and sustainable.

And why exactly is it now called after Walt Disney? It goes back on Robert B. Dilts, a pioneer in animation and famous producer working together with Disney, who’s written that “…there were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler.”

  • Tom