Disney’s Creative Strategy: The Dreamer, The Realist and The Critic

Recently, I have seen a huge number of people jumping into different types of innovation course or a sort of magical formula that is going to sky-rocket your creativity.

Have you ever noticed that a kid has limitless creativity. So, why are we losing it as turn int adult? Have you ever notice we have been introduced to heaps of methods and tools to fuel our innovation and creativity. Tools, such as Lego Serious Play, De Bono Six Thinking Hats and Reversed Brainstorming. So, in a time which seems you have to restore your childhood creativity, I will present you a new tool.

This tool is called Disney’s Creative Strategy is another tool for creative thinking and was inspired by Walt Disney. Have you got my train of thoughts now ?

Walt Disney was good at discovering creative ideas and converting them into reality. He used to say “There are actually three different Walts: The dreamer, The realist, and The spoiler. You never know which one is coming to the meeting.”

Walt Disney’s strategy was highlighted and shaped later in 1994 by NLP expert Robert Dilts. He defined the technique as Disney’s method for turning his dream into reality. In this method, a group of people use a specific thinking flow which builds parallel thinking that can be used to generate, evaluate, critique ideas and solve problems.

Although the method was not fully developed by Walt Disney, it bridges the gap between imagination and reality. The creative process unlocks the mind’s capabilities to dream and form unexpected ideas and solutions for existing problems. However, these solutions may not be applicable in reality and may not can be applied as strategic plan. Therefore, one of the advantages of Disney’s creative strategy method is balance up dream and reality in order to build a viable layout.

Disney’s Creative Strategy

In order to prepare the team for Disney’s Creative Strategy; four parts of the room must be set for each thinking method.

The first part is for dreaming and imagination, the second part is for realists and/or planning, the third part is for critics and the fourth part is for getting the mind outside the thinking flow.

The idea of setting a thinking place for each stage in the method is to prepare the team mind to switch thinking modes from one to another. The place can be a room, open space office or an outdoor garden.

The team deals with a target to achieve, this target can be a dream to turn into reality, design to visualize, problem to solve or process to improve. However, the history of the Disney’s method qualifies it to fit with creative brainstorming to help the team turns dreams into applicable projects.

Disney Creative Strategy stages

The strategy is based on three main stages; the dreamer, the realist and the critic. Each stage represent a style of thinking and it can be applied in the same sequence as below:

The dreamer

Usually, any creative idea starts with a dream. In ordinary meetings, this dreaming style is halted by reality and does not have room to go further. The first stage allows the team to share their dream without criticism. This helps to build a pool of creative ideas. Some of these ideas are viable and others are not. Determining the viable creative concepts comes later as a result of the second and third thinking styles.

The dreamer usually asks questions that help describing ideas and though such as the following:

  1. What do we want?

  2. What is the solution?

  3. How do we imagine the solution?

  4. What are the benefits of applying this solution?

The realist

The team switches the place and mode to think in a more logical planning style. Based on the first stage, the team pretends that the dream is possible and start putting plans to achieve it. The plan aims to turn the imaginary ideas into a manageable action plan. During this stage all the thoughts should be constructive and target turning the idea into a real plan.

This stage includes questions such as the following:

  1. How can we apply this idea in reality?

  2. What is the action plan to apply the idea?

  3. What is the timeline to apply this idea?

  4. How to evaluate the idea?

The Critic

After having an action plan to turn the idea into reality, the critic thinking mode tends to discover the barriers of applying the idea and how to overcome it. In this session, the team provides a constructive critique for the idea in order to find the weak points and overcome it in the final solution.

In this stage, the team asks questions as following:

  1. What could be wrong with the idea?

  2. What is missing?

  3. Why cannot we apply it?

  4. What are the weaknesses in the plan?


As a result of the three main stages presented above, the team comes up with a solid creative idea and applicable action plan. In summary the first stage focused on the creative aspect and sharing creative ideas and solutions. The second stage focused on reality and how to turn the idea into an action plan and finally the third stage aims to identify the weakness in the idea and overcome it in a final plan or simply put everything away.

While other creative thinking methods such as Six Thinking Hats do not restrict with a specific sequence for the steps, Disney’s Creative Strategy needs following the steps as shown above.

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