Book Review : Disney U by Doug Lipp

What if I told you: All the Disney secrets are carefully compiled in a book called Disney U, by Doug Lipp – the former head trainer for Disney International? Just go ahead and buy this masterpiece first. If you cannot do that, see the video here:

In his book, Doug Lipp describes what made Disney recognized as the “Happiest place on earth” through several examples and stories, that can be easily transplanted to your own companies – to create the elusive “Disney Magic”.

disney characters

Here are 5 lessons I took from the talk & from the book:

1. Understand & Live your Culture: “I was convinced that managers and owners could come and go, but Walt’s dream would last forever.” — Van France. Do you have an understanding of the culture you are perpetuating? Are you just slapping a fresh coat of paint on the dilapidated, run down building? Just as paint wont improve the structural integrity of a building, expertly designed training interventions and big words for employees and customers will have no value without a strong inherent culture by the leadership.

Each staff member of the Disney organization from executives to the cast members, live & breathe Walt Disney’s dream of creating the “Happiest place on Earth”. Executives going around the theme park bend over and pick up trash – sending a powerful message to a new hire that what they talk about in the training rooms, actually happens. The book has several examples of how every Disney employee is dedicated to create a culture of trust and service excellence …not focused on “slapping a coat of paint” on problems.

2. Laughter is no enemy to Learning: “Develop your sense of humor and eventually it will develop you” – Walt Disney. Entertain and educate at the same time, create a sense of family at the workplace so coming to office everyday is fun and motivating. Often we see the leaders taking themselves too seriously at work, they confront a daily barrage of information that makes it hard, if not impossible, for them to focus on making learning’s fun and enjoyable for the staff.

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At Focus, I am honoured to be working for a company that believes in this philosophy and that’s why we keep fun at the forefront of all our work, especially in our corporate team building programs.

3. Live your Core Values everyday: Creating The Happiest Place on Earth is a fine balance of values and lot of hard work. The Disney University has a set of crystal-clear values that are aligned with and fiercely supported by the company leadership. Many companies have invested a lot of money and countless hours studying and then emulating the Disney way of doing the business. They do a great job in analyzing and then mimicking their strategy but how successful are those businesses at maintaining what they have created? Many fail in this for a simple reason – they focus on infrastructure & the other things around without the bedrock of values.

Without passionately accepted organizational values leading the way, it is far too easy to begin cutting corners and silos start taking shape. To prevent that from happening it’s absolutely necessary to be consistent with the defined values.

4. Constantly look at plussing the show: “We have to keep plussing our show. If we ever lose them [the guests], it will take us ten years to get them back” – Walt Disney. Walt used the word ‘plussing’ as a verb – an action word. To “plus” something is to improve it. It means giving your customers more than they paid for, more than they expect, more than you have to give them.

Doug Lipp shares a fantastic example of how the skippers of the Jungle Cruise boats were given a critical feedback by Walt Disney to look excited and surprised in every ride, as it’s a brand new experience for every set of new guest’s coming to the park. If they look bored and uninterested in any ride, they would kill the experience for the riders. As Walt Disney would often utter “Snow white can never have an off day”

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5. Recognise the Importance of constant communication: Communication is not so easy. Especially as our teams get more diverse, based on ethnicity, age, culture, it gets even more complicated. Communication is a two way street, that involves the critical skill of listening. For long-term care, if you want to find out what’s going wrong in your operations – go to the people on the front lines. They have the most contact with the customers, so they know what customers most like or dislike. Your challenge is to ensure that everyone on the team has a voice and the opportunity to share ideas.

Do you want an engaged, loyal and customer centric workforce? Who doesn’t want one? Pick up these lessons that Disney has so generously shared with the world – but most importantly, get cracking on it!

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