Overcoming business startup blues? Ask – what would Disney do?

A question facing every organization returning to business is how do you make both customers and employees safe and comfortable? Masks, warning signs, and social distancing feel inconvenient to everyone and downright scary to some. At Vanderbilt, we are working through many of the same issues as we prepare to bring students back to campus. We know it will feel very different than past years, so how can we prepare our community and enhance the experience for everyone?

Over the past two months, the world watched closely as restaurants, stores, and other businesses struggled to reopen. Media coverage has focused on what consumers can expect when they finally get to the mall or a sporting event. Few companies have been as closely watched as Disney. As a global leader in providing entertainment experiences that touch the lives of many, Disney has learned much about managing human interaction. As Shanghai Disney creaked to life in May and Hong Kong in June, Chinese consumers saw firsthand the changes wrought by social distancing. Now with Walt Disney World in Florida poised to reopen in July, we will see how the company has innovated on the Chinese experience. Crowds will be carefully managed, meaning some favorites like parades and fireworks will be on hold. Learning from Orlando will in turn facilitate the delayed Anaheim Disneyland opening and the much watched late July NBA restart when 22 teams will complete their seasons at the Walt Disney World Resort.

In the world of business and business education, Disney is watched for good reason. It’s a company that is famous for making seemly negative experiences positive, like managing customers’ perceptions of waiting in line. Earlier this year, I interviewed Coulter Winn from Walt Disney Imagineering to hear how they do it. He shared the importance of breaking down the customer interaction, scene by scene, as they experience a ride. Scene 1 occurs as customers approach the queuing area. Moving through the queue, Disney uses changes in scenery, technology, games, and actors to usher the story along – reaching a climax with the ride itself.

That same thinking is evident in each reopening, with careful planning of the entire visitor experience, from new on-line reservations systemstouchless park entry, and innovations in virtual queuing. To build excitement for the park openings, Disney released a spectacular virtual fireworks display streamed to nearly four million fans. From speeding lines to building anticipation, Disney’s approach to viewing problems as opportunities may be the secret to help any business enhance the customer experience and adjust to the new normal.

To hear more from my short interview with Coulter Winn (Design Studio Executive, Walt Disney Imagineering), watch the short video below. Coulter discusses how technology is changing entertainment experiences and offers tips for managing creative teams.

Leadership Notes is a blog and video series on leadership.  Through interviews with leaders from both the private and public sector, Johnson examines key leadership issues like empowerment, team development, and cultural dexterity.  The blog also addresses topics such as learning from failure, the importance of friendship, and the role leaders play in developing organizational culture.

You can access the entire library of entries on LinkedIn.

Leave a Response