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Disney Method

Posted by Jutta Goldammer from Visionautik Akademie


Group size

1 - 500

Subgroup size


More infos to group size

if the group exceeds 7, it is advisable to split up into smaller teams for optimum productivity

Is participant experience relevant?

It's okay if participants haven't seen the inside of a classroom in years.

Physical trust needed

Mental trust needed


Create materials quick and dirty

5 min

Create materials with love and care

1 week



2 hours - month

Experience level of the facilitator

taken part OR some facilitation experience

Number of facilitators


Location requirements

3-4 rooms, preferrably different ones than the everyday meeting rooms.


Level of activation


Hidden curriculum

-Every team member is valuable at its time.
-Enhances awareness of the rhythm of a group process and the ability to know when to contribute and when not.
-Different spaces have different effects on the outcome of the creative process. Be aware that the way you equip your rooms has a strong impact on what your team comes up with.

Woo-Woo Level - How touchy-feely is this method?

From 1.Rationalist-Materialist "No feelings here, folks." to 5.Esoteric-Shamanic Bleeding Heart:

Innovation Phases:

2 Creating an Innovation-Friendly Culture
3 Fostering New Perspectives & Ways of Thinking
4 Idea Generation
5 Grounding the Idea
6 Prototyping
9 Evaluation

Method Category:

Strategy / Planning


A cyclic creative process in 3-4 phases to dream up new ideas, make them realistic and evaluate them by using different rooms for each phase. It helps come up with high quality ideas, thoroughly thought through from different perspectives.


Disney Rooms



Walt Disney as original practitioner, made explicit and developed further by Robert B. Dilts.

Robert B. Dilts: Strategies of Genius Vol. 1, 1995, ISBN-10: 091699032X


1 Give an overview

Explain the basic idea of the Disney Method to the group you are facilitating and show them the three rooms with their purposes. Tell them that you will be visiting all three rooms at least once (or, depending on the topic and time, several times) and that their task is to dive into the quality of the given room as intensely as they can. You can do this process also as an individual person. We will describe it here for a group, but you will find it easy to adapt it for individual use.
A good time to be in each room is about 20 minutes. You can also stay longer but we found it more effective to run through the process several times and stay a shorter while. Follow your intuition and alert to group observation as facilitator.

2 Get to know the topic

Get some clarity about the whole topic from an overview perspective of an external spectator. What exactly is the problem you are trying to solve? Is there anything to know or consider that influences the whole topic? You might gather data and share background knowledge.

3 The Dream Room

Lead the group you are facilitating into the dream room.
Tell them about the purpose of the room: A dreamer spins innumerable fantasies, wishes, outrageous hunches and bold and absurd ideas without limit or judgment. Nothing is censored. Nothing is too absurd or silly. Anything is possible for the dreamer.
Let them connect with the spirit of the dream room: Tell them to each individually think of a time they were able to creatively dream up or fantasize new ideas without any inhibitions and to relive that experience. You can also pair people up and let them tell each other of that experience in an appreciative inquiry.
Ask the group (or each individual) to envision an outcome they want to achieve. Encourage them to visualize themselves accomplishing this goal as if they were a character in a movie.
Questions like that could help. You can hang them up in the room.
-What is it we want to do?
-If you could wave a magic wand and do anything you want. What would you create?
-What would it look like?
-What could you do with it?
-What would it make you feel like?
- In a perfect world there would be...
-What is the most absurd idea I can conceive?
Either host a brainstorming group dialogue or let people dream and write or draw individually and then share the ideas in the group. Make sure as a facilitator that the group seriously sticks to the dream phase and do not judge or go into the details of realization. Be gentle but strict about that.

4 The Realist Room

Lead the group into the realist room.
Tell them about the purpose of the room: It is about chunking down the dream into pieces of a manageable size. The realist imagineers* (*a specific Disney term expressing the act of imagination as a structured process) the dreamer’s ideas into something realistic and feasible. He/She would try to figure out how to make the ideas work and then sort them out in some meaningful order.
Let them connect with the spirit of the realist room: Identify a time you were able to think very realistically and devise a specific plan to put an idea effectively into action and relive that experience.
You can also pair people up and let them tell each other of that experience in an appreciative inquiry.
Those questions can help:
-How can I make this happen?
-What are the features and aspects of the idea?
-Can I build ideas from the features or aspects?
-What is the essence of the idea?
-How can I use the essence of the idea to imagine a more realistic one?
-With the resources we have available how can we turn this idea into a success?
-Can I extract the principle of the idea?
-Can I make analogical-metaphorical connections with the principle and something dissimilar to create something tangible?
-How can I use the essence of the idea to imagineer a more realistic one?

Again you can either host a brainstorming group dialogue or let people think and write or draw individually, in pairs or tiny groups and then share the ideas in the big group.
Make sure as a facilitator that the group seriously sticks to the realist phase and neither judge nor come up with more fancy ideas at this stage.
Select the 3 best ideas considering for example the following criteria (adapt them according to your purpose and values):
-Which ideas are the most valuable for users?
-Which ideas have the biggest impact?
-Which ideas can be quickly implemented and involve the lowest costs?
-Which ideas are the most inspiring?

5 The Critic Room

Lead the group into the critic room.
Tell them about the purpose of the room: The critic reviews all the ideas and tries to punch holes in them by playing the devil’s advocate.
Let them connect with the spirit of the critic room:
Think of a time you were able to constructively criticize an plan - you were able to offer positive and constructive criticism as well as to find problems. Relive that experience. You can also pair people up and let them tell each other of that experience in an appreciative inquiry.
Those questions can help:
How do I really feel about it?
Is this the best I can do?
What are all the problems with this idea?
What can make it better?
Does this idea make sense?
How does it look to a customer? An expert? A user? (Add any other relevant stakeholders)
Is it worth my time to work on this idea?
Can I improve it?
You can also involve others into the process of criticism. Disney even asked the catering and security for feedback and rewarded them for valuable criticism.
Collect all criticism and turn it into questions for the dreamer.

6 Step Back

Take a step back from all, look at your process from a meta-perspective and have a break. Then take another round. Continue to cycle through steps 3, 4 and 5 until your plan congruently fits each position.



-A team of different personalities want to develop a new service. They often got stuck in their discussions and blocked themselves. Instead of sitting around a table and debate in their typical roles as dreamers, realists, critics they try out the Disney rooms. The rooms are improvised, one is the staff kitchen, one is a seminar room, one is the entrance hall. After two rounds they do not only have new ideas for their future offers, but have given the three rooms a new meaning and good memories that uplift the team spirit.
-A company dedicates permanently different conference rooms to the Disney phases, equips them with care, there's a grass carpet, blue sky with clouds and a big inspiration treasure box in the dream room. They have a "flush-down toilet" where one can get rid of ideas that need to go. The individual employees or teams use the rooms for their creative work when they need it, sometimes as the whole process, sometimes just to imbibe the quality of the specific room's "genius loci".


-We have seen this method being used with chairs instead of rooms. This might be a variation you can use if not enough rooms area available or if you spontaneously decide to run through this process.

-Some facilitators dedicate the first position, the meta position, a room.

Trainers for this method can be hired here:

Visionautik Akademie www.visionautik.de

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