3 Lessons from the Disney University Webinar

Salvatore Giliberto
May 06, 2013

Disney U

Peoplefluent had the pleasure of hosting Doug Lipp in a recent webinar entitled Disney U – Creating the World’s Best Employees. Doug is the former head of training at Disney University and the author of Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World's Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees. In theory this webinar was about the secrets to the world-renown Disney U training program, but in reality it gives invaluable lessons on creating a corporate culture that fosters learning and success.

Here are three lessons I took from the webinar:

1.  “I was convinced that managers and owners could come and go, but Walt’s dream would last forever.” -- Van France, founder of Disney University

The “Walt” in the above quote is, of course, Walt Disney. Learning is really about perpetuating a culture. Your learning initiatives may be teaching specific tactics (where to access information, how to perform an activity, etc.), but those tactics are the manifestation of a corporate culture. So do you have an understanding of the culture you are perpetuating?

2. The Secret Sauce

Doug identified four critical concepts companies must define for a successful work environment. They are:

  • On Stage
  • Off Stage
  • Good Show
  • Bad Show

Employees must clearly know when they are considered “On Stage”, i.e. representing the brand to customers, and conversely when they are not. For a place like Disneyland, interacting with the public defines On Stage. Where is On Stage for your business? It can be when you are in direct contact with clients, customers, social media, etc. Off Stage is the opposite of On Stage, and is also important to define so employees have the freedom to change roles and mindset.

Once you have defined On Stage and Off Stage, you should define what a Good Show looks like, as well as what a Bad Show looks like.

At Disney U, when someone dressed up as Mickey in the park, he is On Stage, acting like a friendly, helpful company mascot. When that person is Off Stage, they are themselves, they can remove their costume, eat, rest, etc.

Competitors may have more and faster rides than Disneyland, but these concepts of stage and show are part of what allows Disney to charge more than competitors.

3. Dealing with Silos

Silos tend to naturally occur as companies grow. Silos don’t necessarily need to be eliminated; they instead need to be defined, understood, and integrated. The first step is to define your core values, which consist of the reasons why customers choose your company and products. For Disneyland these values are friendly service, clean environment, safe environment, and consistent experience.  To prevent your silos from turning into isolated ‘islands,’ you allow individuality within the silo as long as they are consistent with the defined values.

For example, an employee (they call them ‘cast members’) on Pirates of the Caribbean can be aggressive yet still friendly, because they are acting as pirates. A cast member on It’s a Small World displays friendliness in a different way.

>> For more information on how these and other lessons from the webinar can translate to your company’s learning and training programs,  access Disney U – Creating the World’s Best Employees on demand. You can also download a free chapter from Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World's Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees here.

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