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4 Questions with Disney U’s Doug Lipp

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by 
Salvatore Giliberto
on April 15, 2013

What does it take to create the “Happiest Place on Earth,” as well as one of the world’s most recognizable brands? While most people would mention Mickey and Snow White, the success of Disney would not be possible without a world-class workforce. Renown author, speaker, and consultant Doug Lipp explores this in his new book, Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World's Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees, an inside look at the employee training philosophy used at Disney U, with insights any business can take advantage of.

We chatted with Doug about his book in anticipation of his participation in this week’s Peoplefluent webinar entitled Disney U – Creating the World’s Best Employees.

For people not familiar with Disney U, how would you describe what it is and the objectives of the program?

First of all, Disney U is not a program. It is an employee development philosophy that is closely aligned with the operations of the Theme Parks. Too many “Training & Development” Departments in a lot of organizations are isolated and disconnected from the realities of the workplace. As a result, the material and education provided in training is soon forgotten or ridiculed on the front lines. The Disney University team works very closely with the Disney Operations team to ensure Walt Disney’s values of keeping a Disney property maintained, “fresh,” and friendly are kept alive.

I give many specific examples of this in Disney U

How can a company that isn’t as large as Disney benefit from the lessons of Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World's Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees?

Size of budget, headcount and fame are not necessary. The 13 Lessons in Disney U reveal values that can be adopted by any organization, regardless of size. For example, I reveal in one Lesson how homeless shelters in San Francisco benefitted from adopting philosophies of the Disney University! 

As an entertainment brand, Disney seems to have a training advantage in terms of user experience. For example, in the book you cite “Hakuna Matata” from The Lion King playing in the background. How can a non-entertainment brand still make training a pleasant experience? Should they?

The Disney University philosophy of “Entertain and Educate” is applicable in any organization. Creating a memorable training experience … one that is sustained well after training concludes … is more than cracking jokes and playing fun music. Engaging trainees, whether health service executives in a hospital, to front-line employees in a fast food restaurant must incorporate some level of experiential, engaging activities. 

The Disney University captures employees’ hearts and minds through meaningful activities. Posters of Mickey Mouse and soundtracks from famous movies mean nothing without credible training content and post-training leadership support.

What is the key message you repeat throughout Disney U?

Walt Disney’s values supporting employee development (and which are the “secrets” behind the success of the Disney University) are available to every organization. I will share these values, called the Four Circumstances, during our webinar.

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