Why Can't We Be More Like Disneyland?

A few months ago, I attended the From Business To Buttons conference in Stockholm where Kim Goodwin gave the talk “Designing How We Design.” Her presentation was around how organizational values influence the way we approach design and deliver projects.

A story she told left a lingering impression on me. The story shows the potential of a truly connected company. It’s a story taken from the book The Disney Way.“

A group of people check into one of Disney’s resorts. Shortly after, they hop on a bus to go somewhere else in the park. The bus driver says “-Hey, how’s your room?”. One of the people on the bus says: “-My faucet is dripping, I forgot to tell the front desk about that.” The bus driver says: “What’s your room number? I’ll get that taken care of.” When the guest arrives back to his room, the faucet is fixed.

Why did the bus driver take the effort to help this visitor? It’s because the bus driver doesn’t see his role as only driving a bus. His job is to give guests a great experience. He understands that his role plays a bigger part.

The story shows the importance of values.

I believe this is the single most important aspect of an organization: aligning the company to create a great customer experience. At Google they say: “Focus on the user and all else will follow.” It sounds almost cliché, but so many companies are not applying this way of thinking. Granted, having everybody united on a common value is not an easy task. Organizations are most often siloed. You have your marketing department, your sales department, your customer service department, the list goes on. They all have their own agenda and leaders.

How can you instill the Disney approach within your organization? My humble opinion is that it all boils down to two things: empathy and relentlessly repeating your customer focus.

Empathy is about understanding another person’s perspective. The key to fostering empathy is to connect people across the organization. Something that Pixar has applied is a job-swapping program, a lottery that randomly matches people across the company to encourage new connections and friendships. In my opinion, if you understand your colleague’s situation, you are more likely to collaborate towards the same objective.

If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.
— Henry Ford

Relentlessly repeating your customer focus
Most large organizations have core values. You might see them hanging on your office walls, or find them in your annual reports. But, are you actually applying them on a daily basis? Are leaders within your company using them? Everyone within an organization is responsible for living the values and repeating them. Having the value of customer focus unites towards a common goal: to serve the customer in the most optimal way, wherever they are or whatever device they are using.

In your work, remember the story about the bus driver. Try to put the customer at the heart of everything you do and collaborate across your organization. Disneyland might not be that far away, after all.