Let’s take you ALL the way back to the summer of 1955. Disneyland opened its doors on July 17th, 1955 and it was not a smooth sail! In fact, we discuss how badly it really did go in previous episodes. Walt Disney founded Disneyland with the intention that it would never be completed. He wanted people to push past what is comfortable and continue to grow and reimagine things. If you are intrigued as we are at how Disneyland came to be, check out Imagineering Story. Disney is always under construction, creating something new or renovating something that’s been loved by all.
We want to share with you how innovation has been the bread and butter of Disney’s success, and how you can practically innovate in your own business with some of their methods.
First, let’s discuss the smaller, less risky ways in which Disney innovates. More often than not, it’s the incremental changes that bring about the magic. Think about the IPhone. The IPhone 12 is really not that much different than the 11. But it’s new and edgy and their audience is bought in.
You can guess when Disney is the slowest. Yep, winter and fall when school is in session! So the Imagineers took that slow season and created the Arts Festival at Epcot in the spring and the Food and Wine Festival in the fall to bring us “older kids” into the parks on the weekends. They frequently close down sections of their resorts and parks to give it a good refresh and create a new experience for their guests. In the winter, they alternate closing down one of their water parks for refurbishing and updates.
How does this apply to your business? Think about ways you can innovate during your slow seasons. What are ways in which you can make a small edit or refresh to your product, website, or service? Maybe changing up the photos you have on your home page. Or even a refresh to the packaging your product is shipped in. Incremental changes are extremely powerful ways to innovate.
Taking Huge Risks
Walt Disney was in full support of taking big risks to push past the envelope of the imagination. The opening of Disneyland Japan and Paris were two monumental risks— in fact, Disneyland Paris almost hit bankruptcy! The Imagineers team was approached by partners in the East who wanted to create a Disneyland experience in Tokyo. They got out the original blueprints from the 50s and started to build the replica, and then followed this same process later in Paris.
However, the Imagineers team missed one important step in their process of expansion… They did not evaluate their audience. They built the American version of Disney in Tokyo and Paris rather than adapting the Disney vision for a Japanese and European audience. In Europe, Disneyland was priced in accordance to what Americans would pay for the Disney experience state bound. They quickly realized that Europeans had a different approach to what they were willing to pay when their Paris hotels were at 60% capacity — unheard of in the US!
Years later, when Shanghai Disney and China were opened, they carefully evaluated their audience after learning from mistakes. For example, they recreated the Haunted Mansion ride to reflect Chinese beliefs of the afterlife. Can you imagine what would have happened if they put the American replica of the Haunted Mansion there??
Understanding your audience is key when innovating. Asking the question, “What do they want?” will help you narrow in on exactly what your audience truly wants. Sounds great, but how exactly do you do it?
One of the best ways to really engage with your audience is to take them on the innovation journey with you. Pull back the curtains and let them take a front row sneak peek into what you are working on next. Disney does an incredible job at teasing new rides, giving sneak peeks into refurbished resorts, and announcing the next big project that will undergo construction.
Again, let’s apply this to your business. How can you draw your audience in? Maybe with a countdown to your next launch date. Share behind the scenes footage of your next project. Tease photos of what the next product is going to be. These are some of the best ways to really keep your customers engaged.
Experimenting with New Ideas
You may have heard about the time Disney decided to cover Cinderella’s castle in pink frosting for their 25th Anniversary and made it look like a birthday cake. Or most recently, when they did a complete refinish of the castle. Talk about some controversy! It can be really scary to do any changes to your original, signature product or brand, but sometimes it can be so beneficial to experiment with new ideas. The great thing about this experiment is that they could have always turned it back to the original.
Thinking about making a change to your original product or service may feel way too risky, but it will absolutely create new excitement and conversation about your business. And remember: you can always go back to what you started with. Nothing has to be permanent! Maybe you do a fun release for a holiday or anniversary with a limited edition version of your product or service. It’s something to think about when it comes to innovation.
Get to it!
Truly, we could write (and talk) all day about innovating like Disney. This is why we have created an entire workshop experience where you will have the opportunity to sit down with us and apply these principles of innovation to your own business. We break down everything from changing your mindset around innovation, to identifying what innovation means to your unique individual business, and looking at how investing works for you.
We are bringing you years and years of our own experience of using these tools and strategies in our own businesses with workshops, masterclasses, and even the Profitable & Productive Party. We know what it’s like to buy all the books and expensive courses and training modules. We wanted this workshop to be very affordable and very accessible as we know many business owners invest a lot of capital into programs and training, yet still leave them unsure of what to do next. Our goal is for you to be thriving in your business and to take these strategies with you to implement immediately. Sign up here to be notified of our next upcoming workshop or masterclass!