How to use the NLP Disney Strategy

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The practical steps

The NLP Disney Creativity Strategy is a tool for organising your thinking so you are better able to achieve goals or dreams.

In this NLP method, sometimes called the Disney Technique and which we explore on our NLP Practitioner Part 2 Programme, you run your great idea or plan through 3 different way of thinking to make it stretching, realistic, and robust.

Make a note: there are two articles on this technique. This is the step-by-step guide and we also have The Disney Strategy – Overview.

Is this too big for me?

Or just unclear thinking? Many of our great plans or undertakings come to nothing because of how we think rather than because our plans are too stretching or are merely day-dreams.

If we use a muddled, unclear approach the undertaking can appear overwhelming and so big that it’s quickly dropped.  But if we use the Disney Strategy to think things through in a strategic and systematic manner this makes things clear, manageable and practical.

Background to the Disney Strategy

The strategy was devised by Todd Epstein and Robert Dilts, two NLP trainers from the US west coast*. They modelled the method used by Walt Disney to turn his ideas into reality, especially in the form of his animated films.

They recognised that Disney used three types of thinking – day dreaming or fantasising, planning, and being constructively critical.

Many people also do this. What was different about Disney’s approach is that he subjected his great ideas to these styles sequentially whereas most people use all three styles at the same time – producing unclear, confused and muddled thinking that frequently results in great ideas being jettisoned.  (See Tools for Dreamers, 1991, Meta Publications)

How to use the Disney Strategy

You can use the Strategy on your own, is coaching others or with a team. These tips help make it work better

  • Do it spatially i.e. stand in different locations for each of the thinking phases. This keeps the different styles of thinking separate
  • If you are running the Strategy alone do so aloud – when asking yourself the questions for each stage and when answering them.

Run the strategy in 2 stages (A) Preparation and (B) Walk through the technique.

Preparation for Disney Strategy

Preparation (1) come up with a dream!

This can be anything you wish…  something you’d like to achieve, a change you’d like to make in your life or your work or profession, or personal change such as improving your fitness or health.

Make sure it’s something that is quite stretching i.e. it requires you to move into your Stretch Zone. (Why waste a wonderful technique such as the Disney Strategy on a mediocre goal that could be achieved using the PECSAW model??)

Preparation (2): set up the 3 locations

Select 3 locations in a room (or outdoors).  Some people find it helpful to have a fourth location – a sort of neutral location in which to take time out from the strategy.

  1. Dreamer: Here you allow your imagination to run free. You consider your vision and the benefits of achieving it.
  2. Planner: Here you act as if the plan is entirely possible – your job is to look for ways to make it happen.

(Incidentally, the Planner is more commonly called the Realist.  But because of the similarity between being ‘realistic’ and being ‘constructively critical’ we use the name Planner here in Pegasus NLP)

  1. Critic: Here you look for flaws and loopholes in the Plan.  Act as the Constructive Critic. In Critic role you only interact with the Planner – not with the Dreamer. Aim to find weaknesses, pre-empt problems and ensure the success of the Plan – but leave the resolution of these potential weaknesses to the Planner.

Preparation (3): attach feelings to each location

To help you get into the ideal state for each location, anchor the state to the location. Think about one or times when you were doing the activity associated with the location. Once you have accessed the state into the location.

  1. Dreamer: think of times when you were day-dreaming, fantasising, or allowing your imagination to run free and unfettered. Now step into the Dreamer location and for a few minutes relive one or two such moments.
  2. Planner: Think of times when you were enthusiastically engaged in planning things such as work or DIY projects or family holidays. Now step into the Planner location and for a few minutes relive one or two such moments.
  3. Critic: Think of one or two times when you were able to constructively criticise your own plans or those of others.  The emphasis here is on being constructive rather than destructive.  Think of the state of mind and the physiology that you used.  Now step into the Critic location and relive such these moments.

That’s it, your preparation is done.  You’re now ready to subject your own dream to the Disney Creativity Strategy.

Walk through the Strategy

1. Dreamer

Step into this location. Take a moment to reconnect with what it’s like to imagine freely. Now think about the big picture of your ‘dream’. Visualise it creatively and without inhibitions, as if anything is possible. Consider the benefits of achieving it.

To help you think more clearly, if doing it alone, ask each question aloud and answer it aloud (for each of the stages).

What do I want?

What will I be doing – and where will I be doing it?

When will I begin? Where? Why?

What are the benefits of achieving this?

What will this mean about me as a person?

How will it benefit those who are close to me?

2. Planner

Step into the location. Connect with your ‘planning mode’ feelings. Now, acting as if the dream is fully possible and achievable for you, come up with a plan to make it a reality.

Do this in a practical and realistic way. Aim to develop a detailed and manageable plan of action.

How can I make this dream happen?

What are the main chunks or sections of this dream? How do they follow one another?

What steps must I take to make each chunk happen?

Why is this step necessary? And this one? And this one?

What resources (time, people, money, etc) do I need to make it happen?

What will I see and hear that will be evidence that each chunk has been achieved?

What will I see and hear that will be evidence that the dream has been achieved?

3. Constructive Critic

Step into this location – and remember you’re acting as a constructive Critic.

What are the weaknesses in this Plan?

What is missing?

What is inappropriate?

What problems could occur?

Who might object? Who will be unfavourably affected by this?

When and where might this not work? Or not be desirable?

Any other weaknesses in this plan?

Re-cycle if necessary

You’ve now completed Round 1

If it’s a really big dream – a good stretching vision – it will probably require a number of cycles between Critic and Planner. That’s great.  It shows you’re aiming to stretch yourself rather than going for something smaller and ‘safe’.

Here’s how to do this cycling

  1. Having completed the Critic stage move back to the Planner location
  2. Now revise the Plan (but not the Dream) based on the Critic’s comments
  3. Then go back to the Critic location and assess the revised Plan.

Continue this cycling back and forth between Planner and Critic until you have a sound, workable plan. With big undertakings it may be useful to run the whole process every day or two for a week.

And if you cannot come up with a sound Plan which the Critic ‘approves of’ you may need to go back to the Dreamer location and modify the Dream based on this cycling through. But you only change the Dream when you’re absolutely sure that a workable Plan cannot be achieved.

Use it alone, in coaching or with a team

The Disney Creativity Strategy is an excellent technique to do on your own.  It is also a great in coaching or in team development.

Note: there are two articles on this technique. This is the step-by-step guide and there is also The Disney Strategy – Overview.


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