Friday, January 28, 2011

Dowagiac, Michigan Embracing The Disney Way

Published 10:34pm Monday, January 17, 2011

Bill Capodagli, visiting at the end of February to teach Dowagiac “The Disney Way,” never worked for the company, never met Walt Disney.

Capodagli (pronounced Cap o die), born in 1948, was a senior in high school when Disney died in 1966, but he has devoted much of his professional life to perpetuating the Dream Believe Dare Do credo of a man best known for his bottomless creativity.

For the past two decades “The Disney Way” author has been imparting Disney’s original success principles at seminars, so you might not realize he’s from Michigan.

Capodagli founded his consulting firm in 1993 after working for such firms as Ernst and Young and Coopers and Lybrand.

As a Disney expert, he has studied how the four principles are applied in industries from hotel management to hospitals, and where show business fits in education. Whirlpool is a client.

The Disney Way explored how Dream, Believe, Dare, Do applies to a wide range of endeavors, from a school in Des Moines, Iowa, to a hair salon in Cleveland or Men’s Wearhouse. Fortune magazine raved of the business bestseller that started it all as “so useful you may whistle while you work.”

Though most things from four decades ago are considered obsolete, Disney’s basic premises are so fundamental that the culture he established remains a relevant role model.

Disney dreamed of an organization where employees and teams were self-motivated for the successful achievement of long-term goals in an environment of mutual respect and trust. Discover your “story” and communicate it.

“That short-term mentality is killing us,” as are “my way or the highway” leadership styles, he told the Daily News in a phone interview Jan. 14.

Believe every employee is capable of creating “magical moments” for customers. Examine your values and codes of conduct and understand the importance of using them in decision-making.

Dare to make a difference. Create a unique culture that breaks down barriers, celebrates failure and promotes a climate of fun.

Do create a “show business” atmosphere. Understand the story’s setting and roles.

Asked the secret to his success, Disney replied, “I dream things and ways of doing business that have never been done before. I test those dreams against my personal beliefs and the values of the organization. I dare to take the risk to make my dreams reality and I put plans together so those plans do become reality.”

Dream Believe Dare Do have been the bedrock principles of the Disney organization for more than 80 years.

Disney created the quintessential model for customer service. “Show business” refers to organizations continuously striving to put on good shows for guests. He encourages audiences to become “customer-centric” producers of their own shows.

As Disney said, “You don’t build a product for yourself, you need to know what people want and build it for them.”

Great leaders don’t just meet customer needs, they create unique experiences. They don’t simply provide products or services that meet specifications, they solve customer problems, fulfill customer dreams and create “magical moments.”

Capodagli utilizes storyboarding, a tool Disney created in the 1930s and relied on for creative ventures throughout the rest of his life.

As a structured exercise, storyboarding quickly captures thoughts and creative ideas from a group of participants.

Recorded on cards, they are displayed on a board or wall, forming an “idea landscape.”

Storyboarding is a tool for generating solutions to problems and enhancing communications. He teaches audiences how they can be adapted to a variety of problem-solving situations in which the visual element makes idea interconnections readily apparent.

A “blue sky” idea can move in nine steps to a unique guest experience that kept customers coming back year after year.

Schools need to create a vision that motivates students, teachers and parents alike to succeed in a true learning environment.

School systems must dare to make a difference by breaking out of the traditional teacher-centered classroom with the lecturing sage on the stage in favor a more student-centric learning experience where the teacher serves as a facilitator.

Schools must also plan for long-term change so we don’t waste, as Disney put it, “our greatest natural resource, our children.”

Disney employees are well-trained and well-compensated, with management making sure everyone, from executives to summer workers, has a proprietary feeling. Employees are called “cast members” and they know their role in the “show.” They have the feeling that it’s their show, not someone else’s.

The company provides the atmosphere of trust, gives them tools to do their job, welcomes their ideas and input and isn’t looking over everyone’s shoulders all the time.

“The Gong Show,” modeled after the old TV amateur hour show, provided an opportunity two or three times a year for any employee to present an idea for a full-length feature animation before CEO Michael Eisner, chairman of the board, and Roy Disney, vice chairman.

“Hercules,” the animated film, resulted from an animator’s idea presented at a Gong Show. The company benefits from thousands of good ideas — some of which develop into feature films. Employees benefit from knowing they have the freedom to submit ideas and be listened to, even if they ultimately get gonged. They can celebrate the experience by learning from it.

Many companies make the mistake of thinking everybody knows what they’re supposed to be doing, which, all too often, is not the case.

One way Disney guarded against that is an orientation program, Traditions. New people are immersed in the culture of the company over several days, so all members know what their job is and what’s expected.

Even 12-week summer employees go through this program, with other cast members performing training, which gives new hires a view of the company through the eyes of its employees, which reinforces the Disney culture.

Other companies don’t undertake such orientation until after six months because turnover’s high and they don’t want to waste time and money, which misses the point.

Turnover may be attributable to people not being immediately acquainted with the corporate vision, mission and philosophy.

Capodagli is coming to Dowagiac through a partnership with Union Schools District, the city, Southwestern Michigan College and Borgess-Lee Memorial Hospital.

With Lynn Jackson, he is the author of The Disney Way (revised in 2007), The Disney Way Field Book, Leading at the Speed of Change (AT&T created a $5 billion network in five years) and Innovate the Pixar Way, featuring business lessons from the world’s most creative corporate playground.

Jackson has degrees in psychology from Ball State University and instructional systems technology from Indiana University.

When Capodagli talks about “celebrating failure,” he recalls how we learn as toddlers, “by exploration and discovery,” trial and error.

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