Walt Disney Method

Dive into a role play method to ideate on ideas. Every idea is heard and discussed.
Number of ParticipantsFacilitatorsCategoryDurationLevel of Difficulty
Groups of 3-4 people1 ModeratorIdeation Phase90minSimple


The Walt Disney Method is a collaborative/ social creativity technique which was found by Robert B. Dilts. It is based on the “Walt Disney‘s way of thinking” and can be used as a qualitative method. The “Walt Disney‘s way of thinking” is inspired by the thinking process of Walter Elias Disney. The Walt Disney Method uses three different roles to facilitate the consideration of different perspectives on a topic:
The Dreamer is about “What is to be achieved?” This role is visionary, and the goal is to be a creative mastermind and to create new ideas. It produces overarching and future-oriented goals and visions of what could be. The ideas that emerge are often surprising and partly unrealistic. In this role it is important to have no restrictions about what is allowed and not in order to be open regarding new and unusual ideas. No thoughts are given to implementation!
The Realist is about “How is it to be achieved?”. This role is that of an operative doer and focuses on the feasibility and viability of the Dreamer’s ideas. The Realist tests the potential of the Dreamer’s ideas. He does not deal with possible barriers, problems and imponderables!
The Critic is about “What can/will go wrong?”. This one is the quality manager of the three roles and examines and questions the ideas of the Dreamer and the proposals of the Realist. The ideas are critically questioned in order to identify logic or logical breaks. Concerns are addressed and discussed. The Critic tries to find opportunities, risks, improvements and to make a general assessment of the ideas. Questions and findings are in turn passed on to the Dreamer. The role also makes constructive suggestions to solve the problems!
The three roles interact with each other and are interdependent. To develop creative ideas, each role is needed. Participants can take the same role individually or in groups to reflect on a topic from different perspectives. The process is often applied iteratively and ends when the Dreamers’ ideas seem feasible and the Critics can no longer come up with critical questions.
The goal of the method is:

  • Systematic and effective way to create and implement innovations
  • Structure ideas into tangible expressions
  • Get a different point of view on one topic
  • Find ideas
  • Find critical aspects in the ideas
  • Find ways to implement ideas
  • Contribute information to solve problems

For more information about the method, please refer to the slides of the PowerPoint presentation. Here you will find more detailed information and a complete insight into the method.


The following materials are required for the workshop. Since it is possible to conduct the workshop with physical presence as well as digitally, there are two lists of material for each case.

  • Stable internet connection for the workshop moderator.
  • Computer with video camera and microphone.
  • Tool for video conferences (e.g. zoom)
    • Screen sharing function
    • Breakout Rooms to form groups for group work
    • Creation of an invitation link for participants
  • Video and audio chat to improve the social interaction
  • PowerPoint slides to present the method to the participants.
  • Cheat Sheet fort the participants, with hints for the workshop exercise.
  • Exercise template for the participants with exercise instructions and space for notes and the results (uploaded to a server of your choice e. g. google drive to allow collaborative work in real-time in groups in one document).
  • Timer for the moderator to control the time during the workshop exercise.
Physical Presence

Before the implementation, some things should be prepared. These preparations are differentiated in the following table for a digital execution and a presence event.

  • Before the workshop, the workshop leader should review all materials and talk through the presentation several times. It may also be advisable for untrained people to test the entire process in advance.
  • The moderator should ensure a solid internet connection.
  • The moderator should choose a quiet room without noise.
  • The selected video conferencing tool should be tested before the implementation. It is best to try out all functions between 2 different WLAN networks. This way you can familiarize yourself with the tool and reduce the likelihood of technical problems.
  • The access link for the participants should be tested before.
  • The moderator should check his/her microphone and video before the event so that it can be clearly understood by the participants.
  • The moderator should consider beforehand how the participants should use microphone and video. If the number of participants is large, he or she should recommend that they only switch on their microphone when they are speaking. Otherwise there will probably be some background noise.
Physical Presence
  • Before the workshop, the workshop leader should review all materials and talk through the presentation several times. It may also be advisable for untrained people to test the entire process in advance.
  • The moderator must find a room for the workshop and inform the participants about it in time, so that they can plan their arrival.
  • Date and time for the workshop have to be fixed.
  • Technical components such as beamer and laptop should be tested before the workshop and set up before the participants arrive.
  • The room should be prepared for group setting. It is best to set up group tables and equip them with the workshop materials.
  • Before the presentation, the moderator should consider how he or she wants to put the groups together. If the participants already know each other, it may be advisable to form random groups and distribute name cards. This can increase the diversity of the individual groups.

Although mandatory use of the video function can be a dissuasive factor, it increases the willingness to participate, especially in a group that is unfamiliar with each other, and creates a slightly less anonymous environment.

Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. First, the workshop leader should welcome the participants and briefly introduce himself and the topic of the workshop.
  2. He/She should then present the schedule of the following workshop to the participants so that they know what to expect. It is recommendable to present the agenda visibly during the whole workshop so that the participants know where they are at all times. In addition, the agenda also provides a brief summary of the workshop.
  3. You can then begin with the PowerPoint presentation. First, the theoretical background of the Walt Disney Method is explained on slides 4 to 16.
    1. After it, open questions should then be asked. All participants have the opportunity to fully understand the theory of the method.
  4. Then the practical part is introduced by explaining the exercise. A short example during the exercise introduction should make it easier for the participants to transfer the theory into practice.
    1. Before starting the exercise, the moderator can explicitly highlight the Cheat Sheet. This allows the participants to have a kind of handout during the practice to eliminate any uncertainties.
    2. Here too, the workshop leader should clarify any open questions.
  5. Then the group work will begin. The moderator leaves the field to the participants but is ready for questions.
    1. In a digital workshop the participants are sent to the different breakout rooms.
  6. After 10 minutes, the workshop leader can briefly inform the groups that they should be finished with Phase 1.
  7. After 10 minutes, the workshop leader can briefly inform the groups that they should be finished with Phase 2.
  8. After 10 minutes, the workshop leader can briefly inform the groups that they should be finished with Phase 3.
  9. After the 30 minutes, the moderator should bring the participants back from the group work. It is useful not to break off exactly after 30 minutes, but to give the participants 1 or 2 minutes to complete the work, if necessary.
  10. The moderator then initiates the presentation of the results and discussion. Each group has the opportunity to present their results and verbalize their experiences with the method.Since the latter can be difficult for non-routine workshop participants, it is helpful to prepare specific questions in advance that can initiate a discussion. These could be, for example: When could you imagine using this method? What were the biggest challenges? What surprised you?
  11. Finally, the moderator has the opportunity to get feedback for the workshop. He can do this either as an open discussion or by using more anonymous questionnaires/sheets. The first carries the risk that the participants do not dare or do not want to take the time for it. Anonymous variants have the advantage that everyone can express themselves, but on the other hand, the moderator cannot ask questions if anything is unclear. The workshop leader must decide which method promises the most advantages for him/her and this workshop.

Remarks, Tips, Limitations

During a face-to-face meeting and if the room allows it, the groups should rotate for the individual phases. Since each phase has a different place, it may be easier to separate the 3 perspectives.
To lighten the mood, groups can be named after Disney characters. Since the Disney movies are very well-known, most participants should know famous characters.
Even if it seems unnecessary in advance, it is recommendable for less experienced workshop leaders to test the entire procedure before the actual workshop. It is best to do this with another person who is not familiar with the method. This person will be able to better identify possible problems.
You should always plan a time buffer for the workshop. This way you don’t have to stop the workshop if the schedule is delayed. Especially the discussion at the end can quickly cost more time than planned. However, the exchange is very supportive for all participants and should therefore be brought to a satisfactory conclusion.
It is always best to prepare more workshop material than necessary. So there will certainly be enough material available, even in case of unforeseeable events.


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Contributed by Lisa Clausen, Adrian Preussner and Johanna Langendorf.