Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

A Novel Way to Drive Innovation In the New Year

December 10, 2014 by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute

Whether it was his highest-ranking leaders or third-shift maintenance workers at Disneyland, Walt Disney often spent time chatting with his employees, proactively seeking their ideas and input on everything from characters for movies to the operations of the Disneyland Park. When asked why, Walt once replied, “I never know where my next great idea will come from.”

Walt Disney understood a fundamental business principle: Everyone has valuable information to share. He considered all employees to be sources of inspiration for new ways of thinking – no matter if it was a fresh perspective on an existing experience or something entirely new. In today’s rapidly evolving global marketplace, our company continues to use this collaborative approach to fostering business innovation. 

A great example of this comes from our colleagues at Disney Interactive and Disney Consumer Products, who recently partnered to host their first-ever Hack Days Event at Disney office locations around the world. A tech-industry tradition that has started gaining more widespread popularity in the past few years, a “Hack Day” event (also known as a Hackathon) “encourages employees to think outside of their daily scope of work to come up with original ideas, pitches and business solutions before presenting them to leaders.”

Now, in case you are wondering...isn’t a “hack” something negative? Not necessarily! In the past few years, the term “hack” has taken on new meaning and morphed beyond its former negative connotation into something more positive. Today, the term “hack” is often used to describe “a novel or unique way of doing something.”

During the 2014 Disney Hack Days event, more than 350 Cast Members spent the day creating “hacks” that focused on connecting the physical and digital worlds, using a variety of platforms and technologies. At the end of the competition, a total of 45 hacks were created and presented for patent review, with the top teams awarded the chance to share their projects with Disney leaders, who then selected the winning ideas to go into the production pipeline.

For a closer look at this innovation-driving event and how it was leveraged as part of the idea-generation process, check out this highlight video:

So, can a “Hack Day” be adapted and applied to other industries and organizations? Absolutely... If there is a unique business challenge that requires creative thinking and innovative solutions, a Hack Day event could be tailored, and scaled up or down, for employees across a variety of sectors and industries.

But, the key to a successful outcome lies within the organization itself – specifically in its leaders’ willingness and ability to demonstrate their belief in the principle: Everyone has valuable information to share. Leaders must be fully open and receptive to ideas from employees, and must take deliberate steps to engage them in the idea-generation process.

What unique Hack Day events have you used to solve a pressing business challenge

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Posted in Business Excellence | Tagged Innovation, Business Innovation, Creativity, Disney Innovation, Hack Days, Hack Day, Idea Generation, Strategy, Collaboration, Employee Collaboration, Team Collaboration, Bruce Jones

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