Talking Point: The Disney Institute Blog

Storyboarding: A Communication Tool to Foster Employee Engagement

May 19, 2015 by Bruce Jones, Senior Programming Director, Disney Institute

At Disney Institute, we believe that the more a vision can be expressed in a vivid, imaginative way, the more it will motivate people to action in the present. Through our work with leaders around the world, we’ve found this to be particularly true when it comes to establishing a shared vision with employees. Poor quality, or “do this” type of communication often lacks inspiration and ownership.

This approach resurfaced at a recent Disney Institute professional development training course, during which a participant asked, “How can I best communicate to employees what our ideal service interactions with customers should be?” Telling and demonstrating had failed to work, she added. The class facilitator response was spot-on: “Have you thought about creating storyboards to illustrate what your ideal customer experience should look like and showcasing them around your employee areas?” The participant couldn’t wait to get back to the office and apply the concept.

Storyboarding is a classic animation technique that was developed at the Walt Disney Studios in the 1930s. Instead of describing the plot with words, animators would draw sequential scenes for a new cartoon and pin them to the walls of their office. The technique soon became the standard for mapping out new cartoons, and quickly translated into other areas of Walt Disney’s business.

Today, Disney Imagineers still use this technique when designing a new show or attraction. In fact, it can be adapted and applied to any step-by-step process involving designing or implementing the customer experience—from front desk interactions to over-the-phone product queries. Storyboarding is particularly effective because the mind naturally tries to encapsulate a fact, an experience or a new idea in story form. Therefore, the key to effective communication is to embrace our innate desire for storytelling, not to resist it.

And, if we look at things from a leadership standpoint, it’s important to realize that the effectiveness of your communication will largely determine the effectiveness of your employees. Valuable information, presented in a compelling manner, can empower and inspire, whereas mediocre information can cause paralysis, improvisation and disengagement.

It is far more powerful to enable your employees to see the result of what you are asking them to do, especially since 65 percent of us are visual learners, according the Social Science Research Network. So the next time you’re looking for a fresh, memorable way to communicate with employees, remember that storyboarding can give you an opportunity not only to capture your employees’ attention, but also to inspire their imagination.

How could storyboarding be used in your organization to foster employee engagement?  

We’d love to hear from you! 
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Posted in Employee Engagement | Tagged Employee Engagement, Customer Experience, Training, Employee Training, Culture, Vision, Leadership, Bruce Jones

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