How Disney creates magic in Disneyland (Hint: Everyone picks up trash)

This weekend, team @Sequoia took our Arc cohort to Disneyland to experience one of the most iconic, delight-and-details obsessed, storytelling-oriented brands and organizations of all time.

some surprising learnings and observations I hadn’t stumbled across in my prior research:

1. Everyone is All In

It’s pretty clear to me how a small team maintain a strong culture, the quality bar high, & the vibes consistent.

It’s pretty shocking to witness 100k+ staff members constantly smiling and waving, picking up trash, and cheerily answering guest questions.

2. Better job titles

Ticket Takers are called greeters. Janitors are called Custodians. This helps clarify the role for outsiders *and* insiders.

@browsercompany’s user-facing teams work in “Hospitality”

@watershed’s account managers were originally called “climate advisors”

3. Everyone picks up trash

Everyone on the staff is expected to keep the park clean. Added benefit–Disney needs to employ far fewer custodians to keep the park clean.

This is a norm in the outdoor community. I found this this in high-functioning kitchens I researched, too.

4. Cleaning crew wears all white

They honestly look like they’re about to go golfing.

I really like the symbolism here.

I really, really like the way it forces the organization to build in systems/processes that ensures their cleaning crew can stay clean all day.

5. Power of nostalgia

I hadn’t been to Disney since I was was 7. I didn’t remember that I remembered anything about it.

But at the sight of certain iconic landmarks, warm fuzzy feelings of childhood wonder and happiness came rushing over me.

Some things should stick around.

6. Full-sensory guest experience

-Car horns make cute sounds instead of obnoxious ones
-There’s a popcorn production run every morning at 9am to get the smell in the air
-As dusk sets in, the faint sound of crickets starts playing over the speakers

7. Recycling Optics

The early parks team decided it would be best for guest experience and the environment if they sorted our the recycling from the trash on behalf of their visitors behind the scenes.

The problem? No one believed the sorting was actually happening.

The solution?

Disney introduced recycling receptacles along trashcans so the guests would have faith that recycling was happening…

and continued the sorting anyway because of course trash still finds its way into the recycling bins and vice versa.

8. The joyful details unfold slowly

I’ve always appreciated the discipline and maturity of teams behind Easter eggs.

I know how tempting it can be to create something wonderful and then want to point people to it.

But, it’s miles more delightful to uncover it yourself.

Disney has a bazillion examples of this.

Turns out, it’s also good for business because guests will come back an infinite number of times and have infinite little treasures to discover.

9. The Soft-Spoken Imagineer

We had the incredible privilege of being led around the newest world, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, by one of the lead imagineers responsible for its creation.

She was pretty awkward in front of the group–soft-spoken, fumbled over words, and fidgety…

Looking past that was easy to do while literally standing in a world of her creativity and technical prowess manifested.

We can’t always do that with software or early projects, and this was a good reminder to listen to everyone.

sidebar: in their book, Talent, @tylercowen and @danielgross have a good bit about tapping into an overlooked population of geniuses by being willing to hang with people others would describe as inarticulate.

Lastly, if you want to learn more about the Disney magic, I love this thread from @SahilBloom

Follow: @zebriez



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