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Disney for Developers

Susan Thayer
December 05, 2018

I recently caught a documentary on the legendary visionary Walt Disney. The man behind Mickey Mouse who revolutionized both the movie and entertainment industry. As I was watching the show I couldn’t help but think that the secrets of some of his greatest success can be applied to software developers. Here are my top 3 lessons from Disney for Developers:

  1. Differentiate

Disney’s company was practically destroyed early in his career when he lost a key character’s design rights, and many of his employees, to a competitor. So how did Disney rebound after he lost his flagship character? Through innovation. He amazed theatergoers in 1929 by innovating the movie experience. The animated short, Steamboat Willie, was the first fully synchronized anything with an orchestra and it was exceptionally cutting-edge for the time. No one had done anything like that before. Your products and apps should be no different. As you are developing ask yourself How am I different than the competition? What about my app will stand-out? What new features will my customers truly appreciate?
  1. Use the Latest Technology

Walt Disney was always forward-thinking and building for tomorrow. He actually filmed the hit television show Davy Crocket in technicolor in 1955–before color TV was generally available–because he knew that was the future. Are you using the latest technology when you develop? I’ve seen countless developers trudging forward with the same code-base and technology because that is what they know. That is what is comfortable. In a world with Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Blockchain and so many other new technological innovations available are you still filming in color?
  1. Create a Culture of Innovation

Disney developed a team of “Imagineers”–a mashup of Imagine + Engineer–and challenged them to always be on the cutting-edge. There are countless examples but one of my favorites is when they developed Audio-Animatronics, a precursor to Humanoid robots, for the parks and exhibited an extremely life-like, talking and moving Abraham Lincoln at the 1964 World’s Fair in Chicago. Even developers need time to innovate. Many companies accomplish this by setting assign dedicated time for innovation–even 10% of the week can deliver amazingly innovative products. You can also encourage innovation by coordinating fun hackathons, hosting ‘no bad idea’ brainstorming and giving developers opportunities to participate and lead storyboarding sessions. As you can see Walt Disney was ahead of his time. If you follow these three steps when you are developing apps and solutions you will be able to stand out as well.

About the author

Digital Transformations Practice Manager | United States
Susan is an experienced CRM and digital marketing consultant with nearly 15 years of managing discovery, implementation and strategic use of CRM solutions and related programs. Some of her accomplishments include: Globally recognized by as an “MVP” for knowledge, leadership and ongoing contributions. One of only 150 in the world.


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