A View from Blue Grotto

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Magic of the Mouse

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality.” Walt Disney

I just returned from a family vacation to Disneyland in Los Angeles. At dinner the last night of our trip, my family - three generations of us - sat and talked about what makes Disney, well, Disney. What is it in the pixie dust that makes the entire Disney experience magical?

This is the third blog in a row that I’ve discussed culture, but after having witnessed the most impressive, inculcated and authentic culture in the corporate world today, I must comment on it yet again. The Disney culture is possibly one of the most studied corporate cultures in the world. Google the words Disney corporate culture and you get 1.1M results.

I asked my Dad, on several occasions, during our trip, “How do you think they get their people to buy into the whole Disney thing?” meaning: how does a culture become so ubiquitous that you are almost guaranteed that your Cast Members will smile on cue, will act as if your family is the only family they have to cater to today, will be in costume, signing autographs on main street at the exact appropriated time, will make sure the ladies restroom stalls have toilet paper from 8 a.m. – midnight…and make it all look so effortless, so natural, so… magical.

There is a Disney University. And the Cast Member training is extensive. But somehow, each day they convince every single Cast Member from the person in the Mickey Mouse costume, to the gal walking the grounds picking up trash, of the magic that is Disney and more importantly of their own personal responsibility in helping visitors experience that magic. Can you imagine if your own staff or workforce were able to carry your company’s mission, branding, and commitment to service and success to your customers so completely as the Disney Cast Members do? Clearly Walt Disney’s gamble on creating the most ironclad culture in the world has paid off. The unofficial numbers say that more than 14.5 million folks passed through the gates into Disneyland in 2005, close to 39 thousand visitors each day.

Lots of people have Disneyland experiences, and I’d love to hear about them. Email me with your favorite Disneyland memory, or a comment on how they’ve kept the magic up for 50 years now.

The note Minnie Mouse wrote to my very tearful niece as she explained that this was the last day of our visit summed up our family’s trip “Remember, no distance or place or lapse of time can lessen our friendship. We are pals, Minnie Mouse.” That’s about as authentic as you get. Disney University or not. That one Minnie Mouse continues to help make Walt Disney's dream a reality 50 years later.

Yvonne Hundshamer
President, Blue Grotto Inc.