Breaking the Rules

An Innovation Tool

In an age of increasing disruption, companies will have to challenge many of their own rules and use innovation if they want to not only grow their business but also to survive.

Companies and their employees are constrained by their own expertise and experience. Their thinking is also restricted by the organization’s established rules. All too often, we hear “That’s the way we do it here!”

So, what if there was an innovation tool that enabled you to break all the rules?

What if? is one of my favorite innovation tools. It allows people to get out of their “River of Thinking” (their expertise) and challenges organizational rules and norms with a light touch, often producing substantive results.

Step One: As quickly as you can, list all the rules that apply to the challenge that you are attempting to solve. Step Two: Pick one of the rules and ask What If that rule no longer applied? Step Three: Imagine a world where you could actually apply that idea and make it happen.

For example, while I was the head of Innovation and Creativity at Disney, we were asked to develop a game changer idea for Walt Disney World.

Step One: We listed all the rules of going to a Disney theme park, such as I have to pay to get in, I have to book a hotel room, Buy an airline ticket, Rent a car, Go to attractions, See the parade, Meet the characters, Stand in line, etc.

Step Two: We chose the rule “I have to stand in line” and asked What if there were no lines? This was an absurd question just a few years ago. What if there was no line to check in at the Disney Resort hotels? No turnstiles at the entrance to the theme parks? No lines for your favorite rides and character meet and greets? No lines to pay for your merchandise and no lines for fast food?

Step Three: We then imagined a world where we might actually make the idea work. RFID technology already existed, so we asked How Might we apply that solution back to our challenge? Fast forward to the invention of Disney’s Magic Band. It arrives in the mail months before the guest’s arrival. Guests can reserve their favorite attractions, shows, and character meet and greets in advance of their visit. The Magic Band acts as their room key, eliminating the need to stand in line to check in. Swipe the band at the entrance to the parks or reserved park experiences and avoid the lines there too. Touch an item of merchandise and it’s paid for and delivered to a guest’s hotel room. Order food on a smartphone and have it delivered to the guest’s table on arrival at the restaurant.

The average guest now has plenty of free time to spend with their family. And what do people do with their free time? They spend money 🙂

Disney’s Magic Band enhanced the guest experience and delivered significant incremental revenue. It is also a great example of big data in action. It allows the Parks division to make operating decisions to improve the guest experience in real time. It also helps determine many future products and services to be created as the Magic Bands are informing Disney of guests likes and dislikes.

Following basic Design Thinking principles, an idea born of consumer empathy, combined with Breaking the Rules and asking “What if one of the most fundamental rules didn’t apply?” gave birth to one of the best Consumer Experience ideas we ever developed at Disney.

Photo credit: Kristopher Roller

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2019-10-23T18:20:01+00:0002 May, 2018|Consumer Experience, Creativity, Design Thinking, Innovation|