What Is The Walt Disney Method? Walt Disney Method In A Nutshell

The Walt Disney method is a parallel thinking technique used by groups to analyze problems, generate and evaluate ideas, and construct and critique a plan of action. The Walt Disney method was invented by author and trainer Robert B. Dilts in 1994. It moves along three role-playing figures: the dreamer, the realist, and the critic.

Understanding the Walt Disney method

Dilts named the method after Walt Disney, whom he considered a highly creative individual who also displayed the ability to harshly critique his own ideas. In fact, Disney himself apparently once said to a close associate that “There were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming to the meeting.

As a result, the Walt Disney method helps small teams develop new ideas and solutions by adopting the various roles Disney adopted during his own creative process.

In the next section, we’ll discuss these roles in more detail.

The three roles of the Walt Disney method

Though the method was not fully developed by Disney, the method for which he is named enables practitioners to bridge the gap between imagination and reality.

The three roles are described below:

  1. The dreamer – this role is all about fantasizing. The team is encouraged to list the most fantastic or absurd ideas possible without worrying about their viability or criticism from others. What is the dream solution for the problem? What if it were possible?
  2. The realist – the realist takes the ideas generated by the dreamer and assesses them for practicality. In other words, how might the solution be achieved or implemented? How might the idea be evaluated? Can a realistic timeline or action plan be created?
  3. The critic – as Walt Disney suggested earlier, it is vital to be able to assess each idea by identifying potential weaknesses, obstacles, or risks. Critics determine who might oppose the solution and what could go wrong. They also assess whether the solution is the right fit for the organization or customer and importantly, whether it is affordable.

Implementing the Walt Disney method

Here is a very general approach to implementing the Walt Disney method for businesses:

  1. Establish separate brainstorming rooms – the Walt Disney method should be performed in three different rooms, with every room representing one of the roles described above. Designating different rooms for different ideation strategies helps the team get into the appropriate frame of mind.
  2. Begin brainstorming – for around 60-90 minutes, the group assumes the various personas and associated traits of each perspective to generate ideas.
  3. Rotate rooms – after the required time has elapsed, the group moves to the next room and assumes the traits of the next perspective. 
  4. Generate viable ideas – once the group has had a turn at playing the three perspectives, it is time to refine the list of ideas. Open questions posed by the critic regarding idea viability must be revisited by the group returning to the dreamer role, which starts the process once more. The Walt Disney Method is considered complete when the critic can no longer poke holes in the viability of ideas generated by the dreamer and realist.

Key takeaways:

  • The Walt Disney method is a parallel thinking technique used by groups to analyze problems, generate and evaluate ideas, and construct and critique a plan of action. It was created by author and trainer Robert B. Dilts in 1994.
  • The Walt Disney method is based on three roles loosely adapted from the way Walt Disney would generate creative ideas. These roles are the dreamer, the realist, and the critic. 
  • For best results, the Walt Disney method should be conducted in three different rooms. A single team must adopt each of the three perspectives sequentially, repeating the process until the critic can no longer find fault with a list of generated ideas.

Key Highlights of the Walt Disney Method:

  • Origin and Purpose: The Walt Disney method is a parallel thinking technique developed by Robert B. Dilts in 1994, inspired by Walt Disney’s creative process. It is used by groups to analyze problems, brainstorm ideas, and construct action plans.
  • Three Role-Playing Figures:
    • The Dreamer: Encourages imaginative thinking without concern for practicality. Focuses on generating fantastic and creative ideas.
    • The Realist: Evaluates the feasibility and practicality of the ideas generated by the dreamer. Develops plans for implementation and assessment.
    • The Critic: Identifies weaknesses, obstacles, and potential risks associated with the ideas. Assesses whether the ideas are suitable for the organization or customers.
  • Method Implementation:
    • Separate Brainstorming Rooms: The Walt Disney method is conducted in three separate rooms, each representing one of the three roles. This separation helps participants adopt the appropriate mindset.
    • Brainstorming: Participants spend 60-90 minutes in each room, assuming the perspectives of dreamer, realist, and critic to generate ideas.
    • Rotation: After the designated time, the group moves to the next room, adopting the next perspective in a sequential manner.
    • Idea Refinement: The group revisits and refines the generated ideas, addressing questions posed by the critic regarding viability. The process continues until the critic can no longer find faults in the ideas.
  • Key Takeaways:
    • The method encourages creative thinking and practical evaluation of ideas.
    • It separates the creative process into distinct roles to ensure comprehensive idea development.
    • The Walt Disney method is considered complete when the generated ideas withstand critical analysis, promoting well-rounded solutions.

Connected Brainstorming Frameworks


Starbursting is a structured brainstorming technique with a focus on question generation. Starbursting is a structured form of brainstorming allowing product teams to cover all bases during the ideation process. It utilizes a series of questions to systematically work through various aspects of product development, forcing teams to evaluate ideas based on viability.

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciate Inquiry (AI) is an organizational change methodology that focuses on strengths and not on weaknesses. Appreciate Inquiry was created by management professors David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva in the 1980s. The Appreciate Inquiry is also known as the 5-D Cycle, an iterative cycle describing five distinct phases, made of define, discover, dream, design, and destiny.

Round-robin Brainstorming

Round-robin brainstorming is a collective and iterative approach to brainstorming. Brainstorming is an effective way of generating fresh ideas for an organization. Round-robin brainstorming is a balanced approach, employing an iterative, circular process that builds on the previous contribution of each participant.

Constructive Controversy

Constructive controversy is a theory arguing that controversial discussions create a good starting point for understanding complex problems. A constructive controversy discussion is performed by following six steps: organize information and derive conclusions; presenting and advocating decisions; being challenged by opposing views; conceptual conflict and uncertainty; epistemic curiosity and perspective-taking; and reconceptualization, synthesis, and integration.

Affinity Grouping

Affinity grouping is a collaborative prioritization process where group participants brainstorm ideas and opportunities according to their similarities. Affinity grouping is a broad and versatile process based on simple but highly effective ideas. It helps teams generate and then organize teams according to their similarity or likeness.

The Fishbone Diagram

The Fishbone Diagram is a diagram-based technique used in brainstorming to identify potential causes for a problem, thus it is a visual representation of cause and effect. The problem or effect serves as the head of the fish. Possible causes of the problem are listed on the individual “bones” of the fish. This encourages problem-solving teams to consider a wide range of alternatives.


Rolestorming as a term was first mentioned by personal development guru Rick Griggs in the 1980s.  Rolestorming is a brainstorming technique where participants pretend they are other people when sharing their thoughts and ideas.

Reverse Brainstorming

Reverse brainstorming takes advantage of the natural human tendency to more easily see problems than solutions. What’s more, many individuals when placed in a traditional brainstorming environment will find it difficult to become creative on command. Reverse brainstorming is an approach where individuals brainstorm the various ways a plan could fail. 

Lotus Diagram

A lotus diagram is a creative tool for ideation and brainstorming. The diagram identifies the key concepts from a broad topic for simple analysis or prioritization.

Futures Wheel

The futures wheel was invented in 1971 by Jerome C. Glenn while he was studying at the Antioch Graduate School of Education.  The futures wheel is a brainstorming framework for visualizing the future consequences of a particular trend or event.

Main Free Guides:

About The Author

Scroll to Top