I hosted a private event at Disneyland Paris. Captured in the photo of the guests are the branches which are spoken of.

An Imagineering Look at Additive Collaboration

Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris.
Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant at Disneyland Paris.

In our previous blog, we discussed the beauty of Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant, or Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Paris. Tom Morris began his career as a balloon seller at Disneyland as a teenager. He graduated from position to position until he became the designer of Fantasyland for Disneyland Paris at the time of its construction. In the must read book, One Little Spark, by Marty Sklar, Tom shares an experience between he and Eddie Soto, who was responsible for the design of Main Street, U.S.A.

Town Square at Disneyland Paris, whose design was led by Eddie Sotto.
Town Square at Disneyland Paris, whose design was led by Eddie Sotto.

“I call it Additive Collaboration. It’s not enough to say simply collaborate, for you  could do that buy holding your nose and grudgingly going with the flow because you were told to, or because there’s no other choice. Buzz Price (economic adviser to Walt Disney and former chairman of CalArts) spoke often about ‘yes IF’ enablement, and improvisational theater has long taught us the importance of ‘yes AND’ That is what addictive collaboration is about: not being afraid to make someone else’s idea work or to enhance an idea of your own by incorporating others’ ideas and designs into it.

A personal example is what happened to me when I was directing the design of the castle for Disneyland Paris. After personally completing the design for the main tower, about which I was very self-congratulatory, I showed it to my colleague Ed Sotto, who was directing the creative efforts for Main Street, just to get feedback (and, really, to only had ‘great job’ and nothing else). His feedback was ‘Looks great, but have you considered making the arches under the balcony look like tree branches?’ (This was a motif being used elsewhere on the castle.)It would have been easy to say ‘yes, but’ or ‘no, this’ (or ‘mine, mine…’), but I had to admit it was a great idea and immediately incorporated it…because it was the best thing for the overall design and guest experience.”

Here’s what that looks like:

I hosted a private event at Disneyland Paris. Captured in the photo of the guests are the branches which are spoken of.
I hosted a private event at Disneyland Paris. Captured in the photo of the guests are the branches which are spoken of.

I like these branches because they speak to that concept of Additive Collaboration that Tom references in his story. When concepts and ideas are intertwined they become stronger, than if they were branches unto themselves. You’ve heard those kinds of statement that are like branches that go nowhere. Statements like:

  • “That won’t work here because.”
  • “We’ve already tried that before.”
  • “We’re not like that/them.”
  • “That’s not how we do things here.”
  • “Been there…done that.”

These statements have been a hallmark of many a negative, cynical conversation. To truly collaborate, you must be open to all ideas, not that all will survive, but those ideas require nurturing to truly see their potential. Making that happen must be intentional however, and not simply left to nature and fate. Tom mentions two great tools that lead to that.

The first statement is “Yes…If”. Rather than saying “Yes…But” the statement “Yes…If” suggests that do-ability of accomplishing something if we can then make the right circumstances occur. That re-focuses the conversation to how to make it happen, rather than whether it can happen.

“Yes…And” is tremendous putting down the defensiveness that arises out of competitive ideas in a conversation. “Yes…And” allows you to build upon an idea, rather than tear it down and build from scratch.

A closer look at the leaves in a group photo.
A closer look at the trees in a group photo.

Can you create for additive collaboration? It may require leaving your pride at the door. But the possibilities of being part of something much bigger than you requires you being open to others. Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. Add “Yes…If” and “Yes…And to your toolkit for building a more collaborative experience.

One thought on “An Imagineering Look at Additive Collaboration

  1. Tom is an excellent example of an Imagineer and is truly a multi faceted talent. Morris is a great collaborator and has been behind the design of many more attractions than he lets on. I’m proud to have been able to work with Tom and the other land designers on DLP.

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