Generate Ideas, Disney Style

Want to be more creative and innovative in your real estate business? Here’s a sneak peek behind the Disney magic from the Disney Institute’s Sharon Pleggenkuhle.

September 17, 2012

You’re presenting a session at the REALTORS® Conference & Expo in November. What is the Disney Institute—and what’s the goal of your session?

Pleggenkuhle: The Disney Institute is the professional development arm

of the Walt Disney Co. We put companies on a journey toward providing a better customer experience, also with the goal of producing stronger financial results. We’ll take a look at some of Disney’s best practices and help companies develop a road map for success.

Give us a few ideas for sparking the imagination and getting ideas flowing.

Pleggenkuhle: Break out of the mind-set of “this is how we’ve always done it.” Look for ideas in unusual places. You want to benchmark what companies in your industry are doing, but also take a look at what other industries are doing to create a great experience for their customers or employees. What are the organizations doing that you like to do business with? Why do you like the experience and how do you take those pieces and work them into your business? Also, new employees tend to ask a lot of questions. Take advantage of that eagerness, and ask them for their ideas and how they would approach a task.

How do you foster a creative, collaborative work environment?

Pleggenkuhle: One of Disney’s core beliefs is everyone is creative and everyone has valuable information to share. As a broker, you need to set up an environment where people feel safe to share ideas and where they know their ideas are valued—and you need a process for addressing those ideas. It doesn’t matter whether you have 10 agents or 150 agents; there’s got to be communication to share best practices. Make sure that the openness permeates at all levels. It’s important to share great ideas as well as failures and what you learned from them.

What can real estate practitioners learn from Disney’s customer service approach?

Pleggenkuhle: If I could give one piece of advice, it’s to understand your client needs and pay attention to every detail of the delivery. Go in-depth on every touch point and see how you’re doing at all levels—from your Web site to phone calls coming into your office to written communication. Think about each point of communication through the eyes of the client.

What are three takeaways attendees will gain from the Disney Institute session?

Pleggenkuhle: First, they’ll get a great understanding of the key components that make a collaborative culture flourish. Then we’re going to look at the nine-step “imaginarium” process that our Disney “imagineers” use to take an idea from inception to reality. Third, we’re going to look at how Disney uses a “continuous improvement” process when it comes to day-to-day innovation in our theme parks and resorts.

Erica Christoffer
Product Manager

Erica Christoffer is the product manager for REALTOR® Magazine, driving growth and helping make data-driven decisions for the editorial products and programs that fall under the publication's umbrella. Erica also co-manages the magazine's 30 Under 30 program. During her tenure as an editor, she wrote and edited hundreds of articles for the magazine and launched the Broker to Broker section. Connect with Erica via email: