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A Walt Disney-Inspired Strategy for Project Management

Imagineering creative strategy

A creative strategy is all about creating a different approach than that you would typically take and finding a workable pathway. As a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) I often participate in their webinar, a recent webinar explored a creativity strategy inspired by Walt Disney, known as Imagineering.


This innovative concept involves three crucial roles – the Dreamer, the Realist, and the Critic – working together to shape and manage projects. In this post I’ll share with you my notes from the webinar looking at the essence of Imagineering and discuss how it can be applied to various project scenarios.


Imagineering Roles

Imagineering consists of three key roles, these are the dreamer, realist and critic.



The Dreamer initiates the process with a vision, purpose and long-term focus. This role encourages thinking without boundaries, fostering an open space where everyone can contribute ideas. The Dreamer sets the stage for innovative thinking and ideation.



Transitioning from dreams to reality, the Realist focuses on planning and practical needs. This role considers the resources required and outlines a pathway to transform the dream into a tangible project. It addresses the question of "how" and organises ideas for effective implementation.



The Critic challenges the dream and evaluates its feasibility. This role looks at potential challenges, draws from past experiences and ensures the proposed strategy is fit for purpose. The Critic's role is to refine and fine-tune the dream, offering a constructive perspective.


Leadership Position

After passing through the Dreamer, Realist, and Critic phases, a leadership position emerges. It involves reviewing the insights gained and making informed decisions about whether to proceed with the plan or pivot based on the findings. This leadership position is typically taken on by senior management or external stakeholders.


Applicability of Imagineering

Imagineering is not limited to grand projects; it can be applied at various scales, from overarching project goals to small tasks or addressing risks and changes. Its versatility lies in its ability to adapt to different project scenarios.


Introducing Imagineering

To introduce Imagineering to your team, explain the roles and help everyone adopt the mindset of each role. Emphasise the importance of following the sequence – Dreamer, Realist, Critic – for optimal results.


Handling New Requirements

When a new requirement is introduced to an existing project it can be challenging to see if this additional piece of work is feasible and understand how you can accommodate it. Applying Imagineering to this change can help to reassess and adapt.


The first step is to stay calm and recognise whatever the dream was to start with it has now changed so we now need to revision this. It needs the right people in the room and becomes all about engagement. Then we can assess the options available whether this is changing timescales, quoting for the additional work or updating the scope. 


Dreamer – what if we achieved the existing project plus the additional change what does that look like and how will it help? 

Realist - Have we made any savings so far? Can we change the quality of deliverables? Are there other projects we could collaborate on the help this delivery?  

Critic – might question stakeholders involved and their opinion, helps to identify points of failure and flag up points of weakness.  


By encourage an interactive approach during Imagineering sessions you can fully utilise the different roles and perspectives to come up with ideas. Regular check-ins, collaborative idea-sharing, and capturing essential points on visual aids, such as whiteboards enhances the process. Bringing in external perspectives can also provide a fresh outlook, aligning with the leadership role.


Implementing Imagineering

Implementing Imagineering requires attention to the key factors listed below. By embracing the Imagineering model, project teams can foster a culture of innovation, turning challenges into opportunities and dreams into reality.



Balanced Strategy:

Acknowledge the importance of all three roles and follow the prescribed order – Dreamer, Realist, Critic. Critique ideas, not roles, as each contributes unique benefits. You will see benefit from taking an iterative approach with this model.


Right Environment and Resources:

Ensure the right people are involved at the right time, plan sessions meticulously, and create an environment conducive to creativity. Leave sufficient time to recap and create clear action points.


Turning Discussion into Action:

Develop an action plan to present integrated answers, understanding who needs to sign this off and in what format. Address any byproducts that emerge and identify areas for future Imagineering use. Create a roadmap for taking the project forward.



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