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The psychology behind Disney’s creative genius

Few would dispute that Disney understood very well the psychology of young and adult minds alike. His insights led him to lead the creation of some of the greatest story telling ever known. What few people know is that he also understood equally well the psychology of human collaboration. He designed his organisation and the creative collaborations that produced so much success around a simple and yet stunningly powerful principle.

There is a way to properly combine the diversify of thinking in every group of creatives. And it is possible to teach people to understand and communicate across the individual differences successfully.

Disney was mastering creative conflict.

This is how it worked.




The big picture ideas person, who is also frequently an idealist, set the creative ball in motion throwing often harebrained, off the wall ideas around like confetti. They cared less if or how something could be achieved. These innovators and change artists were attuned to the opportunity and ethos of the times. Theirs was not to draw so much as it was to dream.

The product of their genius was next worked on by a different kind of creative genius. These types understood how to give depth and meaning to the broadly sketched story ideas. They figured out if ideas would work, if they could be communicated with the techniques and technologies of the time. Finally, the work product of these validators and meaning makers was handed over to creative folks who’s genius it was to organise, edit, story build and pull together the many various elements into working animations and films.

The brilliance of this process is that it leverages creative tension and innovative potential. It’s founded on good science and an understanding of how human thinking and temporality actually work; it’s just that at the time Disney was doing this, no psychologist had a clue that anything like these three fundamental priorities of human thinking even existed.

For the past 22 years the mindtime project has built a considerable practice and understanding around human thinking and collaboration. Some 15 years ago we were stunned to learn of Disney’s lead in these ideas. He was a true genius.


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