When working with the three stage creative problem solving (CPS) process, the third stage is to test possible solutions before they are put into practice.

As with the previous stages, this stage requires both a divergent and convergent phase. In the divergent phase, one of my favourite tools to use is the Disney Strategy  to do the testing.

This can be a fun way of looking at the factors that can help or hinder the implementation of a solution. It’s based upon Walt Disney’s way of working, and developed into a tool by Robert Dilts, one of the founders of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

It simulates the kind of feedback that could be encountered when a solution is put into practice. So, it unearths the barriers there may be to implementation. It then offers a process for reflecting on how these can be overcome.  This process can be a very valuable way of testing any ideas before presenting them to wider audience. It’s a kind of bullet-proofing.

A great tool to role play, it involves the use of different perspectives or modes of thinking.

The three roles are:

Dreamer the positive enthusiastic role of the person with the idea.

Realist – the pragmatist who presents the practical perspective on the idea.

Critic – the challenger who can be critical of the idea.

 The process can be conducted in several ways and I find that creativity facilitators will have their favourite interpretation of this approach. Here I am offering mine.

Each role gets to ‘play’ in turn. It may be that there will be enough numbers for a scribe and an observer to feedback at the end.

In round one, the Dreamer describes their idea, then the Realist after some short reflection, offers the pragmatic perspective. This may be for example, it will require some careful planning to get ‘x’ accepted.  Then the Critic, after refection gets to offer their criticism, for example, it will cost too much.

In round two, the Dreamer amends their idea taking all or at least some of this feedback into account. The other roles play out again in a similar fashion. The aim is that at the end of a number of rounds, maybe three or four, the idea has  been elaborated sufficiently to address concerns that may occur.


 Initially you will need to establish ground rules similar to the brainstorming rules and ensure participants stick to them.

It’s important in this technique that all feedback from the critic and realist as well as any amended ‘ideas’ of the dreamer, are recorded – which is why it’s important to have a scribe.

At the end of the process the scribe and observer give feedback. Again, as in the other divergent techniques in this stage,  include both the solutions and the actions that will enable the implementation to happen in the action plan.

It is also recommended to use some other tools such as a help/hinder matrix to gain further insights into who or what could help or hinder the implementation.

Have you used the Disney technique? If so it would be great to hear your experiences with it.

Barbara is an executive coach, leadership and creativity facilitator. She has coached women and men in a variety of corporate settings, and has developed a unique approach to using creative techniques in her coaching and workshops to enable change at a group or individual level. She has recently co-authored a book on creativity for leaders, called Creativity Cycling , with Dr. Tracy Stanley. which covers the process of CPS and  related techniques.