Walt Disney’s Plus It Approach To Better Ideas

Innovations can happen in any industry and a variety of different ways. We are going to take a deeper dive into part of the FIRE framework known as ideation. We will focus on combining individual ideation and team ideation. On this week's show, we will discuss Walt Disney's “Plus it” approach and how it changed the customer entertainment experience.

Disney Plus It

Disney's “Plus It”

Walt Disney used a concept known as “plus it” to improve his company's ideation. He would tell his Imagineers (people who design the Disney experience) to “plus it” as a way to motivate them to take their work to another level. He challenged them to see what was possible and then encouraged them to take it a few steps further.

“Plus it” is a technique to iterate on ideas without using any harsh criticism. It's about finding what is good about an idea and tweaking it to make it even better. The question is, how do you do it?

The first step you need to do is to conduct brainstorming activities and set up a quota of ideas to iterate. You need to come at the problem from different angles. Good ideas will get people excited so keep an eye out for reactions. Remember, evaluation happens after, not during this process. After brainstorming, grab some sticky notes and crank out unique ideas. Cranking ideas is when individual ideation comes in to play. Do this for about twenty minutes and come up with a minimum of twenty ideas.

Team Ideation

The next step is to post and group ideas. Each team member posts and shares their ideas to the rest of the group. Done through a short and quick process, it involves posting a sticky note on a board. During this time, one idea may trigger another's idea. If this happens, write down the new idea and post it. If two people have similar ideas, post those ideas next to each other.

The next step is to do team ideation or “plus it”. One at a time, everyone chooses somebody else's idea that they like. Then, they ideate and build upon that idea and have others jump in.

Throughout my work, I have found that around 30% more and better ideas come from this combination of team and individual ideation. I've also found that there is an elevated collective ownership aspect to this. People feel like more of a team and are more passionate and energized through this combination.


Walt Disney focused on making ideas better for many years and made it fundamental to Disney's culture. Many other organizations have embraced the “plus it” and have applied it to their organizations. Walt Disney made breakthroughs using his “plus it” method in many different ways.

Walt applied plussing it early on at Disney with the idea of Disneyland. He came up with the idea for a Christmas parade going through the park. The financial people at Disney disagreed with Walt's idea as people were already going to the park and didn't expect anything different. Walt wanted to deliver a never-before-seen experience. Despite what the finance people had thought, the idea became a huge success and drew many more people to the park.

Another example of plussing the experience happened for Disneyland's 50th anniversary. They rebuilt the Space Mountain ride by synchronizing audio, creating a completely new experience.

The third example of plussing a product was when the Apple iPod and the iPhone came about. Steve Jobs cited the influence of Disney on his work many times. It comes down to the little things that most people overlook yet make Apple products stand out.

Another example is Elon Musk's company, Tesla. The company has breakthrough features such as the summon feature. This feature allows you to call your car to come to a different spot and pick you up. The company is continuously improving and adding features to their products.

Disney is also continually improving and innovating and will never stop plussing it. The last company we will discuss is Zoom, a sponsor of our show. In the previous year, Zoom averaged 300 new features and did so every year. Eric and his team are always asking how to make the experience bigger and better.

The Plus It Key

Today we discussed Walt Disney's approach to “plussing it”, which is significantly improving ideas and products by thinking differently and pushing the limits. Walt applied the concept to his early work at Disneyland and seen all over the Disney experience to this day. The concept is about using each other's ideas for inspiration and building upon them without using harmful criticism.

Improving someone's challenge instead of being an innovation antibody is key to plussing it. This all starts with individual ideation and combining it with team ideation to make ideas that stand out and are better.

To know more about the “plussing it” approach, listen to this week's show: Walt Disney's Plus It Approach To Better Ideas.

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