Davenport, Leibold, Voelpel: Discipline as a source of inspiration – The Walt Disney company

The Walt Disney Company is a firm that prospers at the edge of chaos. Its theme parks and other businesses are run in a deeply conservative fashion. A strong culture supports Disney’s mission of providing family entertainment. In operations, no detail is too small, right down to the personal grooming of the parking-lot attendants. This culture is ingrained in the organization and constantly reinforced through management processes.

In many organizations, such a conservative culture and such tightly controlled operations would snuff out creativity. Yet Disney manages to be one of the most innovative companies in the world. It pioneered animated films and destination theme parks, built EPCOT, linked media and retail with its Disney Stores, and took an early lead in cable television. Disney manages the tension between conservatism and innovation by maintaining an almost cult-like attention to detail and discipline, while simultaneously forgiving honest mistakes made in the pursuit of innovation.

Disney’s core value of wholesome family entertainment, its dedication to putting smiles on customers’ faces, and its strict operating discipline are the spinal cord around which it has innovated. Simultaneously conservative and radical, it has forged its success at the edge of chaos, becoming a poised organization.