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Disney Crowdsources Its Own Company

Posted by: Damian Joseph on June 24, 2009

I know what you’re asking: “How can you crowdsource your own company?” Well, in this case I’m referring to the fact that once a year, Disney (DIS) puts out a call for product ideas to its entire consumer products division of 12,532 employees, which includes Fashion & Home, Toys & Electronics, Food, Health & Beauty, Stationery and Publishing. That means sales, communications, and other non-inventing divisions get to participate. It’s what they call the “Big Idears” contest. For the first time, one of these ideas is coming to the mass market…

During the 2007 Big Idears contest, one of the company's UK apparel managers, Jason Retallick submitted an idea for a "Disney Theater Kit." Disney sent me an interview with Retallick, which it sent to all its employees:

Describe your Big Idear.
Complete home theatre kits for all budding thespians (and little Princesses, of course). Basic kits would provide the stage and scripts with music that bring Disney stories to life in your backyard. Costumes, props, invitations and posters can all be purchased as add-ons depending on budget.

What was your inspiration for your Idear?
An article in a Sunday paper about dream play houses for children, and thinking about real interactive play.

How will your Idear help DCP grow as a business?
By promoting imagination and storytelling, children and adults will engage with Disney properties in a new way. Cross-line of business could be maximized by consumers' desire for scripts, sing-along soundtracks, costumes, props, and even makeup kits. Birthday parties might allow for an additional market opportunity too, with even more potential tie-ins with food and party goods.

Describe the evolution of your Idear from concept to presentation.
It's still evolving from one article in a paper. I am happy with my creative vision, and I'm exploring what it could mean as a solid business proposal. I have started with the visualization of my potential consumers and the mood I'd like the product to bring out of them. From there I've looked at how to bring the Disney brand into this product, and I'm just about to move onto the money part.

How long did this process take?
I'm still researching. I've been spending a lot of time online, reading magazines, and I have enlisted the help of a PowerPoint friend for the next stage.

Who were your coaches and how did they help cultivate your Idear?
My coaches are Luis Lomeli and Kathy Franklin; we have our first conference call on Friday. I am also talking about my idea with my partner and friends for all of their input!

What are you going to do with your finalist prize money?
I have no idea, but I'm sure I will buy lots of rounds of drinks for people who have helped me so far!

This fall, two years since inception, the company will release what's now called "Disney On Stage." Check out the finished product below. And if you're interested in doing something similar or just checking out the rules, I've posted them below the pic.
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Here's the rules:
- Proposals must present a significant concept for the core business of a Disney consumer products line of business and must be outside the scope of the job of the employee who submits the idea.
- If the proposal is selected to become a semi-finalist the submitter will have the option to work with a DCP employee as a coach.
- The submitter maybe accompanied by another presenter so long that person is a DCP employee.
- When a proposal is submitted all intellectual property rights associated with it are assigned to Disney, regardless of whether selected as a semi-finalist or not.
- What happens to the winner’s idea? The executive sponsor for the line of business that the winner's Idear most appropriately addresses will lead efforts to develop the concept.
- All five finalist will receive an honorarium payment of $1,000
- The winner will receive an additional honorarium payment of $4,000 for a total of $5,000, plus the opportunity to see firsthand how proposal may get implemented.

Reader Comments

Sanjukt K. Saha

June 27, 2009 12:35 PM

Since the time of the good old suggestion box (and that era does continue today and into the future) companies have expected employees to 'innovate! damn it'. Once a year jamboorees are fine showcases and for the round of drinks at the end. What is a challenge for the CEO is to build it into the DNA of the business.

I wonder, who has been able to do it well.

Sanjukt K. Saha

Tyrone Schiff

June 29, 2009 4:40 PM

Hi there,
Crowdsourcing is being used in a lot of different ways these days.

One way in particular is helping to innovate the music industry. A website called uses this strategy in order to help bands finance themselves.

It is a small company just launched in January of 2009 based in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

As the monetary value of money approaches zero due to its widespread availability of the Internet, musicians will need to find a way in order to scrape by in the early goings.

This website is using crowdsourcing in a very innovative way.

Check it out.

Bill Freund

July 2, 2009 11:09 AM

Crowdsourcing from employees is good, but not sufficient in today's competitive environment. The winners will efficiently harness the best ideas in the marketplace. Based on that premise, a new breed of consumer product companies is emerging that sources all of its new product ideas from independent inventors.

Bill Freund

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What comes next? The Bloomberg Businessweek Innovation and Design blog chronicles new tools for creativity and collaboration, innovation case studies in both the corporate and social sectors, and the new ideas that have the power to change the way things have always been done.

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