Challenge Creative Thinking Tools [Yes! And Blog 15]

“…there were actually three different Walts: the dreamer, the realist, and the spoiler. You never knew which one was coming into your meeting.”

Associate of Walt Disney

Must you adhere strictly to creative techniques?

Imagine this. It is 1.30 a.m. Your son has woken you by kicking something off his bed, you are wide awake with a mind full of ideas and you’re cursing that ba…rista in the coffee bar because you’re convinced she didn’t give you decaff cappuccino. Worse, you know you’re to blame because it tasted burnt and you still drank it because it was so d****d expensive. What are you going to do?

It is now 2.19 a.m. and I have crept to my office downstairs to write this article.  Hopefully my wife won’t think I’m a burglar and apply Government guidelines on tackling burglars (you can hit them with a weapon in self defence).

Whilst lying awake, I had been running an idea through my head and using the Disney technique to evaluate it. The Disney technique helps clarify your thinking by having you take the perspective of three characters – the “Dreamer” (“we could do THIS and it would be terrific”), the “Critic” or “Spoiler” (“THIS will never work because of….”) and the “Realist” (“Maybe we could replace THIS with THAT and develop a plan”).

Robert Dilts described in an article that Walt Disney adopted the different perspectives throughout his career to aid his creativity, albeit he never appeared to have regarded it as a technique.

As I lay in bed using the technique I noticed that another “character” was lurking very close and I decided to listen to him, (some of you may suspect alcohol rather than caffeine was the offending substance in my blood). He said “I can see the value in the idea but it conflicts with one of my core values.” As a result I’m going to call this character “the Valuer” and may well call on him again.

Some of you might argue that the “Valuer” is just the “Critic” in disguise, or that it is a variation on De Bono’s “Red Hat” which represents intuition or emotion (see “Six Thinking Hats” by Edward De Bono”).

These are valid points, but I am not arguing the merits of the adapted technique, rather that it is perfectly acceptable to adapt a technique if it works.

When I first studied creativity, I thought that those who had devised techniques were “gurus” and their work should be held in awe. Now that I have a lot more experience, I realise they are simply people with a point of view which is not necessarily perfect (a “guru” thought the sun revolved round the earth).


Feel free to play with a technique. Try it out as written to see how it works and the results of using it. However, if you see a potential way to vary it and it gives a better result in a particular situation, don’t be afraid to adapt it.  If you would like to see some different techniques, you might like to buy our book, Innovate to Learn, Don’t Learn to Innovate”.


  1. Do absolutely nothing! (Oh yes! Wouldn’t you love it if your boss said that at the end of a meeting)? But the next time you are using a technique, see if you can tweak it or build on it or challenge it in some way. There are only two criteria for a successful creative technique: “Does it help you to be more creative AND/OR does it enable you to think more broadly?”
  2. If you are an NLP enthusiast, look up the Dilts article referred to earlier.

To Close

It is now 3.10 a.m. My wife has slept soundly, the cat is whinging that his personal tin opener has failed to do his job and this is the fastest I have ever written an article. Maybe I should buy that barista a drink?

One skinny burnt cappuccino to go, please…

Have an inspiring week.
John Brooker I Yes! And. Think Innovatively.

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About the author

John Brooker is a former Senior Vice President of Visa and is now the MD of Yes! And where he has worked internationally with multicultural teams since 2001. John has developed the Team Impetus Model, based on Solution Focus, to help teams develop strategies to achieve targets and resolve complex challenges. He has also developed his Inn8 Approach to help teams maximise opportunities innovatively. You can listen to clients discuss these approaches at our website,

John is an Open University MBA and tutored on the Creativity, Innovation and Change course for 14 years. He is a Board Member of the international Association for Solution Focused Consulting and Training.