Lessons from Tokyo Disney Sea on Leadership

Lessons from Tokyo Disney Sea on Leadership

My new Disney, Leadership And You, now available on Kindle as well as print, shares stories from all corners of the Walt Disney Company. Here is a great little-known story from Tokyo Disney Sea, that illustrates the importance of consensus.

Tokyo Disney Sea was built thanks to a partnership between Disney Imagineering and the Oriental Land Company. When you enter Tokyo DisneySea, you are greeted by an amazing water sculpture titled “AquaSphere”. It’s a symbolic reminder that you are entering a park dedicated to fantastic harbors across the globe.

The Aquasphere found at the entrance to Tokyo Disney Sea. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

In their own humble history of their organization, the Oriental Land Company, or OLC, shares a little story about how this sculpture came to be the icon that now greets Guests entering this park. Here’s what they share:

Disney Imagineering in designing Tokyo Disney Sea initially suggested the idea of a lighthouse. This is because, for most Americans, a lighthouse is associated with positive images of Homecoming, serving as a beacon of a safe return for adventurous seafarers. But for the Japanese, a lighthouse brings up images of melancholy and loneliness, and so, Oriental Land did not believe this would be an appropriate symbol for a Disney theme park. Because of this inherent difference, both sides struggled to find a point of agreement. However, even in these key cultural issues, the two parties were able to continue a passionate yet constructive dialogue. And ultimately, the parties were able to draw forth a new symbol that showcases the Earth as the ‘water planet’ befitting a theme park themed to the sea, in what was ultimately called the AquaSphere.

A lighthouse was constructed in a quite corner of the park. It actually does serve to be a quiet respite from the huge crowds elsewhere. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

There was also a “much heated discussion” on adding the S.S. Columbia, which can be found docked at American Waterfront. The ship is grand in scale, and was an expensive addition to the park. In this instance, Disney Imagineers won out on the dialogue, and OLC concedes that the ship does much to add to the grandeur and scale of that side of the park.

Not only is the SS Columbia in harbor, but a prop tug boat (with steam) can be found in the forefront. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

This is a leadership trait of the Japanese at Tokyo Disney Resort; they work by consensus. The tradition is almost always to debate an idea until there is agreement on it. Then and only then do they take action.

This is just one story in our chapter entitled “Let’s Get Together” Leaders Keep the Sandbox Friendly. Definitely check out this and lots of other leadership ideas when you get this new book on Amazon or Kindle. Check it out today!

Disney, Leadership and You
Disney, Leadership and You, written by J. Jeff Kober.

J. Jeff Kober

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