In a keynote speech at the annual RoboBusiness conference and expo held September 27-28 in Santa Clara, CA, Martin Buehler, Executive R&D Imagineer at Walt Disney Imagineering, described the core criteria for robotics at Disney: safety, reliability, and the means to communicate a story that creates a memorable experience for the visitor.
Storytelling is what makes humans human and what endears people to one another; it is about what people value. Experiences are what differentiates people, places, and… Disney’s robots. Storytelling is also the most effective way to merge meaning with emotions; it’s what sales people do to describe their products and services and distinguish them from all the others. Storytelling is often what is missing as startups begin the process of becoming a business, of communicating their message, goals and product description. Many fail because they can’t define their objectives, products and prospects in a way that resonates with their various audiences.
Buehler described the lengths that Disney Imagineers go to to hide the mechanics of the characters they present to park visitors so that what the visitor sees and hears is the character and not a robot. Nevertheless, their robots – like the Pandora avatar robot – must work safely, 18 hours a day, every day, rain, snow or shine, and interact with inquisitive children, avoid collisions with hordes of visitors and all the while keep up their character persona.
The art of storytelling in startups
In the book How to Write a Screenplay in 21 Days, the author suggests that the writer craft the story into a single sentence on a 3×5 card in order to clearly and succinctly define the movie. Disney goes further by asking what does the experience of that story mean to [each of] the stakeholders? Startup businesses often have multiple stakeholders: end users, investors, corporate buyers, integrators, industry groups, suppliers, employees, etc. A single sentence on a 3×5 card customized for each can go a long way to producing a coherent message for all.