The business of joy

We’re fortunate enough to have spent a couple of weeks in the sunny climes of Orlando, enjoying all things Disney. We’re fans of the animated films in our family, and regularly enjoy watching the films – old and new – again and again. At different times over the last 6 years, my young children have made us re-watch time and again – Monsters, Inc., Aladdin, Frozen, Hercules, to name a few. To say I’m bias in favour of Disney is an understatement.

What is clear from having been immersed in the whole thing is that Disney really wants you to have just the most unforgettable experience. Even when they get things wrong, they will try to rectify them so that they’re better. And when they get it right, you just enjoy it all. But that focus on the joy of the customer – that’s key. And I’m not just talking about the children. As parents it’s hard to not enjoy it all.

It’s not just the theme parks that create that joy. It’s everything else that Disney do, too. The films are clearly an important part of how they make their money. And with many of their films being high-grossing films, they invest a lot of time, energy and money into making them delightful and a joy to watch.

And over on their regular channels they’re providing a complete range of content for children of all ages. They’ve kind of got the whole child lifecycle covered when it comes to content and toys. And they’ve got many adults hooked in too with their films, franchises and various marketing and product memorabilia.

Even digitally, their apps are aplenty, and they’re out there in social media doing all things a modern company needs to do.

Being in the Disney parks, what I always get amazed at is the attention to all parts of your time being there. You can’t escape the cost of things, so you just accept you’re going to spend money. The rides are well designed and mostly family friendly. Few are designed for adults only as they kind of know that you’re there to do the rides as a family. Walking around the parks and you always find something to keep you occupied – be it a marching band, characters to meet, or a good spot for a photo, you enjoy pretty much most aspects of what you’re doing.

And it all makes me think that there is a business in creating joy. Disney are a behemoth of a company, and they have done incredibly well with multiple mergers, acquisitions, and general worldwide domination. What we don’t know about is all the behind the scenes stuff – culture, leadership, working practices, fairness of pay, all that stuff. What we see, though, is the outcomes. And for there to be such strong outcomes, there has to be an environment and culture which drives people to do and achieve them. It’s hard to think that you could produce a film as delightful as the live movie Jungle Book if you were in an environment where you didn’t enjoy the work, hated your colleagues, were paid poorly and you didn’t believe in what you were doing.

One of the things most people seek is a sense of happiness and joy. Disney help move that along and make it happen in different ways. Their business is kind of predicated on that journey. If we believe that people are more productive when they enjoy what they do, and the outcome of what you do brings joy and/or meaning to others, it is possible to create a culture where that happens.

But, of course, they’re Disney. Most UK based companies can’t adopt their methodologies, and I’m not proposing that. There are, however, companies who are focusing on the wellbeing and enjoyment people have at work. Company’s like are helping to show that you can have a work environment that is all about fun and being productive. That’s a pretty good mix right there. HR Tech company Bright HR are showing the same can be achieved too – they have Nerf battles in their office! They’re just two examples, and they serve to show productivity can be achieved when people are having fun, and it’s not a detrimental or poor thing to focus on.

Many company’s, though, don’t know where to start with things like this. And what’s important is that it’s not about grand change. As with all things, if you want to make things better, it’s about improving a number of small things that help make things that much better.


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Sukh Pabial

I'm an occupational psychologist by profession and am passionate about all things learning and development, creating holistic learning solutions and using positive psychology in the workforce.

2 thoughts on “The business of joy”

    1. I’ve not heard about Menlo Innovations before, thanks for highlighting. Great to hear that they’ve taken this approach and they can directly see the benefits to them as a company.

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