Harvard Business Review: Disney Emphasized Details Before Apple Did

And these days Apple, Inc. gets plenty of kudos for getting all the details right – from the elegant design of hardware to easy-to-use software to, well, even the packaging that makes you feel like you are opening a precious gift when you get your new Apple gizmo.  But Joshua Gans recently wrote an article on the Harvard Business Review web site (Source) that pointed out that long before Apple was creating success by focusing on details, Walt Disney was creating amazing experiences by focusing on detail.

Joshua writes how about how his family returned from a recent Disney World vacation where his son discovered a Mickey Mouse symbol on a manhole cover.  We all know that most manhole covers are nothing too special – a standardized piece of metal that probably shouldn’t stand out if it is doing its job properly.  But at Disney World, Imagineers specifically designed the manhole cover to be unique and to add a little detail that would bring a smile to the face of those few people who happened to notice it.  And it is likely that many people will never notice that one, particular detail.

Mice On Manhole Covers

Manhole covers are just one example of the many details that come together at Disney World to make a simple vacation into something magical.  From the always-helpful Cast Members who are actually trained and enabled to provide friendly customer service to the thoughtful layout of the Disney resort hotels, a million little details – practical and whimsical – all add up to become something more than just details.  They become magic.

It's all the little details seen everywhere that make the Disney difference.
It’s all the little details seen everywhere that make the Disney difference.

All this attention came from Walt Disney himself.  He used to look for fun places to take his daughters on the weekends.  And the simple Carrousel in the park was fine, but it didn’t provide for an experience that father and daughter could enjoy together.  Disney told his wife that he wanted to build an amusement park.  She asked why he would want to have such a dirty and run down place.  And Walt famously answered that his park would not be dirty or run down.  And Walt’s vision for magical, family entertainment – built on a million magical little details – has survived the many years since his passing.

If Steve Job’s vision about quality and detail in technology carries through the Apple organization as Walt’s did through The Disney Company, we will all be enjoying terrific electronics creations for many years to come.