Lessons from Fantasy Land

Lessons from Fantasy Land

There’s a nice little video clip down below that I liked, providing fine examples of environmental design that fit well under the Safe, Healthy and Positive Environmental Design (SHAPED) umbrella, courtesy of Disney World.
The first element is extraordinary cleanliness. Disneyland is swept nightly, which adds to the surreal experience for visitors – but wraps in lessons that go further than that. Close attention to environmental maintenance also helps to set an expectation – this is how things are done around here, neat and orderly. We care. We’re paying close attention. In that respect high maintenance helps reinforce territoriality and civility in general — neatly dovetailing with Broken Windows theory.

If you’re not up on the latter, it’s based on an experiment conducted way back in 1969, by Stanford psychologist Philip Zimbardo. He placed cars in the Bronx, N.Y., and in Palo Alto, California that appeared abandoned. They were lacking license plates, and the hoods were up. The car in the Bronx was targeted almost immediately – by a family that stripped out the radiator. It took less than a full day for other entrepreneurs to take everything else. The car in Palo Alto, on the other hand, sat unmolested for a week – until Zimbardo attacked it with a sledgehammer. Soon thereafter, all bets were off and that vehicle was quickly trashed as well. Even in upscale Palo Alto, one broken window was enough to set off a wave of hooliganism. (It’s also worth noting that in both cases the vandals were clean-cut, nicely dressed Whites.)

The experiment eventually found its way into George Kelling and Catherine Coles’ 1996 book, Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities. A key conclusion was that taking care of relatively minor disorder discouraged more serious crimes. Applying this concept to fare-beaters and graffiti vandals in New York subways did seem to suggest the concept worked; although skeptics still argue that doubling the police presence may have been at least as impactful as cleaning off the subway cars.


But I digress. Back to Disney World!

At least as significant as order and cleanliness, as you’ll see in the clip, is a huge emphasis on connectivity. At least in theory, everybody working there is given not only a clear role, but also a strong sense of value to the organization — a perfect example of building great connectivity between workers and an employer. (I know, I know. I did say “in theory”. A little web surfing exposes alleged cracks in the pink façade. But it’s a nice theory in any case!)

They take this point further by making sure customers also feel a strong sense of connectivity – particularly anyone who has a mishap is tended to with a great deal of care. The goal is that everyone leaves feeling pretty darned good about the whole thing.

My point is, these are concepts applicable to most any organization or environment, well worth attending to.

Tod Schneider
Written by Tod Schneider

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