What does the Accelerated Solutions Environment (ASE) have in common with Disney’s Frozen?

Turns out, a lot!

I just finished Charles Duhigg’s Smarter Better Faster: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. He shares the story of the filmmakers bringing Frozen to life to show how the right conditions can fuel the creative process and unlock innovation.

Some background. The test screening of Disney’s eventual Academy Award winning film was awful. When the lights came up, there was stone silence. Frozen had bombed (the audience even hated Olaf, the snowman sidekick!). Having a flop was bad enough, but a quickly approaching release date meant pressure was building. This team needed answers fast! Here’s what they did…

First, they embraced the “creative pain” they were experiencing

Duhigg says this tension actually yields tangible benefits! He cites cognitive psychologist Gary Klein who says approximately 20 percent of creative breakthroughs come from experiencing some form of anxiety. Pressure forces us to see things differently. In the case of Frozen, it made the filmmakers take another look at the movie’s theme.

Next, they looked to their own lives for answers. Frozen focuses on princess sisters Anna and Elsa. To develop that relationship for the movie, the writers recalled their own sibling experiences. The insights gained helped them flesh out Frozen’s main storyline.

Finally, they created a disturbance of just the right size. Frozen still needed an ending, and executives shook things up by making one writer a co-producer. Viewing the movie from a different vantage point helped the final scenes emerge, and they finished the film by depicting love triumphing over fear.

We consistently produce all of these conditions in the ASE

Deadline pressure is part of our designs. Our environment has the right amount of tension to ignite creativity. It’s the catalyst that pushes groups to innovate, make decisions, and take their best shot at the solution.

You bring your personal experiences to an ASE session. Everyone has a piece of the answer; and the work rounds and structured interactions help the pieces bump into each other until they form a solution. Duhigg says our lives (specifically how our experiences make us think and feel) provide valuable problem solving input.

Successful ASE’s rely on injecting right sized disturbances. We challenge participants to view information from different vantage points, and to play different roles on different teams throughout events – all designed to spark innovation and help uncover answers to challenges.

Duhigg says that while there’s no magic formula for creativity, “the creative process can be broken down and explained.” He contends that we can all become more creative. We just have to embrace the anxiety, the disturbances, and the personal experiences that can push us to see old ideas in new ways.

I’d say we agree. It’s why we make sure these conditions are part of every ASE design.



Smarter Better Faster: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg