The Walt Disney theme parks may be about to announce one of the biggest changes in their history.
It's not a new resort, a new park, or even a new attraction. But this reported change will affect every aspect of the parks' operation and development. So what is it?
It's an addition to the "Four Keys" that are taught to every new hire as the guiding principles for all Disney theme park cast members. A Disneyland cast member provided me a screenshot of the announcement from Disney's cast member website The Hub:
"For more than 60 years, the Four Keys of Safety, Courtesy, Show, and Efficiency have provided a foundation for our culture and guided our renowned approach to service as we've welcomed guests from all over the world.
"As we keep moving forward and working together to drive meaningful cultural change, we are introducing Inclusion as a new key and will be rolling our the Five Keys globally across the segment."
As a former Disney cast member who still displays a "Disney University" diploma on my home office wall, hearing that Disney is adding a fifth Key is a bit like hearing that climatologists have decided to add a fifth season, the Church is adding a fifth Gospel, or that the Marvel has decided that it's "The Fantastic Five" now.
But I could not be happier with this reported change. (Disney has not yet sent out a press release or formally announced this to the public that I could find.) Disney's Four Keys have helped guide the company's cast members to make Disney's theme parks world leaders not just in the themed entertainment and travel industries, but for all customer-facing businesses.
Leadership goes beyond just being the most popular or profitable. It also means that you set an example that inspires others. Disney's Four Keys have done that, having been adopted in various forms by countless businesses in multiple industries. Now the addition of Inclusion to the Keys provides Disney an opportunity to take its leadership to another level.
A business, an artist, or even an art form, cannot grow if it is unwilling or unable to accommodate new influences and new voices. As a creative business, Disney must practice Inclusion if it is to continue to welcome and reward new audiences, even if that new audience is simply the next generation of potential fans. But there's so much more opportunity in this world beyond that.
Inclusion could be considered part of all four existing Keys. But drawing it out and highlighting in as its own Key demonstrates Inclusion's importance among the company's priorities. More than that, it gives Disney's cast members an agency that the company has not yet made so explicit before.
Being inclusive is inherently proactive. Doing it right demands that you go above and beyond — it's not just being open to new voices. It's seeking them out. Adding Inclusion to the Keys challenges Disney's cast members not just to maintain the parks at a high level but to make them better.
Now I am interested to see where Disney slots Inclusion among the new Five Keys. Order has always been important. Safety is first among the Keys and must always remain there. And I think that Courtesy allows Inclusion to happen. But Inclusion can't just be for Show, so I would suggest that's where Inclusion should stand — as the third Key after Safety and Courtesy, but before Show.
Adding another word to the Keys won't by itself do anything to change Disney. But if the company — from Josh D'Amaro to the newest new hire — embraces Inclusion as part of the company's culture, Disney will unlock new opportunities that the addition of new voices, new influences, and new perspectives will bring.
As a fan, I can't wait to see the results.
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