Back when he helmed Disney, Michael Eisner used to rely on institutionalized creative friction:
The whole business starts with ideas, and we’re convinced that ideas come out of an environment of supportive conflict, which is synonymous with appropriate friction.
Gong Show meetings were one of the ways he fostered this conflict, according to Disney expert Bill Capodagli.
It’s a concept where, two or three times a year, any Disney employee can present an idea for a full-length feature animation before Michael Eisner,CEO and chairman of the board, and Roy Disney, vice chairman of the board, and other executives. Hercules, the animated film, for example, came about from an animator’s idea that was presented at a Gong Show. The company benefits because they get thousands of good ideas from their employees, some of which are developed into feature films. And the employees benefit because they know they have the freedom to submit ideas that will be listened to. Even if their idea is “gonged,” they celebrate it and learn from it.
The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas also came out of Gong Show meetings. Eisner also held “charettes” — meetings with architects and theme park designers, whom he liked because they were “so brutally honest.” When developing movies and TV shows, he’d often hold meetings that lasted 10+ hours (“the longer, the better”).
Eventually everybody gets hungry, and tired, and angry, and eager to leave. But everybody also becomes equal. There is no pecking order. All of a sudden it gets really creative. You may have a ten-hour meeting, but it’s during the last half hour that the best ideas come out…Sometimes you have to be worn out and burnt out to become authentic and original.
Oof. It must suck to have so much corporate hierarchy that you need to meet for the length of an Isner-Mahut Wimbledon match to reach a point where co-workers can talk to each other like equals.