The line stretched to the end of the mall full of people, young and not-so-young, each wearing the same funny-looking hat. Everyone excited and ready to crowd into a new store at the mall. I already visited this store as it opened for business two weeks earlier, but today was something special. So the young and the still-young-at-heart all showed up for the show, the experience, and the funny-looking hat.
The funny-looking hats were Mickey Mouse Ears as found at the Disney Parks. We do not question the ears while walking through Disneyland, but here in a suburban mall, they stand out. The new Disney Store was officially opening today with a special ceremony set for 10am with special Mickey Mouse ears as a give away.
I was not there for the ears. My daughter is a member of the opening day crew for this new store and I showed up to support her and watch the ceremony take place. I should have put on the Mickey Mouse Ears to blend in with the natives as I did feel like an Anthropologist embedded deep into this strange culture.
Disney officials, Mickey, and Minnie Mouse were all present and the time was now at hand to start the show. I admit I got caught up in the music and well-crafted speeches. Disney knows how to tap into people’s emotions and desire to travel, even momentarily, to a special and safe place.
As part of the ceremony the store manager chose a girl dressed as a Disney princess to take the large ceremonial key and unlock the doors to open the kingdom … I mean the Disney Mall Store. All cute and fun, but so much more was happening under the surface.
Disney through their theme parks and extended to their retail stores, understands the power of ceremony and ritual to “fire the imagination and deepen the faith”. This ceremony is carefully crafted to build meaning and strengthen the bond of the tribe of Disney. Giving away hundreds, if not thousands of special Mickey Mouse ears serves as a powerful symbol of that culture.
Other organizations also use the power of ceremony at key times, either at a new product release rally, a sales kickoff event, or a tenured employee retirement. Great organizations go further to find more opportunity to weave various ceremonies into their work culture.
What impressed me with this new Disney Store was not this opening-day ceremony. I knew it would be well produced and serve its goal. I look to today and tomorrow and everyday when that same store opens for business. Each day this mall store will translate the big ceremony into a daily ritual and open the store using the same oversized key and lock. A child, young or old, is chosen and performs the magic to unlock the kingdom. The store repeats this ritual every day. It is fun for the guests waiting to enter the store. This ritual also serves to prepare the store cast members to start the show.
Indeed our organizations all have various ceremonies. Yet the real power to cultivate and strengthen culture comes through the daily rituals we perform. This is who we are as a tribe. I will come back to this concept in future posts: how to create workplace rituals to strengthen culture. Let me know your thoughts on ceremony and ritual in your workplace.