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Arthur Levine

Professor Ludwig Von Drake Goes to Harvard

By August 24, 2009

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In 1996, under the watchful eye of then-Disney-CEO Michael Eisner, Walt Disney World introduced The Disney Institute. Loosely modeled after New York's Chautauqua Institution, the facility offered a wide variety of learning and experiential programs as part of a multi-day vacation package. The edutainment concept, which was perhaps too much edu and not enough tainment, never caught on, and Walt Disney World eventually shut down the Institute. The campus of buildings (fashioned after a New England prep school, save the Florida pastel colors) has since been incorporated into Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort. I was therefore surprised to find out that the Disney Institute lives on after all.

No longer offering yoga, animation, or rock climbing classes, the Disney Institute is now a business training division that co-opts the Disney company's renowned reputation for customer service and corporate acumen. It helps participants learn how to conduct business "the Disney way" through seminars, presentations, and other programs it presents at Disneyland and Walt Disney World. It also takes its programs on the road directly to companies and to public events. For example, the Disney Institute is partnering with the Harvard School of Public Health for an upcoming series of workshops.

Called "Transforming Intangible Assets into Enduring Tangible Outcomes" (whew, that's a mouthful), the two-day programs will be held this fall in the Washington, DC, Boston, San Francisco, and Chicago areas starting on September 23. Harvard and Disney Institute instructors will trade off presenting the courses. The program materials explain that the "lessons revealed through this program are especially critical in today’s economy." While that may be true, the workshop fees are especially eye opening in today's economy. Hobnobbing with the Disney and Harvard academics will set attendees back $2490. Yikes. I guess that's one way Disney transforms intangible assets into considerable, tangible outcomes. Learn more about the Disney Institute and Harvard workshops.

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