How I Organized the Writing of The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success | Part 3: Writing A Book Starts With Research

[Other posts in this series can be found here.]

Here is the basic process I followed in writing TBWD, although it wasn’t exactly this way. A project of this size doesn’t unfold in a purely linear fashion. You do some of this then you do some of that. You’re reading and you want to capture some ideas on paper so you begin to take notes. You get tired of note-taking so you decided to write. You get tired of writing so you spend some time editing. You don’t feel like working so you go back to reading. It’s a process of jumping from one task element to another based on what’s required and how you are motivated at the time or you goals for that day or week.

To begin with, I collected what I thought were the most respected Walt Disney biographies. As I started to read them, I realized that there was so much more great material about Walt Disney’s business career that I hadn’t included in the original essay. That essay was written for my company website and was never meant to be more than a collection of interesting stories and some lessons directed towards clients and business leaders.

It quickly occurred to me that I couldn’t just convert what I had already written into a coherent and meaningful book of 150 pages. The Walt Disney story is too big, too multifaceted, and too interesting. His career spanned more than forty-five years. Consider also that just to expand the discussion of each of the nine principles from a few paragraphs to five pages each would in itself constitute forty-five pages.

Rather than impose arbitrary limits on myself, I redefined the project to be a more complete business biography of Walt Disney. What I needed to do was research and tell the business story without regard to length, and let the process determine the final outcome.

I had established my target audience as business leaders and managers, aspiring entrepreneurs, business students, and the general public. If you were to go into a bookstore to find it, you would go to the business section first and biographies second. This was to be a book about the business of Walt Disney.

As I began my research, I started to pick out the parts of the Disney story that related to my interest in Walt Disney as a businessman and how he built his business from nothing to become an American iconoclast. The many stories about the making of the cartoons and who worked with whom on each story and scene of the different movies, or who designed the characters, or how music was written and special effects were developed, while central to so many books about Walt Disney and the work carried out at the studio, had little bearing on what I was setting out to do.

Instead, I followed Walt across time (figuratively) with an eye to seeing from his perspective the many challenges he faced, how he resolved them, what he learned from his experiences, and how they affected his later thinking and actions. As the story progressed and Walt brought his past experiences forward, the context of the new challenges he took on grew wider, thereby allowing Walt to apply the lessons learned and newly acquired business skills to new situations. He seemed to do so fearlessly and with great courage, yet always in a thoughtful, conscientious, and uncompromising manner.

As the book progresses through the chronology of time and events, I wanted the reader to observe in a dynamic way how Walt grows as a person and a businessman, bearing witness to his successes and failures, and come to understand Walt as a person and what motivated him to make the choices he made when often others were pushing hard for a different course of action.

© 2019, Barry L. Linetsky. All Rights Reserved. 

Barry Linetsky is the author of the acclaimed book The Business of Walt Disney and the Nine Principles of His Success (Theme Park Press), and an Honorary Disney History Institute Historian. Barry is a writer, photographer, researcher, and business strategy enabler.

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