Administrative Opinion

Bringing the Magic of Disney to Camp – Innovation

In the first post of this series, I wrote about Customer Service. After all, that is what Disney is known for. But, they are also known for Innovation. Disney constantly does things to WOW their guests. Despite the high price of admission, lodging and dining, their parks are always crowded and their resorts have a consistently high occupancy rate. Legendary customer service and innovation are two of the biggest reasons why.


Innovation simply means a new idea or method, and innovating doesn’t happen by accident at Disney. They have a whole team dedicated to coming up with ideas and designing amazing attractions and unique experiences. They are always looking to push the envelope and do things that you won’t see at other parks.

It’s not just their parks that showcase Disney’s innovation, it’s also evident in their themed restaurants, resorts and even their cruise ships. For example, Disney Cruise Line introduced virtual porthole windows, showing live ocean footage combined with Disney animated characters.

Of course, Disney has had its share of innovation missteps, from failed attractions to failed programs. However, there is no denying that they’ve had more hits than misses.

Dare to Take Risks

Bringing to fruition any innovative ideas you and your staff might come up with, can be a risk, but it’s those risks, those innovations, that can set you apart from other camps and create raving fans.

Now, I’m not talking about technological innovations. No camp that I know of has the money to do things on Disney’s level technologically, but there are plenty of ways to be innovative without using technology.

As you are aware, there is a staggering amount of summer camp opportunities for children in the US and Canada these days. So let me ask you, what sets your camp apart?

You may have archery (just like most other overnight camps), but what are you doing in your archery program that is innovative? What are you doing on your ropes course, at the waterfront, in the dining hall, on the bus, in the cabins, in your registration process, at camps fairs, during your open houses, that is innovative? What about your special events?

Keep in mind that an innovation is simply a new way of doing things or is a new idea of some sort. It can be something as easy as an alteration to an existing program or something more transformational, a breakthrough of some kind.

Let’s take archery for example. In my e-booklet Spice Up Your Archery Program I share 40 ways to make your archery program more engaging for campers using balloons, butcher paper, competitions and games, and a few random and crazy ideas. One of those ideas is to tie a helium-filled balloon to a remote-controlled car and driving it around on the archery range while campers shoot at the balloon.

Let’s take a look at what innovative things can be done in a dining hall and/or during meals.

  • Themed meals are a great way to change things up.
  • Add a card on the table with a ‘question of the day’ to start some wonderful conversations.
  • Put up Christmas or fairy lights around the dining hall to change the ambiance.
  • Create a team of camper chefs and let them help prepare meals.
  • Hold a dinner show. Think Medieval Times or Pirates Dinner Adventure, but on a smaller scale, of course.
  • Have groups choose their pizza toppings, and then deliver dinner to the cabins or other location.

There are a lot more things you can do. Get together with your staff and brainstorm ideas on improving, altering or transforming the different areas and programs of camp.

Being Creative

“But what if I’m not creative?”

While it seems that some people are more creative than others, you are not a non-creative. There are ways for anyone to come up with creative ideas. All you need to do is to expand on things you normally experience.

For example, listen to music outside of your tastes. Visit stores you’ve never been to. Attend performances, workshops and tours you would normally pass up. Travel to new places. Try new foods. Watch a variety of videos on YouTube. Read new magazines.

You see, if you stick to just what you know and are comfortable with, your world view is limited to just those experiences and it’s harder to stretch your imagination. But, when you expand your view and experience more places, events, etc., you start to think bigger and your ideas become better.

There are also things you can do to put yourself in a more creative headspace. Personally, I am the most creative when I am at the beach in the evenings, in the shower, and in a brainstorming group session.

Just Do It

The bottom line is just to try new things. You can be calculated about it by surveying your campers, parents and staff, but in the end you need to pull the trigger and just do it.

If your leadership is all about not rocking the boat, and doing what you’ve always done because it works, I believe your business is being operated on borrowed time. The camps that adapt and create new experiences will be the ones that are going to thrive in the long-term. The world is changing rapidly, and unless you have a very specific niche that your camp caters to, changing, improving, innovating with the times will serve you well.

If Disney had been a company that simply rested on their laurels and was afraid to change, adapt and improve, their story would be that of a theme park which used to be amazing and full of potential, and not the multi-billion dollar company (one that brings so much joy to people) it is today.

Take a lesson from Disney’s playbook and innovate.

Do you agree, disagree or have something to add? Let me know in the comments section. Also, share what your camp does that is innovative, that sets it apart from other camps.


Toy Story Land photo source: Ziggy Knows Disney
Cruise Ship Porthole photo source: Disney Parks Blog
Ideas photo source:
Lightbulb Plant photo by Bruno Scramgnon from

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.