Tuesday, September 23, 2008

How Pixar fosters Creativity

What is the story behind Pixar's amazing success?? (photo courtesy: dan-dare.org)

If you had a venn diagram of atleast three intersecting circles - creativity, technology, and kids - at the overlapping section of all three (in venn diagram terms that would be the "and" of all three circles) you'd have Pixar Animation Studios.

I don't know about you, but I love Pixar movies. They are amazing in every way, and they really have the best quality control ever. I have yet to see a bad Pixar flick. My favorite Pixar movie is Monsters, Inc, but I'm sure many of you would fight for your own...and that's fine. I spent countless nights terrified of the monsters in my room, and I'm glad to know that my theory is justified and that not all monsters mean.

This month, Harvard Business Review did a brilliant analysis of Pixar and how they foster creativity. I HIGHLY recommend reading the article, because the lessons apply to just beyond the realm of creativity. In fact, I already see that they mirror lessons from places like IDEO, and Google. Here's some of what I got out of the article; feel free to add your own:

1. "We are smarter than me." Pixar recognizes that it takes EVERYONE to build into the creativity of a project. Interdisciplinary, intercultural, interage dialogue is not only encouraged, but promoted.

2. Take risks. This starts from hiring to making daily business choices to choosing movie topics. "if you want to be original, you have to accept the uncertainty, even when it’s uncomfortable, and have the capability to recover when your organization takes a big risk and fails. What’s the key to being able to recover? Talented people! Contrary to what the studio head asserted at lunch that day, such people are not so easy to find."

3. Hire good people, not good ideas. This is something even Jim Collins says in "Good to Great." Get the right people and the rest takes care of itself! Give even a mediocre idea to a good team and they will turn it into gold.

4. Give the right people the support/leeway to develop, then stay out of their way. It takes tremendous amounts of trust to get talented people to be creative and work together without feeling threatened. Cultivate an environment of trust and respect; they won't let you down.

5. Peer culture/flatness of organization/honest feedback: Pixar's culture, which interestingly seems to imitate that of Google and IDEO, lies in creating "flatness" rather than "hierarchy." Everyone, regardless of background, is treated with the same level of respect. This creates an environment of honesty, experimentation, creativity, and willingness to listen, which is critical to the overall outcome of any product.

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