What can we learn from Pixar?
I read an AMAZING article recently in the Harvard Business Review (you could find on your favorite magazine stand or online) about how Pixar has fostered creativity that is definetly worth reading. It’s an incredibly informative article that discuss open source, communication, creativity, and their corporate culture and there may be something here for our community to learn from. Due to the restrictions on the site I am only able to copy and post some of the article. The text below is only an executive summary so if you like what you’re reading you can get the entire article located on line (sorry, due to security reasons from HBR I’m not able to link to the article) or in the actual magazine for Sept 2008.
How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity
Behind Pixar’s string of hit movies, says the studio’s president, is a peer-driven process for solving problems.
by Ed Catmull
Many people believe that good ideas are rarer and more valuable than good people. Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, couldn’t disagree more. That notion, he says, is rooted in a misguided view of creativity that exaggerates the importance of the initial idea in developing an original product. And it reflects a profound misunderstanding of how to manage the large risks inherent in producing breakthroughs.
In filmmaking and many other kinds of complex product development, creativity involves a large number of people from different disciplines working effectively together to solve a great many inherently unforeseeable problems. The trick to fostering collective creativity, Catmull says, is threefold: Place the creative authority for product development firmly in the hands of the project leaders (as opposed to corporate executives); build a culture and processes that encourage people to share their work-in-progress and support one another as peers; and dismantle the natural barriers that divide disciplines.
Mindful of the rise and fall of so many tech companies, Catmull has also sought ways to continually challenge Pixar’s assumptions and search for the flaws that could destroy its culture. Clear values, constant communication, routine postmortems, and the regular injection of outsiders who will challenge the status quo are necessary but not enough to stay on the rails. Strong leadership is essential to make sure people don’t pay lip service to those standards. For example, Catmull comes to the orientation sessions for all new hires, where he talks about the mistakes Pixar has made so people don’t assume that just because the company is successful, everything it does is right.