Have you ever watched a Disney Pixar movie?
Most likely. And chances are high you enjoyed the movie since six out of their 12 feature films have won Oscars. And every single one of them reached number one in the box office.
I’ve always been a big fan of Disney Pixar movies. And I will, without shame, admit that they are my favorite. Inside Out is one of the most brilliant stories with some of the most memorable characters. And again, without shame, will admit that I cry (happy and sad tears) throughout the movie. Every. Time.
Pixar isn’t just doing something right, they are doing a lot right. The book, Creativity, Inc., dives deep into the culture of the company, offering a first-hand experience from co-founder (and current president of Walt Disney Animation Studios), Ed Catmull, as to why and how Pixar is what it is today.
There were plenty of great takeaways from the book but a couple stuck out to us:
1. People are the most important
“Find, develop, and support good people, and they in turn will find, develop, and own good ideas.”
Having great people is what matters most. Plain and simple. Care about them, support them, and allow all of their voices to be heard.
2. Great people lead to great ideas
“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.”
The book was packed with interesting intel to how storylines for their films started. All of them started out rough. And a lot different than the movie you ended up seeing.
The environment the leaders at Pixar created allowed their team to be great by giving them room to try new things, challenge one another, and to embrace failure. You must give your team the reins to make mistakes in order for great ideas to flourish.
3. You are not your idea
“You are not your idea, and if you identify so closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”
In order for great ideas to lead to great outcomes, people must let go of their pride and allow their ideas to be challenged. Ed states that “A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that it’s people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candor if left unchecked ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.”
4. Embrace failure
“Failure is painful, and our feelings about this pain tend to screw up our understanding of its worth.”
Ed believes failure is a manifestation of learning and exploration. And is a major learning opportunity that should never be avoided. That’s why failure is seen time and time again at Pixar. It’s something they embrace as part of the creative process and as a mechanism to prevent indecisiveness. Even if you completely screw up, you’ll know more than when you started.
“Failures aren’t a necessary evil, in fact they aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new, and as such should be seen as valuable. Without them, we would have no originality,” says Ed.
5. Embrace change
“The person who can’t change his or her mind is dangerous.”
Ed illustrates a time where they came just shy of finishing a film, then…completely abandoned the plotline knowing what it would mean in terms of money, time, and effort. The Pixar culture encourages their team to be fearless and to view new ideas as additive rather than competitive. Yes, the movie probably would have turned out okay if they didn’t make the changes. But would it have been great?
He also brings up the point that “people have a natural tendency to want to hold onto things that work.” A lot of teams get stuck in the “we’re doing it this way because we’ve always done it this way” mentality. We must not be afraid to reevaluate our long-standing processes and to reinvent the way something is done if it is no longer yielding results.
These were just 5 takeaways that our team found beneficial. Ed offers an abundance of others through his real-life experiences working within the creative worlds of Pixar and Disney. We definitely encourage you to grab a copy and let us know what you find inspiring.