Friday, October 3, 2008

How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity

Interesting Harvard Business Review article on "How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity" by Ed Catmull (issue September 2008). It's inspirational to read how they cultivate creativity in their organization. Although I find this article doesn't really bring much new approaches to fostering creativity and being an innovative organization, it is healthy to read and re-read these kinds of articles and test yourself and your organization: am I, are we fostering creativity? And if not, what are we going to do about it?

What I really liked was what Ed said about being "scared" of your customers and your competition. They want the very best from you every single time you launch a product! That is scary. And it's a good starting point for creativity!
Pixar's philosophy is: "You get creative people, you bet big on them, you give them enormous leeway and support, and you provide them with an environment in which they can get honest feedback from everyone." Very simple, but oh so difficult in practice!
What I also liked it Ed stressing the fact that Pixar employees learn to share unfinished work:
People show work in an incomplete state to the whole animation crew, and although the director makes decisions, everyone is encouraged to comment.
Why do they do this? I pass you an extensive quote:
The are several benefits. First, once people get over the embarrassment of showing work still in progress, they become more creative. second, the director or creative leads guiding the review process can communicate important points to the entire crew at the same time. Third, people learn from and inspire each other; a highly creative piece of animation will spark others to raise their game. Finally, there are no surprises at the end: When you're done, you're done. People's overwhelming desire to make suer their work is "good" before they show it to others increases the possibility that their unfinished version won't be what the director wants.
In sum Pixar fosters creativity following 3 principles:
  1. Everyone must have the freedom to communicate with anyone.
  2. It must be safe for everyone to offer ideas.
  3. We must stay close to innovations happening in the academic community.

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