I recently finished reading Creativity, Inc, a book about Pixar’s creative culture written by one of the founders, Ed Catmull. Here are 4 things I learned about cultivating, unleashing, and sustaining a creative culture in your workplace, the Pixar way.
Firstly, before we begin, I just want to say that it was a nice read. It was well written and had many good points and anecdotes about the trials and tribulations Pixar initially faced with getting off the ground, and the triumphs it experienced after.
Now without further adieu!
- “Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.” Catmull talks about how if you give a great idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. But if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they will scrap it or make it better. “Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas.” So focus first on getting the right people on your team, which Phil Collins also talks about in his book Good To Great. Then, once you get these people, develop and support them, give them projects that suit their strengths and where they can rise to their potential.
- When ideas and suggestions are offered are in discussion, the goal is to look at the comments and viewpoints as “additive” rather than “competitive.” And because people who come up with the ideas tend to get attached to their ideas, the goal is to always be aware of this psychological tendency and be open to these additive comments. The idea is to make constructive and additive comments on the idea itself, and for the creator of the idea to not take anything personal and realize they are not attacks on his character as person, but merely on his ideas.
- “Your employees are smart. That’s why you hired them. So treat them that way.” You should tap into the creative minds of your workplace instead of spending the time, money, and energy to hire a a consulting agency to tell you as to what can be improved. For the most part, your employees already know what can be improved but are usually afraid to voice it because of the corporate culture that’s currently in place. Catmull talked about how they don’t make any new employees sign employment contracts, as contracts as be very stifling to increasing creativity in the workplace. The employer has no reason to tell an underperforming employee to improve or to educate them on their faults, because their contract just won’t be renewed. And employees are receiving a consistent paycheck week to week so they have no incentive to upset the status quo.
- “Management’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the ability to recover.” Catmull talked about how, during the later Eisner years of Disney, they were afraid to try new things and they stuck only to what they knew because management was so entrenched and stubborn. They had to protect the Disney legacy, but by aiming to only protect the past, they didn’t focus on improving their future, they didn’t do anything new. “It is tenet of pixar culture that people should work there because they want to, not because a contract requires them to.” And at Pixar, Catmull talked about how they encourage their employees to take risks, to try new things. And it’s management’s job to build the ability to recover from these risks. “Mistakes are the inevitable consequence of doing something new, because without them, we would have no originality.” Another beautiful quote by Catmull, “You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar.”