I've always been fascinated with this word...creativity. Who has it? How does it come about? How does a company foster it? These questions led me to pick up this month's Harvard Business Review to read "How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity
The cofounder and president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, Ed Catmull talks about how "Pixar is a community in the true sense of the world". Now for a company that's produced hit after hit...you have to wonder how they do it!
Here's my favorite excerpt:
"A movie contains literally tens of thousands of ideas. They’re in the form of every sentence; in the performance of each line; in the design of characters, sets, and backgrounds; in the locations of the camera; in the colors, the lighting, the pacing. The director and the other creative leaders of a production do not come up with all the ideas on their own; rather, every single member of the 200- to 250-person production group makes suggestions. Creativity must be present at every level of every artistic and technical part of the organization. The leaders sort through a mass of ideas to find the ones that fit into a coherent whole—that support the story—which is a very difficult task. It’s like an archaeological dig where you don’t know what you’re looking for or whether you will even find anything. The process is downright scary.
Then again, if we aren’t always at least a little scared, we’re not doing our job. We’re in a business whose customers want to see something new every time they go to the theater. This means we have to put ourselves at great risk.
Our most recent film, WALL·E, is a robot love story set in a post-apocalyptic world full of trash. And our previous movie, Ratatouille, is about a French rat who aspires to be a chef. Talk about unexpected ideas! At the outset of making these movies, we simply didn’t know if they would work. However, since we’re supposed to offer something that isn’t obvious, we bought into somebody’s initial vision and took a chance.
To act in this fashion, we as executives have to resist our natural tendency to avoid or minimize risks, which, of course, is much easier said than done. In the movie business and plenty of others, this instinct leads executives to choose to copy successes rather than try to create something brand-new. That’s why you see so many movies that are so much alike. It also explains why a lot of films aren’t very good. 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."
It's a long article but an eye-opening one. It's not often that you see a president sharing his secrets or where you learn lessons that can be applied to multiple disciplines. Hope you enjoy the article.