I saw this video of a talk by Ed Catmull of Pixar at the Stanford Graduate School of Business quite a while back. A super interesting talk and a must for everybody managing creative environments. Simon Law’s presentation reminded me a lot of this. Because great is not something that is achieved by one person, but by a team. And the black magic is probably to bring together such a team. In these 55 minutes Catmull tells some very interesting lessons Pixar learned over the years.
Here is what I learned (there is much more in it, these are just my points):
1) Create a team that can be necessarily honest. It must be safe to speak the truth.
As Catmull says, it takes a lot of maturity and professionalism to do this. This is the most important and the hardest thing.
2) Review frequently, best daily. Review when incomplete, in-the-works stuff. Do not wait until done, because when you’re done, you’re done. First, this takes embarassment, because you do it every day. It enables to make things right and better before they are past the line of no return and it makes you more creative.
3) To achieve quality, you have to aim for quality without compromise. It’s never too late for quality or great. If you go for good enough you’ll get less than good enough.
4) Very simple principle: „Once one can articulate an important idea into a concise statement, then one can use the statement and not have to have a fear of changing behavior.“
So many mantras do exist but do in no way change the behavior of the companies claiming them. It is true for brands, for advertising agencies, for account planners, for any creative venture. Especially in advertising because we formulate these concise statements all the time (Disruption, Brand Ideals, Truth well told and so forth). Too often they become blinds that hide the question „What do we actually do?“.
There is a very nice illustration making the rounds on the web, which captures the difference between Pixar and, well, everybody else. (Note that there are no images needed to sell the idea, just simple sentences)
On a side note, Catmull’s background was neither business manager nor a creative, but computer science. His approach is more like a programmer searching for a bug. More managers should be like him.