Book Review - Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons
When I first saw Geri’s game, I was hooked. Surely you know Geri - the old gentleman playing chess in park with himself. Geri’s game won an Oscar for the best animated short film. Toy Story, Bug’s Life, Monster’s Inc - Pixar’s list of success is endless. So what does Pixar do that other companies don’t. In fact, take any successful business in any industry and look at their growth. You will find a common theme. Here are some of them. You have to read the book, Innovate the Pixar Way - Business lessons from the world’s most creative corporate playground, to find out more.
Founders build a culture around the word “Passion”. The team is built around “Passion”. Pixar, Apple, Microsoft (once upon a time), Nike - the list, while finite, goes on. Go back in time to the start-up years of these successful businesses. You will find that the founders were passionate in their area of work. Pixar is no different. Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith put first things first by establishing Pixar with a very clear vision and communicating that vision to its employees. They also sought out self-motivated individuals to work at Pixar. Self-motivated individuals bring with their a passion to go a good job and are necessary for the development of high-performance teams. Passion breeds innovation.
Long Term Goals
With the economic roller coaster ride we have had over the last year and half, it should come as no surprise that businesses need to have a long term goal. The goal should not be dictated by the stock price in this quarter or the next. Tying a CEO’s compensation to stock prices is myopic as we have just learnt. At Pixar, “it’s never been about cheaper [and] faster … It’s about creating for the long term … they go through great lengths to ensure that its culture can support new ventures and still remain true to their values.” With long term goals you are not concerned about short-term failures.
I do miss the days when I was part of a team. Teamwork in big business has come down to working in silos or at the most working towards furthering your own department’s goals. Section 1 of Innovate the Pixar way has this picture where the “can do” attitude is having to fight with “that will never work” attitude. I thought it aptly described today’s corporate world. More often than not, you will find the corporate world littered with “that will never work” people. They sap your energy, the team’s enthusiasm and morale. Don’t let such individuals get to your team. It’s fun solving the “perceived impossible” problem and to constantly challenge the status quo. A high performing team collaborates and is necessary for innovation.
The “that will never work” people are risk averse. They are also CYA (cover your ass) people. They expect all the answers before they move. They are very uncomfortable with uncertainty. Innovation by definition has a certain amount of uncertainty associated with it. Will it always work? No. But because you failed, you are a step closer to success. “Try, fail, learn and try again. If you get it right the first time, it’s probably not very innovative.”
Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson have gone a great job in highlighting Pixar’s culture in the book. I was once involved in a strategy planning exercise and the subject of culture was not even broached when problems and issues were being discussed. Your company’s culture drives growth and innovation. Culture is driven foremost by the company’s leadership and in the processes and systems they create.
To summarize, “Innovate the Pixar way” offers an interesting insight into how the business is run. It also offers tips on how you can implement some of the ideas in your business and grow. In Pixar director Pete Docter’s words, “Prototype … Try … Learn … Try again. Prototype … Try … Learn … Try again. Prototype … Try … Get the picture?”Asides, Featured, Leadership categories.