Known for creating some of the best, highest rated animated movies in the world, Pixar Animated Studios is an example of management and leadership done right and on an immense scale. Some insight into how this was possible in just under 30 years is undoubtedly helpful and Creativity, Inc., by Ed Catmull (co founder and brains behind Pixar), provides just that.
Ed Catmull co founded Pixar with the help of Steve Jobs back when Catmull was working at Lucasfilms. After Steve Jobs bought Lucasfilm’s digital division, Catmull became the Chief Technology Officer for what would become Pixar. Just years later, Toy Story was released in 1995 helping solidify Pixar as a studio that not only makes beautiful, innovative animated films but ties them well with captivating, timeless stories. But how was all of this achieved?
In Creativity Inc., we learn of the close relationship between Steve Jobs and Pixar as well as the impact he had with recruiting the right people. Catmull, of course, being one of those people. His contributions to digital animation technology have been a driving force behind the movies adults and children enjoy today. But Catmull’s academic and industry achievements alone do not explain Pixar’s impressive success – 15 movies under their belt with all but one receiving critical acclaim. So we have to look at how their management makes things work as well as they do.
Here are some important lessons we can glean from Creativity Inc., on the leadership over at Pixar (now owned by Disney following a $7 billion deal in 2006):
- Delegating tasks and ideas to be worked on: At Pixar, good ideas are given to great teams that can either find flaws in those ideas and improve on them or come up with something even better.
- While agreement is essential to getting things done or make changes happen, a lot more has to go into actually implementing what everyone agrees on.
- The leadership should strive to make a company into a place where employees can take risks and not a place where the main goal is to prevent risks. Along with that, it costs a lot more to prevent errors than to fix them.
- While we talk about “leadership” and “management” things should not be so cut and dry. Communication should not be structured in this way and everyone should feel comfortable with talking to anyone further up the existing structure.
The importance of these philosophies behind Pixar’s success is that they were developed in order to sustained this creative culture that has propelled Pixar. This culture, however, was not something that Pixar’s leadership tacked on later on – it was built and developed from within as the company rose to greater heights. A good take away from that is that established companies looking to mimic this sustainable creative culture should work with what they already have and develop it in a similar fashion.