Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Great Workplace: Pixar

Pixar is probably one of the most successful animation house in the world (another Brain Child of Steve Jobs of Apple), and there must be some special about them. Taken from Pixar’s Brad Bird on Fostering Innovation, there are 9 (or 10) lessons:
  1. Herd Your Black Sheep – give the odd balls a chance to change the world
  2. Perfect is the Enemy of Innovation – Get the job done, one way or another: Imperfection could be perfect.
  3. Look for Intensity – does it worry you if there is no debate or friendly argument exchange in the office?
  4. Innovation Doesn’t happen in a Vacuum – Get everyone together and have a peer reviews.
  5. High Morale Makes Creativity Cheap – Err, give a inspirational speech in the locker room before the big game?
  6. Don’t Try To “Protect your success” – You must believe that you can fly (or nothing is impossible)
  7. Steve Jobs Says ‘Interaction = Innovation’ – Get out of your cubicle and start chatting a bit, just a bit.
  8. Encourage Inter-disciplinary Learning – You pick your own training?
  9. Get Rid of Weak Links – Yup, burn the black sheep!
  10. Making $$ Can’t Be Your Focus – Money can’t be the end. We use money to do something we like.

The interview is pretty alright, but I am not convinced that’s all the juices in Pixar. Of course it try to foster creativity by trying to let you create your own house (or cubicle) in whatever way you like, be it a Western Town or Hawaii Hulala. It promotes total waste of space to buy some sort of creativity.
Of course we have Pixar University which offer more than 110 courses from film making to sculpting. Everyone is encourage to devote up to four hours per week to his or her own education.

According to Catmull talks Pixar creativity in HBR piece (source: The Pixar Blog), it is basically about
  • Invest in People rather than Great Ideas – when you have a bunch of Great People together, the chemistry is bound to spark great things. Create an environment which nurture people into unleashing their creativity.
  • Encourage risk - It guess it’s the old piece of No Guts No Glory.
  • And many more about Peer Culture, Freedom & Sharing, Postmoterms and etc.
With the obvious aside, Pixar is mostly about creating an environment for great people to work together and magic will happen. How to create the creative environment? Physically office environment, Education & Learning, Interaction & Peer Reviews, and a Boss who understand what is creativity.

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