All great organizations have their own “way” of doing what they do and how they do it. That is certainly true of Pixar Animation Studios, co-founded in 1984 by Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith. While leading the computer graphics division at Lucasfilm, they hired John Lasseter whose personal credo was and remains “heart, inventiveness, and inspiration.” He once observed, “Quality is the best business model of all.”
Bill Capodaglio and Lynn Jackson co-authored Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Playground. They explain how the talents, experiences, values, and (especially) the visions of these three geniuses – Catmull, Smith, and Lasseter – co-created an organization that continues to produce animated feature films of unsurpassed quality. The first film, Luxo Jr., was a computer-generated animated (CGI) film lasting about two minutes (1986).
The series of feature-length animated films began with Toy Story (1995), followed by A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008), Up (2009), and Toy Story 3 (2010). All CGI films were released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner. Many of the “business lessons” to which the book’s subtitle refers are provided in a series of “Chalkboard” summaries at the conclusion of chapters.
In my opinion, these are “business lessons” that will be most helpful to most people:
• Develop an open, inquiring mind
• Frame communications in the form of a story with setting, characters, plot, crises, etc.
• Think long-term and the Big Picture in mind at all times
• But also nail the fundamentals
• Take as much time as necessary (but no more) to do what must be done as well as it can be done
• Help create and then sustain a workplace culture within which imagination is stimulated, prudent risks are encouraged, and visions are nourished (i.e. a “playground”)
• Develop reasoning skills that absorb, digest, integrate, and synthesize different perspectives
Those who share my high regard for this book are urged to check out David A. Price’s The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company and Karen Paik’s To Infinity and Beyond! The Story of Pixar Animation Studios.