The key components of culture are the organization’s core purpose, values and outcomes. Fast Company magazine recently held up Ed Catmull, president of Pixar and Walt Disney Animation and author of the newly released book Creativity, Inc. My interest in culture is from the viewpoint of the front-lines-shop-floor employee. What’s it like to work there it Pixar? The answer, true in any organization, will always be linked to culture. An “ideal” culture provides both security and human-needs-met.
The article recounts Pixar’s #1 box office opening successes ( 14 #1 openings, including Toy Story, Cars, WALL-E, Monsters, Inc., for example) and how Catmull leads this creative juggernaut!
To me, the key article “take away” for me was the Pixar “attitude” In the culture context, it’s their core purpose and I see it as a blend of the Disney beliefs and traditions, the legacy of Steve Jobs and Catmull’s understanding of individual freedom. That combination gives the Pixar workplace a distinction based on its history (Catmull was there at the beginning (1979) when Pixar was the computer graphics division of Lucasfilm ). Catmull, from his book: “At Pixar we try to create an environment where people want to hear each other’s notes (even when those notes are challenging) and were everyone has a vested interest in another’s success”
He places a high value on the skill of storytelling. He recounts how the in-progress resuscitation of Toy Story 2 was the Pixar defining moment. I think he meant that the skill of storytelling won at the “expense” of just inheriting the success of Toy Story 1. He admits that younger employees will not relate to that defining moment, but will likely have their own moment. Actually, I kinda’ believe the story of “defining moment” #1 gives newbies permission ( freedom) to challenge story sequences that don’t work. The article gives Catmull’s use of something of almost-legend he calls The Braintrust high marks. The Braintrust challenges the movie’s director but the secret of their oversight is bringing causes of the problem to the surface, but no mandated solutions allowed.
The combination of upheld values (storytelling), history and freedom (ownership) makes Pixar inspiring place to contribute and grow. With attention to the Creativity, Inc. subtitle, those components of culture at Pixar win the battle of overcoming the “unseen forces” that stand in the way of True Inspiration.