Pixar has been successful in producing computer animated movies that melds technology with art, and has high quality animation and unpredictable storylines. The CEO of the company discusses in this article how he was able to create and facilitate an organization culture that supports and fosters creativity.
There are constantly many new creative ideas that are incorporated into a movie. The plot, camera shots, animation of the characters, lighting, animation of action shots and the sound all have specialists that have their own creative inputs. It is the job of the director and producer to foster, incorporate and implement creative ideas.
At Pixar, the business model is centered around incorporating everyone’s creative feedback. Steve Jobs, the founder of Pixar wanted interaction between people, and he ensured the layout of the building was designed so people would have a better chance to encounter each other. The location of many gathering places such as: meeting rooms, cafeteria, restrooms, etc. were all in a central location. This certainly bucks the trend of many companies that have comparmentalized departments.
Usually most films are made by having the director form the main idea and theme, and then, the creative teams would build more ideas around this. At Pixar, there are small functional teams that consist of the director, writer, animator and editor that would incubate new ideas. Films would be produced from the best team’s idea. The formation of the small groups enabled senior management to understand the group dynamics as well as enabled the creative participation of everyone.
Peer reviews and post mortems were methods to combat complacency and to improve focus. There was a board of advisors that consisted of eight directors. They had an advisory role witthout decision making authority. If the director of the film were to experience some problems, he/she could consult the board. In the end, the director had the decision making authority. This ensured the director maintained his/her creative integrity. Therefore, this model encouraged peer review. At the end of each day, different teams with different projects (all work in progress) showed their work to each other. People from different functional areas were encouraged to have input.
The company believes strongly in learning. As a result, Pixar University was formed. This made employees well-rounded, and appreciated the tasks that other functional teams performed. For example, the creative teams would take a business courses, and the business analysts would take some animation courses.
By breaking down the traditional organizational hierarchy, and empowering and forming smaller functional teams, creativity in incubating and implementation of ideas is faciliated. Having varying functional teams to conduct peer-review and post mortem sessions enables everyone in the organization to have a voice in the film making process. Hiring people of different backgrounds, and having an organization that fosters and encourages learning ensures there are different viewpoints and minimizes groupthink.