Pixar CEO Ed Catmull says failure is a “necessary consequence” of innovation at True North

Ed Catmull

Pixar has a special place in a lot of people’s hearts. It’s difficult to associate Pixar with being a failure; however, it is something that they have come from.

Pixar CEO Ed Catmull led a talk during True North highlighting Pixar’s story of getting to where they are today, organizational behaviours, and how Pixar stays creative.

The studio is behind classic films like Toy Story, which still touch the hearts and minds of millions of people around the world today, even after its release over two decades ago. So how do they stay afloat, even all these years? What keeps them creative? What’s Pixar’s secret sauce?

With Catmull’s talk at True North on What makes Creative People Tick, there just might be a way to understand the method to the madness.

Creative people have a history of failures

Catmull’s talk was more than just about creative people. It was about people; how one’s experiences and motivations shape them to become creative. That path, however, is not a straight line, for creativity is not easily earned.

Failure is needed to be creative. Looking at these creative people, they have taken risks and have had to pay the price when those risks go south. “Failure is a necessary consequence in doing something new,” Catmull said. “All our movies suck at first.”

Communication methods must be adaptable to situations

One cannot stress enough the importance of communication. It can make or break an entirety of a project; if a team is not on the same page on an engagement, it can affect and alter the progress of a project.

For Catmull, how one sets up their organizational communication structures can greatly affect creativity in a workplace, and having too many protocols in a workplace can also harm the breath of creativity.

Catmull suggests that employees “must be okay to learn things out of order,” because new problems arise all the time.

Team members should also not be afraid to speak up. While team leaders of a creative team should be able to listen to what the team members have to say, team members speaking up allows the speakers to “watch very carefully the dynamics in the rooms,” says Catmull.

Things won’t always be the same

Pixar wasn’t always such a successfully branded company. When Pixar joined Disney in 2006, they specifically chose not to let Disney culture integrate into Pixar’s culture. They realized that doing this might just harm creativity. Instead, Catmull let the two cultures co-work together.

Organizations, as alluded from Catmull’s talk, should be able to handle ambiguity. This is because there’s “going to be an unknown problem of an unknown size coming at an unknown time,” Catmull said. Things are always changing.

For a company to breathe creativity, “Our job is not to prevent errors, but to respond when they arise. That’s where creativity happens.”

Photo via Twitter.


Jose Domingo

Jose (also known as Jofo) is a contributing writer for BetaKit. Student, mentor, digital marketer, or growth hacker. Basically a Jack of all trades. In his pastime, Jofo loves to cook and even ran a Snapchat cooking show.

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