Keep your crises small

This is a quick note I took for this talk, a very insightful one on how you might lead your org/your team/your life

The speaker was one of Pixar founders.

He got a fun job, but he didn't talk 'bout the fun part but the hard part

Why do successfull companies failed ?
- how to recognize troubles when you're success ?

  • ideas or execution is more important ?

Things Pixar did right when they first started (doing Toy Story)

  • Artists and technical people are peers with each other (eat with each other, compensation are the same)
  • Problems --> people express. they couldn't fix all but they heard them
  • "Brutally honest" , "necessarily honest" people --> saying something hard --> take it with the right spirit
  • Review process (which they learned a bit from Disney)
  • review the material every day
  • image that you can't draw very well and show your piece to a world-class annimator --> don't want to show something weak --> hold and show it later
  • they want to stop that behaviour
  • show it everyday when it incomplete, if everybody does it everyday, they got over embrassament, when they got over embrassament --> they are more creative
  • when you're done, you're done (if you just hold it, they when you're done you might actually not done yet)

my note: this review process is like iterative/agile approach in software development

Their first movie was a big hit --> goes public --> biggest IPO in that year --> SUCCESS

New group came in during the making of their 1st movie : production manager (discipline, technical)

Production manager later wanted to quit --> they discovered a major problem. Those Production Manager felt like a 2nd-class citizen. Pixar did a survey and the artists did actually think so.

What was the problem ?

  • Making a movie is a very organized activity --> require hierarchy structure --> communication eventually goes in the stuctured way. They confused the org structure and the communication structure. They're different. Communication needs to happen between any people in company with any people in the company (peers)

Managers don't like surprise --> problem. need to get over it. If people talk 'bout problems, it's a good sign, not disrespect

Why they missed this issue (with P.M) ? :
- They love working on the great film --> they can put up (cope) with things they don't like --> success hide problem. Happens in life (health)

Their wellness programme --> increase productivity, worth it

They first assigned a team to do Toy Story 2, but the quality is not there. There was not much time and they decided to re-do it from scratch. Disney said no due to time constraint but Pixar insisted. And they made it.

Why the 2nd attempt success even when the theme (story) is just the same (as in their 1st attempt) ?
* if you know the end before you start make the movie, you don't have a movie
you need to make people believe that they have a real choice to make. they have some girl talking 'bout their stories and it inspired the script. you may like the situation you're in, but life goes on, it changes, you can't hang on to that. --> people share and appreciate

"If you give a good idea to a mediocre group, they'll screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a good group, they'll fix it"

They measure the progress by how much the team work well together

People copy movie, it's a form of learning. However they usually copy good movies (means good execution) and couldn't beat the original one. they should copy the bad movie (with bad execution but good idea) !

post-movie review , very important because people usually sleep on success

Every org is unstable and will fall over. You need to work to make it up right. most people won't notice it (blind by success). It falls slowly but collapse quickly and you need to do constant assesment (look for hard truth)

  • you don't like what you see (self-impose)
  • audience don't like what you see

Steve Jobs invested in Pixar

tech + art = magic mix --> stimulate changes


Pixar wants their competitor to do well (to increase the pie) except when they release the movie :D

1 interesting question during Q&A session

  • How do we document the above learning and apply it to real situation ?


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Jamie Larson