Thursday, July 16, 2009

Pixar's work culture

Ed Catmull, President of Pixar, receives a Technical Academy Award. Below he speaks about leadership and managing Pixar's work culture (photo source:

Following up on yesterday's post, here's more from Pixar president, Ed Catmull. In the video shown yesterday, Ed emphasized the importance of having a good team. In this interview, he elaborates further about what he means.

In case you can't watch the video, here is the essence of what he says and what Pixar strives to inculcate:
  • Cultivate an air of open and honest communication: The basic work culture at Pixar is that movie production is a team effort. Everyone is needed and important, and everyone has the right to speak and be heard. Ed says that the Pixar team works constantly on keeping communication lines open. There is also a significant emphasis put on trusting each other. This comes from attracting high quality people, and maintaining a high level of open communication.
  • Keep it egalitarian: Artists and engineers work together; one is in no way above the other. And it is management's job to emphasize this.
  • Keep your eye on the ball: At Pixar, the bottomline is making a good movie. Everything else is a means to that end.
  • Maintain your quality: Get the best people you know on board, as they will not only deliver a good product, but also bring in better talent.
  • Trust the artists: Ed strongly believes that the creative people need to drive the innovation, not the technical people or management. Given this high level of trust, the creative workforce works hard to include everyone else in their decisionmaking, and deliver a high quality product

If you are further interested in Catmull's take on running successful companies, I would also recommend watching this lecture that he gave at the Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2007.

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