Every business is show business
COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio (The Philippine Star) - August 30, 2015 - 10:00am

When asked for a take on the film Inside Out — a story about growing up and being in touch with various emotions — most everybody only has glowing words for the box-office hit: exceptional, unique, authentic, warm, insightful and intelligent. And it is not surprising to know that the smash hit is a production of Pixar, the same creative group that gave movie buffs outstanding and highly innovative animated classics like Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Finding Nemo, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up and Toy Story 3.

These outstanding and award-winning creations, together with Inside Out, which was co-directed by Ronaldo del Carmen — a Filipino and a UST Fine Arts and Design alumnus — were undoubtedly produced using the now legendary Pixar mindset: dream like a child, believe in your playmates, dare to jump in the water and make waves, and do unleash your childlike potential.

Author Robert Fulghum said, “Yes, those at Pixar have created film art of the highest quality but it should also be noted that each of their 11 films to date have also achieved exceptional commercial as well as critical success that includes — but is by no means limited to — ticket sales.”

These works of beauty and inspiration awaken the mind’s eye and tap the spirit, and Pixar’s knack for doing this classifies it as one of the world’s most pioneering companies.

In their book Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons From The World’s Most Creative Corporate Playground, authors Bill Capodaglia and Lynn Jackson competently provide a substantive background on the establishment of Pixar in 1979 as the Graphics Group of the Computer Division of Lucasfilm prior to its purchase by Apple cofounder Steve Jobs in 1986. The Walt Disney Company acquired Pixar in 2006.

Capodaglia and Jackson also highlight the relevant features of groundbreaking companies like Google, Nike, Target and Zappos — all referred to as models of “corporate playgrounds.” Evidently, these companies put great importance on collaboration, internal service, fun and naturalness while not relinquishing the values of discipline and hard work.

Innovate The Pixar Way shares practical tips on developing productive and ingenious people and organizations, whose spirit is excellently encapsulated in this celebrated Walt Disney quote: “Too many people grow up. That’s the real trouble with the world. They forget. They don’t remember what it’s like to be 12 years old.”

Dream like a child. You can dream “to infinity and beyond,” but you should not compromise your long-term dream for the sake of short-term gains. From the beginning, Pixar’s goal was to “combine proprietary technology and world-class creative talent to develop computer-animated feature films with memorable characters and heartwarming stories that appeal to all ages.” “Quality is the best business plan” is Pixar’s mantra, and with it, the company has been able to establish a clear vision, build a creative climate, and forge strong esprit de corps centered on mutual respect and trust.

Believe in your playmates. Pixar generously supports employee development and training with Pixar’s Corporate University. The company builds on its people skills exhaustively so employees can attain mastery in a principal skill or subject. They are introduced to a wide array of experiences and work on closer communication and tighter collaboration. With a keen focus on values, Pixar stands up against bullies and performs what is correct rather than popular.

Dare to jump in the water and make waves. In doing their respective jobs at Pixar, people are advised to “try, learn and try again.” The company believes that this mindset can encourage innovation. Failure is a welcome occurrence and is celebrated just as much as success. Play is a prime characteristic of the company’s culture, with its offices and studios designed like a corporate playground. Workspaces are bespoke and wacky — imagine tiki huts, pagodas and circus tents, landmark events like birthdays and anniversaries are celebrated and fun is a way of life.

Unleash your childlike potential. Innovation is fleshed out by subtle leadership actions and shared admiration coupled with solid budgetary and production metrics. To “make a dent in the universe,” Pixar invests in growing wholly involved and enthusiastic groups to build runaway success.

Some of the brilliant creative ideas we can learn from: collect artifacts that inspire good work, visit an art museum regularly, go to the park to play,?establish a “junior brain trust” composed of kids of employees,? get out of your comfort zone,? embrace chaos and confusion, partner with the academe,? decentralize,? and solve problems rather than just making better products. 

Pixar gives critical importance to the process of hiring people. It is most interested in bringing in individuals who can “work together as a network in solving problems, building and supporting each other.” Pixar’s co-originators Ed Catmull and Alvy Ray Smith Catmull outlined four common proficiencies: depth, breadth, communication and collaboration, which are vital to making art “a team sport.”

Depth is demonstrating mastery over a subject or a principle skill such as drawing or programming, and having the discipline to chase dreams all the way to the finish line.

Breadth is possessing a vast array of experiences and interests, having empathy for others, having the ability to explore insights from many different perspectives, and being able to effectively generate new ideas by collaborating with an entire team. “People who have breadth amplify you. They want to know what you want to know.” In problem solving, they are the ones who lean in rather than pull back.

Communication is focusing on the receiver, receiving feedback to ascertain whether the message sent was truly understood. “Communication is not something the emitter can measure.” Only the listener can say, “I understand.”

Collaboration is bringing together the skills, ideas and personality styles of an entire team to achieve a shared vision. “Yes, and…” rather than “No, this is better” is part of Pixar’s common lexicon that fosters collective creativity and keeps the vibe and energy in the room upbeat and alive.

To Pixar, “Every business is show business! And it begins with a story.” From there every- thing else flows.

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Email bongosorio@yahoo.com for comments, questions or suggestions. Thank you for communicating.

ACIRC AUTHOR ROBERT FULGHUM BILL CAPODAGLIA AND LYNN JACKSON BUSINESS LESSONS FROM THE WORLD CAPODAGLIA AND JACKSON CORPORATE UNIVERSITY ED CATMULL AND ALVY RAY SMITH CATMULL INSIDE OUT PIXAR STRONG TOY STORY
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