Pixar's Four Rules for Fostering an Innovative Culture

Creative, motivated people can still struggle to work together as a team. Pixar’s Co-Founder, Ed Catmull has identified four rules leaders must implement to establish a culture that fosters innovation and productivity:

  1. Balance leadership and chaos. Innovation is inherently messy, and leading a creative team involves a balance between control and providing total freedom. Rather than trying to prevent a mess, just try to make sure it doesn't get too messy.
  2. Restart things that don’t work. Even though restarting a project is costly and painful, sometimes it’s necessary. It’s easy to make a B-level film, but it takes going through a process multiple times to make an A-level film.
  3. Take risks, and make it okay to fail. “People don’t want to fail. They put a greater burden on themselves than we intend to put on them,” says Catmull. “We have to try extra hard to make it safe to fail.”
  4. Embed company values in every level of the organization. Leaders must promote a safe and enjoyable environment for people. Creative ideas stem from collaboration, not control, so people must feel they have the liberty to have fun at work.

Takeaway: Counterintuitively, strong leadership often means giving up control. To get the best results from your team, focus on creating an environment where people feel empowered to take risks.

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