In addressing the question, “What causes smart people to make decisions that sent their companies off the rails?”, Ed Catmull of Pixar wrote:

“What interested me was not that companies rose and fell or that the landscape continually shifted as technology changed but that the leaders of these companies seemed so focused on competition that they never developed any deep introspection about other destructive forces that were at work.” Catmull, E. (2014) Creativity, Inc. New York, NY, Random House.

Those destructive forces were of course inside of them but outside of their awareness. The genius of the Pixar team was that their leaders knew that these individual and collective destructive forces had to be faced to liberate creative genius on a sustainable cultural level. In essence, they knew that they had to address what they did not know and that humility was the feeling state that indicated they were on the road to breakthroughs. Pixar learned that managers must pay attention to and engage with anything that creates fear.

In essence, this amazing company embraced the concept that early mental models can undermine the best and most creative minds; that doing the harder thing by facing one’s greatest fears is the path to self-knowledge; and that leadership humility and gratitude liberated the energy to be at our creative best.

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