This edition of Kathy's CliffNotes highlights the book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace
This book tackles the question of “What does it mean to manage well and foster a culture of creativity?”
From Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, comes an incisive book about creativity in business. Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and is curious about the inner workings of Pixar Animation: the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where successful films are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”
Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable. The essential ingredient is the unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar, based on philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention.
Catmull summarizes these philosophies on managing a creative culture to:
Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. Give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better. If you get the team right, chances are that they’ll get the ideas right.
When looking to hire people, give their potential to grow more weight than their current skill level. What they will be capable of tomorrow is more important than what they can do today.
Always try to hire people who are smarter than you. Always take a chance on better, even if it seems like a potential threat.
If there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas, you lose. Do not discount ideas from unexpected sources. Inspiration can, and does, come from anywhere.
It isn’t enough merely to be open to ideas from others. Engaging the collective brainpower of the people you work with is an active, ongoing process. As a manager, you must coax ideas out of your staff and constantly push them to contribute.
There are many valid reasons why people aren’t candid with one another in a work environment. Your job is to search for those reasons and then address them.
Likewise, if someone disagrees with you, there is a reason. Our first job is to understand the reasoning behind their conclusions.
Further, if there is fear in an organization, there is a reason for it—our job is (a) to find what’s causing it, (b) to understand it, and (c) to try to root it out.
There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.
In general, people are hesitant to say things that might rock the boat. Braintrust meetings, dailies, postmortems, and Notes Day are all efforts to reinforce the idea that it is okay to express yourself. All are mechanisms of self-assessment that seek to uncover what’s real.
If there is more truth in the hallways than in meetings, you have a problem.
Many managers feel that if they are not notified about problems before others are or if they are surprised in a meeting, then that is a sign of disrespect. Get over it. The consequence is being over meetinged, showing lack of trust for you team and not empowering. Also creating a bottleneck through you
Careful “messaging” to downplay problems makes you appear to be lying, deluded, ignorant, or uncaring. Sharing problems is an act of inclusion that makes employees feel invested in the larger enterprise.
The first conclusions we draw from our successes and failures are typically wrong. Measuring the outcome without evaluating the process is deceiving.
Do not fall for the illusion that by preventing errors, you won’t have errors to fix. The truth is, the cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.
Change and uncertainty are part of life. Our job is not to resist them but to build the capability to recover when unexpected events occur. If you don’t always try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.
Similarly, it is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.
Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.
Trust doesn’t mean that you trust that someone won’t screw up—it means you trust them even when they do screw up.
The people ultimately responsible for implementing a plan must be empowered to make decisions when things go wrong, even before getting approval. Finding and fixing problems is everybody’s job. Anyone should be able to stop the production line.
The desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal—it leads to measuring people by the mistakes they make rather than by their ability to solve problems.
Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others. Show early and show often. It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way. And that’s as it should be.
A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.
Be wary of making too many rules. Rules can simplify life for managers, but they can be demeaning to the 95 percent who behave well. Don’t create rules to rein in the other 5 percent—address abuses of common sense individually. This is more work but ultimately healthier.
Imposing limits can encourage a creative response. Excellent work can emerge from uncomfortable or seemingly untenable circumstances.
Engaging with exceptionally hard problems forces us to think differently.
An organization, as a whole, is more conservative and resistant to change than the individuals who comprise it. Do not assume that general agreement will lead to change—it takes substantial energy to move a group, even when all are on board.
The healthiest organizations are made up of departments whose agendas differ but whose goals are interdependent. If one agenda wins, we all lose.
Our job as managers in creative environments is to protect new ideas from those who don’t understand that in order for greatness to emerge, there must be phases of not-so-greatness. Protect the future, not the past.
New crises are not always lamentable—they test and demonstrate a company’s values. The process of problem-solving often bonds people together and keeps the culture in the present. Never waste a crisis.
Excellence, quality, and good should be earned words, attributed by others to us, not proclaimed by us about ourselves. “Best” is what our consumers say.
Do not accidentally make stability a goal. Balance is more important than stability.
Don’t confuse the process with the goal. Working on our processes to make them better, easier, and more efficient is an indispensable activity and something we should continually work on—but it is not the goal. Making the product great is the goal.
(For a little more detail on some of the key points mentioned above)
The point is, we value self-expression here. This tends to make a big impression on visitors, who often tell me that the experience of walking into Pixar leaves them feeling a little wistful, like something is missing in their work lives—a palpable energy, a feeling of collaboration and unfettered creativity, a sense, not to be corny, of possibility. I respond by telling them that the feeling they are picking up on—call it exuberance or irreverence, even whimsy—is integral to our success. But it’s not what makes Pixar special. What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all of our energies to solve it.
Purpose and Focus: While there was much innovation that enabled our work, we had not let the technology overwhelm our real purpose: making a great film. Technology as an enabler for great storytelling...not the story itself. Alone, it lacks emotion and connection.
When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless.
A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candor, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments. Without the critical ingredient that is candor, there can be no trust. And without trust, creative collaboration is not possible.
When you instantly resort to secrecy, you are telling people they can’t be trusted. When you are candid, you are telling people that you trust them and that there is nothing to fear. To confide in employees is to give them a sense of ownership over the information.
Your employees are smart; that’s why you hired them. So treat them that way. They know when you deliver a message that has been heavily massaged. When managers explain what their plan is without giving the reasons for it, people wonder what the “real” agenda is. There may be no hidden agenda, but you’ve succeeded in implying that there is one. Discussing the thought processes behind solutions aims the focus on the solutions, not on second-guessing. When we are honest, people know it.
Pixar University: we gradually began expanding P.U.’s curriculum. Sculpting, painting, acting, meditation, belly dancing, live-action filmmaking, computer programming, design and color theory, ballet—over the years, we have offered free classes in all of them. This meant spending not only the time to find the best outside teachers but also the real cost of freeing people up during their workday to take the classes. So what exactly was Pixar getting out of all of this? It wasn’t that the class material directly enhanced our employees’ job performance. Instead, there was something about an apprentice lighting technician sitting alongside an experienced animator, who in turn was sitting next to someone who worked in legal or accounting or security—that proved immensely valuable. In the classroom setting, people interacted in a way they didn’t in the workplace. They felt free to be goofy, relaxed, open, vulnerable. Hierarchy did not apply, and as a result, communication thrived. Simply by providing an excuse for us all to toil side by side, humbled by the challenge of sketching a self-portrait or writing computer code or taming a lump of clay, P.U. changed the culture for the better. It taught everyone at Pixar, no matter their title, to respect the work that their colleagues did. And it made us all beginners again. Creativity involves missteps and imperfections. I wanted our people to get comfortable with that idea—that both the organization and its members should be willing, at times, to operate on the edge. I can understand that the leaders of many companies might wonder whether or not such classes would truly be useful, worth the expense. And I’ll admit that these social interactions I describe were an unexpected benefit. But the purpose of P.U. was never to turn programmers into artists or artists into belly dancers. Instead, it was to send a signal about how important it is for every one of us to keep learning new things. That, too, is a key part of remaining flexible: keeping our brains nimble by pushing ourselves to try things we haven’t tried before. That’s what P.U. lets our people do, and I believe it makes us stronger.
Earning trust takes time; there’s no shortcut to understanding that we really do rise and fall together. Without vigilant coaching—pulling people aside who didn’t speak their minds in a particular meeting, say, or encouraging those who seem eternally hesitant to jump into the fray—our progress could have easily stalled. Telling the truth isn’t easy.
I began to see my role as a leader more clearly. I would devote myself to learning how to build not just a successful company but a sustainable creative culture.
To enable our people to do their best work, we start from the presumption that our people are talented and want to contribute. We accept that, without meaning to, our company is stifling that talent in myriad unseen ways. Finally, we try to identify those impediments and fix them.
I believe the best managers acknowledge and make room for what they do not know—not just because humility is a virtue but because until one adopts that mindset, the most striking breakthroughs cannot occur. I believe that managers must loosen the controls, not tighten them. They must accept risk; they must trust the people they work with and strive to clear the path for them; and always, they must pay attention to and engage with anything that creates fear. Moreover, successful leaders embrace the reality that their models may be wrong or incomplete. Only when we admit what we don’t know can we ever hope to learn it.
I’ve made a policy of trying to hire people who are smarter than I am. The obvious payoffs of exceptional people are that they innovate, excel, and generally make your company—and, by extension, you—look good.
Empowering: Giving a ton of freedom to highly self-motivated people enabled us to make some significant technological leaps in a short time.
Inspiring as a Key Component to Leadership: Clearly, it wasn’t enough for managers to have good ideas—they had to be able to engender support for those ideas among the people who’d be charged with employing them.
We were asking our people to pull off the cinematic equivalent of a heart transplant. We had less than a year before Toy Story 2 was due in theaters. Getting it there in time would drive our workforce to the breaking point, and there would surely be a price to pay for that. But I also believed that the alternative—acceptance of mediocrity—would have consequences that were far more destructive.
Standing by Priorities: You needed to show your people that you meant it when you said that while efficiency was a goal, quality was the goal.
This was a case study in how something that is usually considered a plus—a motivated, workaholic workforce pulling together to make a deadline—could destroy itself if left unchecked. Though I was immensely proud of what we had accomplished, I vowed that we would never make a film that way again. It was management’s job to take the long view, to intervene and protect our people from their willingness to pursue excellence at all costs. Not to do so would be irresponsible.
As leaders, we should think of ourselves as teachers and try to create companies in which teaching is seen as a valued way to contribute to the success of the whole. Do we think of most activities as teaching opportunities and experiences as ways of learning? One of the most crucial responsibilities of leadership is creating a culture that rewards those who lift not just our stock prices but our aspirations as well.
The key is to view conflict as essential. It is management’s job to figure out how to help others see conflict as healthy—as a route to balance, which benefits us all in the long run.
There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.If we start with the attitude that different viewpoints are additive rather than competitive, we become more effective because our ideas or decisions are honed and tempered by that discourse.
We’ve all experienced times when other people see the same event we see but remember it differently. (Typically, we think our view is the correct one.) The differences arise because of the ways our separate mental models shape what we see. I’ll say it again: Our mental models aren’t reality.
When I look back on Pixar’s history, I have to recognize that so many of the good things that happened could easily have gone a different way. Steve could have sold us—he tried more than once. Toy Story 2 could have been deleted for good, bringing the company down. For years, Disney was trying to steal John back, and they could have succeeded. I am distinctly aware that Disney Animation’s success in the 1990s gave Pixar its chance with Toy Story and also that their later struggles enabled us to join together and ultimately merge. I know that a lot of our successes came because we had pure intentions and great talent, and we did a lot of things right, but I also believe that attributing our successes solely to our own intelligence, without acknowledging the role of accidental events, diminishes us. We must acknowledge the random events that went our way, because acknowledging our good fortune—and not telling ourselves that everything we did was some stroke of genius—lets us make more realistic assessments and decisions. The existence of luck also reminds us that our activities are less repeatable. Since change is inevitable, the question is: Do you act to stop it and try to protect yourself from it, or do you become the master of change by accepting it and being open to it? My view, of course, is that working with change is what creativity is about.
“People want decisiveness, but they also want honesty about when you’ve effed up,” as Andrew says. “It’s a huge lesson: Include people in your problems, not just your solutions.”
The first principle was “Story Is King,” by which we meant that we would let nothing—not the technology, not the merchandising possibilities—get in the way of our story.
For all the care you put into artistry, visual polish frequently doesn’t matter if you are getting the story right.
Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas.
If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.
Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right. It is easy to say you want talented people, and you do, but the way those people interact with one another is the real key. Even the smartest people can form an ineffective team if they are mismatched. That means it is better to focus on how a team is performing, not on the talents of the individuals within it. A good team is made up of people who complement each other. There is an important principle here that may seem obvious, yet—in my experience—is not obvious at all. Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.
Find, develop, and support good people, and they in turn will find, develop, and own good ideas.
A principle we depended on was “Trust the Process.” We liked this one because it was so reassuring: While there are inevitably difficulties and missteps in any complex creative endeavor, you can trust that “the process” will carry you through.“Trust the Process” had morphed into “Assume that the Process Will Fix Things for Us.” It gave us solace, which we felt we needed. But it also coaxed us into letting down our guard and, in the end, made us passive. Even worse, it made us sloppy. We should trust in people, I told them, not processes. The error we’d made was forgetting that “the process” has no agenda and doesn’t have taste. It is just a tool—a framework. We needed to take more responsibility and ownership of our own work, our need for self-discipline, and our goals.
Culture of Honesty: Believe me, you don’t want to be at a company where there is more candor in the hallways than in the rooms where fundamental ideas or matters of policy are being hashed out. The best inoculation against this fate? Seek out people who are willing to level with you, and when you find them, hold them close.
The reason that staying in the moment is so vital: Everything is changing. All the time. And you can’t stop it. And your attempts to stop it actually put you in a bad place. It causes pain, but we don’t seem to learn from it. Worse than that, resisting change robs you of your beginner’s mind—your openness to the new.
Creating understanding and relationships across groups: fostering more empathy between departments through a job-swapping program, establishing a lunch lottery that would match people at random to encourage new connections and friendships, and holding cross-departmental mixers designed to let far-flung colleagues get to know each other over a few beers.
Pride: We put our faith in a simple idea: If we made something that we wanted to see, others would want to see it, too.
Everything we did—everything associated with our name—needed to be good. Thinking this way was not just about morale; it was a signal to everyone at Pixar that they were part owners of the company’s greatest asset—its quality. Around this time, John coined a new phrase: “Quality is the best business plan.” What he meant was that quality is not a consequence of following some set of behaviors. Rather, it is a prerequisite and a mindset you must have before you decide what you are setting out to
Responsibility & Ownership of Quality: Deming’s approach—and Toyota’s, too—gave ownership of and responsibility for a product’s quality to the people. Those who were most involved in its creation. Instead of merely repeating an action, workers could suggest changes, call out problems, and—this next element seemed particularly important to me—feel the pride that came when they helped fix what was broken. This resulted in continuous improvement, driving out flaws and improving quality. In other words, the Japanese assembly line became a place where workers’ engagement strengthened the resulting product. While Toyota was a hierarchical organization, to be sure, it was guided by a democratic central tenet: You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.
Creative Process, Feedback and the Brain Trust:
Unleashing creativity requires that we loosen the controls, accept risk, trust our colleagues, work to clear the path for them, and pay attention to anything that creates fear. Doing all these things won’t necessarily make the job of managing a creative culture easier. But ease isn’t the goal; excellence is.
Basic truth: People who take on complicated creative projects become lost at some point in the process.
This principle eludes most people, but it is critical: You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged. To set up a healthy feedback system, you must remove power dynamics from the equation—you must enable yourself, in other words, to focus on the problem, not the person.
An important corollary to the assertion that the Braintrust must be candid is that filmmakers must be ready to hear the truth; candor is only valuable if the person on the receiving end is open to it and willing, if necessary, to let go of things that don’t work.
It is natural for people to fear that such an inherently critical environment will feel threatening and unpleasant, like a trip to the dentist. The key is to look at the viewpoints being offered, in any successful feedback group, as additive, not competitive. A competitive approach measures other ideas against your own, turning the discussion into a debate to be won or lost. An additive approach, on the other hand, starts with the understanding that each participant contributes something (even if it’s only an idea that fuels the discussion—and ultimately doesn’t work). The Braintrust is valuable because it broadens your perspective, allowing you to peer—at least briefly—through others’ eyes.
In the very early days of Pixar, John, Andrew, Pete, Lee, and Joe made a promise to one another. No matter what happened, they would always tell each other the truth. They did this because they recognized how important and rare candid feedback is and how, without it, our films would suffer. Then and now, the term we use to describe this kind of constructive criticism is “good notes.” A good note says what is wrong, what is missing, what isn’t clear, what makes no sense. A good note is offered at a timely moment, not too late to fix the problem. A good note doesn’t make demands; it doesn’t even have to include a proposed fix. But if it does, that fix is offered only to illustrate a potential solution, not to prescribe an answer. Most of all, though, a good note is specific. “I’m writhing with boredom,” is not a good note.
Originality is fragile. And, in its first moments, it’s often far from pretty. This is why I call early mock-ups of our films “ugly babies.” They are not beautiful, miniature versions of the adults they will grow up to be.
Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on—but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal.
Creativity as ‘unexpected connections between unrelated concepts or ideas.
For years, Disney employees attempted to keep his spirit alive by constantly asking themselves, “What would Walt do?” Perhaps they thought that if they asked that question they would come up with something original, that they would remain true to Walt’s pioneering spirit. In fact, this kind of thinking only accomplished the opposite. Because it looked backward, not forward, it tethered the place to the status quo. A pervasive fear of change took root. Steve Jobs was quite aware of this story and used to repeat it to people at Apple, adding that he never wanted people to ask, “What would Steve do?” No one—not Walt, not Steve, not the people of Pixar—ever achieved creative success by simply clinging to what used to work.
Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft.
The Benefit of Constraints: The very concept of a limit implies that you can’t do everything you want—so we must think of smarter ways to work. Let’s be honest: Many of us don’t make this kind of adjustment until we are required to. Limits force us to rethink how we are working and push us to new heights of creativity. My rule of thumb is that any time we impose limits or procedures, we should ask how they will aid in enabling people to respond creatively. If the answer is that they won’t, then the proposals are ill suited to the task at hand.
Postmortems: Companies, like individuals, do not become exceptional by believing they are exceptional but by understanding the ways in which they aren’t exceptional. Postmortems are one route into that understanding. There are five reasons, I believe, to do postmortems. The first two are fairly obvious, the next three less so.
Consolidate What’s Been Learned
Teach Others Who Weren’t There
Don’t Let Resentments Fester
Use the Schedule to Force Reflection
Pay It Forward
Postmortem Technique: One technique I’ve used to soften the process is to ask everyone in the room to make two lists: the top five things that they would do again and the top five things that they wouldn’t do again. People find it easier to be candid if they balance the negative with the positive, and a good facilitator can make it easier for that balance to be struck.
Creative people must accept that challenges never cease, failure can’t be avoided, and “vision” is often an illusion.
We need to think about failure differently. I’m not the first to say that failure, when approached properly, can be an opportunity for growth. But the way most people interpret this assertion is that mistakes are a necessary evil. Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality).
Failure is a manifestation of learning and exploration. If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy—trying to avoid failure by out-thinking it—dooms you to fail.
In a fear-based, failure-averse culture, people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk. They will seek instead to repeat something safe that’s been good enough in the past. Their work will be derivative, not innovative. But if you can foster a positive understanding of failure, the opposite will happen.
We must think of the cost of failure as an investment in the future.
The upside of decisiveness: The time they’ve saved by not gnashing their teeth about whether they’re on the right course comes in handy when they hit a dead end and need to reboot.
While the process was difficult and time consuming, Pete and his crew never believed that a failed approach meant that they had failed. Instead, they saw that each idea led them a bit closer to finding the better option. And that allowed them to come to work each day engaged and excited, even while in the midst of confusion. This is key: When experimentation is seen as necessary and productive, not as a frustrating waste of time, people will enjoy their work—even when it is confounding them.
When it comes to creative endeavors, the concept of zero failures is worse than useless. It is counterproductive.
Being too risk-averse causes many companies to stop innovating and to reject new ideas, which is the first step on the path to irrelevance. Probably more companies hit the skids for this reason than because they dared to push boundaries and take risks—and, yes, to fail.
If you’re a leader of a company that has faltered, any misstep that occurs is yours as well. Moreover, if you don’t use what’s gone wrong to educate yourself and your colleagues, then you’ll have missed an opportunity. There are two parts to any failure: There is the event itself, with all its attendant disappointment, confusion, and shame, and then there is our reaction to it. It is this second part that we control. Do we become introspective, or do we bury our heads in the sand? Do we make it safe for others to acknowledge and learn from problems, or do we shut down discussion by looking for people to blame? We must remember that failure gives us chances to grow, and we ignore those chances at our own peril.
The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure—to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts.
Rather than trying to prevent all errors, we should assume, as is almost always the case, that our people’s intentions are good and that they want to solve problems. Give them responsibility, let the mistakes happen, and let people fix them. If there is fear, there is a reason—our job is to find the reason and to remedy it. Management’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the ability to recover.
It is important that we don’t freak out or start blaming people when some threshold—the “holy cow” bucket I referred to earlier—is reached. We need to be humble enough to recognize that unforeseen things can and do happen that are nobody’s fault. If all our careful planning cannot prevent problems, then our best method of response is to enable employees at every level to own the problems and have the confidence to fix them. We want people to feel like they can take steps to solve problems without asking permission. If we allow more people to solve problems without permission, and if we tolerate (and don’t vilify) their mistakes, then we enable a much larger set of problems to be addressed. When a random problem pops up in this scenario, it causes no panic, because the threat of failure has been defanged. The individual or the organization responds with its best thinking,
You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar.
Andrew doesn’t advise being confident merely for confidence's sake. He believes that leadership is about making your best guess and hurrying up about it so if it’s wrong, there’s still time to change course.
What made Notes Day work? To me, it boils down to three factors. First, there was a clear and focused goal. This wasn’t a free-for-all but a wide-ranging discussion (organized around topics suggested not by Human Resources or by Pixar’s executives, but by the company’s employees) aimed at addressing a specific reality: the need to cut our costs by 10 percent. While the discussion topics were allowed—even encouraged—to stray into areas that might seem only vaguely related to this goal, the fact that it was there was key. It provided a framework—and it kept us from falling into confusion. Second, this was an idea championed by those at the highest levels of the company. Had the enormous task of making Notes Day a reality been shunted off on someone who didn’t have the clout to throw muscle behind it—and not entrusted to Tom, who in turn recruited the most organized people in the company to help him—it would have been an entirely different experience. Employees wouldn’t have bought into the idea because they’d sense that management hadn’t, either. And that would have rendered Notes Day moot. Third, and relatedly, Notes Day was led from within. Many companies hire outside consulting firms to organize their all-staff retreats, and I understand why: Doing them well is a monumental, enormously time-consuming undertaking. But that our own people made Notes Day happen was, I believe, key to its success. Not only did they drive the discussion in meaningful ways, but their involvement also paid its own dividends. Seeing themselves engage and cooperate, steering the agenda toward something that could make a real difference, they remembered why they worked at Pixar. Their commitment was contagious. Notes Day wasn’t an endpoint but a beginning—a way of making room for our employees to step forward and think about their role in our company’s future.
Notes Day didn’t solve anything all by itself. But it shifted our culture—repaired it, how we continue to figure it out, every hour of every day. How we persist. The future is not a destination—it is a direction. It is our job, then, to work each day to chart the right course and make corrections when, inevitably, we stray.