Keep Your Crises Small

I found this video through illustrator Frank Chimero’s excellent blog and listened to it while working today. It’s a speech that Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, gave at the Stanford School of Business in 2007 about the hard parts of business and a few important lessons that’s he’s learned. It’s a bit long, but well worth listening to.

The six important points he makes (paraphrased here) are:
1. Review material every day. Constantly review work-in-progress to reduce the stigma of “unfinished” or “imperfect” work
2. It must be safe to tell the truth.
3. Communication between members of the organization shouldn’t mirror the organizational structure / hierarchy. Open door policy means open door.
4. People functioning well together is more important than the thing or idea they’re working on.
5. Don’t let success mask problems (deep assessment)
6. Once an important idea can be expressed in a concise statement, one can just use the statement and NOT have to change their behavior.

Another interesting point he makes towards the end of the talk is:

“Every product that we’re making has got to be original. Which implies that we can never repeat ourselves. To me, this is an important thing because many people in Hollywood don’t actually understand that. If something is successful – if you’ve got Star Wars or Shrek or whatever, then it’s basically, “Let’s do that again.” Well, we’ll try to make it a little bit different. But we’ll do the same thing again.
But you can’t think that way, with any products. Everything is new and original. And therefore our way of dealing with and solving the problems has got to be an original. So the secret is we have to keep on digging deeper and deeper and knowing that we’re always missing something that’s important.”

This is a great thought to use in thinking about Motion Graphic Design and Animation as well, when our own clients demand original thinking and solutions to their problems. It’s not enough to rely on design ideas that are based on templates and remakes or to try to emulate others’ success. True innovation happens when the right people are given the right tools and asked to create things that are truly unique. And that’s what we should all be striving for.