Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Innovation Story: Learning From Pixar

Last Thursday I was researching innovation to prepare for an upcoming OSEF event being hosted at Rove Mobile I came across a really interesting article about creating a culture of innovation at Pixar. Continuing in the theme of the last few posts I thought it would be interesting to examine what Pixar thinks, and to see what, if anything I can apply here at Macadamian.

Brad Bird distills 10 simple rules for fostering innovation:
  1. Herd Your Black Sheep
  2. Perfect is the Enemy of Innovation
  3. Look for Intensity
  4. Innovation Doesn’t happen in a Vacuum
  5. High Morale Makes Creativity Cheap
  6. Don't Try To “Protect your success”
  7. Steve Jobs Says ‘Interaction = Innovation’
  8. Encourage Inter-disciplinary Learning
  9. Get Rid of Weak Links
  10. Making $$ Can’t Be Your Focus
All these points resonant with me, but, let's focus on only two.

Look for Intensity
When I am interviewing people to potentially hire at Macadamian I look for people that are smart and have that spark in their eyes, that spark that denotes a deep passion for technology, and for what they have done and what they will do. I am sure that everyone at Macadamian looks for these same qualities, but when I looked on Confluence for the "Type of People we are looking for" that attribute wasn't listed, so the wiki being a wiki, I changed it.

Intense people want to do a fantastic job, there is no laissez-faire I don't care attitude. These people are passionate about the products we are building, they aren't just working on a project, they are building an amazing product. These types of people will "own" the product, they will talk to the customer and suggest features, or other ways to improve it. They want to build the best, most innovative product they can. This is a great attitude, and one of the key differentiators between the average, and the above average.

High Morale Makes Creativity Cheap
Not only does high morale make it easier to be creative, high morale increases productivity by several orders of magnitude. Morale is directly related to the leadership of the immediate manager, and of the company as a whole.

A good leader managing the team can go along way to improving morale via their positive attitude and their fair dealings with the team. I could go on and on about leadership's impact on morale but I would run out of space. Suffice it to say that a good leader can go along way to making a good team.

Of course the organization also has a role to play, the organization needs to create a culture that rewards people that take informed risks, works hard to get the employees involved and feeling informed, that people have the right tools to get the job done, shows genuine concern for all their staff, and gives appropriate praise and recognition for the good work they do. After all, you want to reward the good behaviour, not just punish the bad.

These two points resonated with me, and these are two that I will focus on here at Macadamian, to reinforce and improve our way of doing things with respect to these. Of course the rest are good too.

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