So how exactly does the studio manage to pull off one monster winner after the next, Fortune‘s Michal Lev-Ram asked Catmull? […]
When any bunch of Pixar creatives begins a new project, he said, “it always sucks—and I don’t mean that in a self-effacing way. I mean, it always sucks.”
To get beyond that, Catmull relies on what he calls “the brain trust,” a notion that he says he arrived at by accident. The brain trust isn’t one specific cluster of individuals, but rather any group that follows these four golden rules:
1. Nobody can override the director. “Basically we remove the power structure from the room,” he says. “If they know that John [Lasseter, chief creative officer of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios] or I can override the director, then they will enter the room in a defensive way.”
Focused authority eliminates the waste (of all sorts) that happens when people are uncertain who has decision rights, or when people think they can vie for them. With that clarity, people can focus on moving the work forward, instead of jostling for position.
Focused authority also increases the odds that decisions get made, at a healthy pace, and that the final product reflects a single vision, a coherent set of priorities. It’s not a guarantee, but it helps. Without focused authority, the end result can appear like it was designed by committee. Such products can sometimes be good, but they will seldom be great.
“But isn’t Pixar’s ‘brain trust’ essentially a committee?”, you might ask. Not at all. It combines the ideation power of the group with the decision power of the individual leader. It’s the best kind of creative team a product can have.
Read the rest of the article for the main Ed Catmull point that Clifton Leaf wanted to amplify. And for the three other rules Ed Catmull lays out. All insightful.