Saturday, December 31, 2016

On culture and creativity...........

     Culture is the invisible force on which innovation depends.  We like to pin the mantle of invention on individuals, not circumstances.  We anoint heroes and tell their stories.  Yet innovation is a collective undertaking.  It is as much the product of circumstance as of genius.  There is a spirit to it.  Preserving that culture and spirit at Pixar was very, very important...

     Corporations are a lot like living creatures.  They have personalities, emotions, and habits.  The person at the top might seem to be calling the shots but is often imprisoned in a culture he or she can do little to change.  As corporations succeed, they generally become more conservative.  The flames of creativity on which a company is built can easily cool as pressures to perform mount.  Success brings something to defend, something to lose.  Fear can easily trump courage.
     In my days as a lawyer representing start-ups doing deals with large corporations, I had observed how the giant East Coast technology companies like IBM and Digital Equipment Corporation that once ruled the high tech world had evolved into hierarchical, formal cultures.  Orders came from the top.  Lines of communication were rigid.  Coloring outside the lines was shunned.  Their organizations became politicized.  The most progressive, innovative contributors did not necessarily rise to the top.  Excessive hierarchy and bureaucracy were like a death blow to innovation.  I knew at Pixar we had to avoid this.

-Lawrence Levy,  as excerpted from To Pixar And Beyond;  My Unlikely Journey With Steve Jobs To Make Entertainment History


  1. Steve, you might enjoy Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon McKenzie. Highly recommended. E.

  2. The High Lords of Amazon have been contacted. Expecting my copy shortly. Will advise. Thanks. S