How You Can Use Pixar’s Creative Process to Supercharge Your Success

Image via Flickr

As you already know, coming up with creative ideas isn’t easy.

In fact, sometimes it’s an epic struggle that makes the plots of most action movies look like cakewalks.

I’ve been there many times myself, and you probably have too. Creativity and inspiration just seem completely out of reach, and it’s hard to even write a sentence down.

I bet you’d love for your business to mirror the type of consistent creative success achieved by Pixar over the last two decades (I certainly would). The creativity that resulted spawned billion-dollar franchises built on incredibly unique ideas.

Well, you’re in luck, because the famed animation studio keeps no secret about its creative process.

My firm is worlds away from a company that finds its profits from talking cars and cowboys, but I’ve found that these ideas can be applied to almost anyone.

Without further ado, here’s how Pixar pulled it off.

Create Your Own Braintrust

Pixar is well known for what the company refers to as its “Braintrust”, a diverse collective of individuals committed to idea creation and development.

Sourcing ideas from everyone and anyone, such as film directors not specifically involved in a particular project, enables the Pixar team to find solutions to pretty much any creative roadblock.

You need lots of ideas to come up with good ideas, so involve as many people as possible when you’re working on a project. Find inspiration from anywhere — the least likely people will often bring the most brilliant stimulation.

The most important tenet of the Braintrust however, is actually trust itself — the idea that everyone can deliver candid and honest feedback while relying on each other.

As Pixar’s President, Ed Catmul, put it, “There are good reasons why people hold back and don’t say what they think.”

Even if you’re working completely alone, you need create this Braintrust; to have others to reliably bounce ideas off of. Find a group of like-minded professionals who are interested in networking and collaboration, and develop that trust. If you’re a business owner, start it right in the office — encourage your managers to monitor group dynamics to ensure that no one is holding back.

Encourage Criticism

This may sound pretty scary and counter-intuitive, but Pixar discovered that criticism is the fuel behind the company’s success. In fact, many of their best ideas started off as what they call “ugly babies” — until feedback developed them into something special.

Actually, Pixar itself started off as an “ugly baby.” They originated as a computer hardware company that used animation shorts to promote its products — a far cry from what they are today.

They realized that the most important part of the creative process is the evolution of ideas.

You should too — whether you come up with an idea yourself or are approached with one by an employee, don’t automatically dismiss it just because it seems ugly at the start.

Embrace every idea and know that it may need several iterations to become something successful; after all, it’s called the creative process for a reason.

Make it Productive

I know everyone talks about constructive criticism, but in reality, the “constructive” part often gets left out in an attempt to air grievances. After a decade on Wall Street, I’m way too familiar with this type of “feedback”.

Pixar’s sole purpose for feedback, however, is to move a project forward. Maybe Wall Street could take a few notes from them. They created a corporate culture where opinions aren’t useful if they can’t be acted upon.

You can lead by their example — in your own company or with others — by only offering productive advice when it comes to developing ideas.

Challenge others to do the same by offering incentives to fully participate in the creative process. You’ll be amazed at the ideas that spring up when everybody feels valued in the process.

Sharing is creating

Lastly, Pixar doesn’t keep their ideas locked in some secret lair like a cartoon movie villain.

Like their secrets to creativity, Pixar publishes all their findings and research online.

“The rationale was also if we publish everything we are more likely to attract the best people. And we did. We began to accumulate people who were good not only because they shared our vision, but because they liked the idea of sharing what they were doing,” Catmul said.

It’s scary to expose yourself to others creatively. But you can’t expect to get exposed to the creative process of others if you don’t share your own.

So open up your creativity to others. Create trust, and find the best ideas from anywhere. You’ll uncover that creative genius you always had, and the results will surprise you.

Want to learn more about how to channel your creativity? Read my latest at Love the Hustle. How do you boost your creativity? Comment below or share it with me on Twitter!