What is Pixar’s secret to consistent success?

How has Pixar been able to produce 12 consecutive blockbuster movies with no duds? What is Pixar’s secret to success?

President of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios and five-time Oscar-winner Ed Catmull explained his secret to success to Kara Swisher at the tenth annual D: All Things Digital conference.

The interview is great and is well worth 37 minutes of your time.

At the end of the video, an interviewer ask Ed Catmull “what’s Pixar’s recipe for sustainable success?“.

What is funny to me, is that Ed Catmull (you could see it in his face) believes Pixar doesn’t do anything out of the ordinary. He believes that Pixar is great because it doesn’t make the same mistakes other companies have.

How did he arrive at this insight?

He read a lot of business books to understand why others failed, and arrived at the conclusion that it is because companies fail to look for things they can’t see. In other words, examine their own flaws.

Mr. Catmull says that Pixar does a concerted effort to examine its own flaws. And starting from there, Pixar is ruled by a few guiding principles:

  • Be honest with each other
  • Don’t be afraid to start from scratch
  • Work on hard problems

You were probably expecting some hocus-pocus. Nope. No need for hocus-pocus. It’s all too simple. The reason why organizations don’t follow or can’t act this way is because it is a behavior challenge. Not a business challenge.

Be honest with each other? Most businesses aren’t honest with their own customers. How can we expect their leaders to be honest with each other.

Start from scratch? Don’t get me started with this one. Loss aversion takes over.

Work on hard problems? Don’t I need a P.H.D. do be able to do that?

Like people, they are standing in their own way.

This isn’t rocket science.

It’s desire to be and do better. It’s commitment to the mission and each other. It’s leadership. It’s purpose. As I’ve said before, committing to a direction and destination requires purpose.

Anybody can adopt the same principles, but again, the reason most no one will is because it will  test their behavior and make them uncomfortable. That’s why Pixar, Apple, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Zappos, Starbucks and others are great companies. They change the world because they live in a constant state of “uncomfortableness”.

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