In 1996, the year after I was born, the world witnessed a boy and a boot. Pixar Animation Studios created Andy, a young boy with a love for the Wild West, and Woody, a cowboy doll with a loyal heart. Generations saw Andy write his name on Woody’s boot, a branding that would set the stage for a trilogy of childhood truths told from the eyes of Andy’s beloved toys.
Since I first set eyes on Woody and his company of astronauts, slinky dogs, and potato heads, I was spellbound by the minds behind the toys. The fact that a largely overlooked human transition from childhood to adulthood could be rendered digitally delectable to millions, probed the question of “how?”
Four years and nearly 100 fleeting career thoughts later, I found the question to be as relevant as ever. With the help of my youthful- minded father I discovered the treasure trove that is Creativity, Inc. Authored by Ed Catmull, former President of Pixar and now President of the pioneering Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios, the novel is an ode to creativity in business.
As a 20 year old university student, I have already done my fair share of bouncing between internships, work experiences, and the like. Each time I turn my badge in, I come away with one thought: “how do the most successful workplaces thrive?” Once I got my hands on Catmull’s testimony to innovation, I began to understand how. He reveals that the buried treasure of a successful and profitable business is, essentially, team work. An idea as raw and as authentic as Toy Story, would have been nothing more than a sketch without the ability of strong teams to gather, manipulate, and regenerate creativity to produce a story.
The workplace that Pixar is forging is a model to reach for. Space is transformative, unrestrained, trusting, and most importantly, creative. Catmull provokes his employees to embrace their imaginations and use them to construct a fertile culture for the business to grow in. When ideas fall, because they will, they fall with style, because no idea is without wings.
A successful workplace, I have learned from both Catmull and my new friends at Virgin, is about relating. Realising that you, and the people around you, are capable of inspiring change and innovation is the first step towards achieving just that. In order to give our own ideas life, we must exercise our passion fearlessly. We must welcome the serendipitous, and be ready and willing to problem solve at a moment’s notice. A company culture that is both casual and cohesive (like Virgin’s) will provoke minds to interact and bounce off one another, and save you from bouncing between jobs.
What made Toy Story such a successful franchise was its willingness to fall. By forging fire from this fearlessness, the minds behind the wings were able to make Buzz Lightyear fly.
I encourage you to read Creativity Inc. and share your thoughts below.
-By Mallory Butler. Mallory is currently interning at Virgin Management, sharing her knowledge and enthusiasm between Virgin Disruptors, Virgin Unite Entrepreneurship and External Relations.