The murmur of the snarkmatrix…

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Iteration at Pixar
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Pixar president Ed Catmull, in a speech to Stanford’s business school, talks about sharing work even (especially) when it’s incomplete:

In the process of making the film, we reviewed the material every day. Now, this is counter-intuitive for a lot of people. […]

Suppose you come in, and you’ve got to put together animation or drawings and show it to a famous, world-class animator. Well, you don’t want to show something which is weak or poor. So you want to hold off until you get it to be right.

The trick is actually to stop that behavior. We show it every day—when it’s incomplete. If everybody does it, every day, then you get over the embarrassment. And when you get over the embarrassment, you’re more creative.

It’s not obvious to people, but starting down that path helped everything that we did. Show it in its incomplete form. There’s another advantage to that. When you’re done… you’re done.

By that last bit, he means that if you haven’t been sharing your work every day, even (especially) when it’s incomplete, then when you get to the point where you say, “Whew, finished! Take a look at this,” it’s an illusion—your work is still just beginning.

It’s iteration! And seriously: it applies to everything.

5 comments

Thanks for pointing out this video and for distilling the essence of the “iteration” message in your post. Pixar clearly has some unique and valuable approaches to their work that anyone can learn from. Earlier this year I found a video of Randy Nelson (of Pixar U) talking about the question of “how do you hire for jobs not done before?” and relating this to the topic of innovative companies. If you are interested, my post here on that with the video: http://www.thinkingoutloud.com/eg_ventures/2009/04/what-predicts-the-ability-to-innovate.html

This reminds me of that most awesome Zefrank The Show–the bit about the platter.

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