Pixar On Risk And Failure

Pixar On Risk And Failure
Pixar's The Good Dinosaur.
Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur.

It takes risk to make movies. No one has known this any more than Pixar. It has taken huge risks and has had hit after hit. Their films have been juggernauts at the box office and critically acclaimed.

But what Pixar hasn’t really known was failure.

Then came The Good Dinosaur. Oh, it was good. It has even had some solid initial sales as it has entered the home video sales arena. But the box office itself wasn’t great. And good is not great at Pixar.

Still that’s okay–according to Ed Catmull, Pixar’s pioneering leader. Here’s what he’s had to say in his book, Creativity Inc., about risk and failure:

  • “Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all; it is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”
  • “It’s not the leader/manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the leader/manager’s job to make sure it is safe for others to take them.”
  • “Trust doesn’t mean that you trust someone won’t screw up—it means you trust them even when they do screw up.”
  • “The desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal—it leads to measuring people by their mistakes they make rather than by their ability to solve problems.”

If you expect real performance, expect real failure. The two go hand-in-hand. If Pixar has created a culture that embraces both risk and failure, it will do great learning from the experience and moving forward.

Are you taking risks? Are you experiencing failure? If the answer is no to the latter, you may not be taking big enough risks. Risk and failure go hand in hand.

J. Jeff Kober

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