Lessons on Employee Management from Pixar

I once watched a documentary on Pixar and decided that if I had seen it just 10 years earlier, I may have changed my career trajectory so that I could eventually work there; Pixar really is that cool.  And while it may have had something to do with employees skateboarding in the hallways and the free cereal bar, the emphasis on fostering an innovative workplace coupled with Pixar’s obvious appreciation for all employees was most appealing.

Granted, an accounting practice isn’t where you’d expect to see toys in the break room and cartoon murals on the office walls, however, there are a few things that Pixar can teach all managers.  Last year the book Innovate the Pixar Way was published, detailing Pixar’s unique approach to business and how they’ve found success with unusual business and management strategies.  In his book review, Charles Spillar explains, “Their company is a prime example of a business smartly growing innovative talent and ideas across all levels of employees and backgrounds.  Its success is the story of its unique approach to excellence and cultivating creativity, bred from the top down.”

BNET columnist Nell Minow also wrote about Pixar’s management style in a recent post entitled “3 Lessons for Managers from Pixar.”  The following are 2 unexpected tips that can apply to any profession:

  1. Give it a try.  Disregarding innovation, changes in processes or unusual solutions simply because that’s not the way you typically do things speaks of a management style that can be stuffy and rigid—two things that aren’t generally characteristics of thriving work environments.
  2. You’ve got a friend in me.  The theory is that Pixar is able to create films that evoke such strong emotional responses because Pixar management espouses those same values.  This means they see their employees as individuals and treat them as equals, partners and friends.

While accountants and animators may not, on the surface, appear to have much in common, when it comes to managing people, maybe they should.  As you begin to foster innovation in a friendly professional environment, you may be surprised at how much more grateful your employees are to work there.  You just might it enjoy it more too!

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Minow, Nell.  “3 Lessons for Managers from Pixar.” 20 May 2011 BNET.com

Spillar, Charles.  “New Book Released about Pixar and Their Strategy for Success.” 17 January 2010 TucsonCitizen.com