Ed Catmull, Pixar’s talented cat herder

Jerry —  May 14, 2010 — 1 Comment

One of my highlights at the Economist’s recent Ideas Economy conference in Berkeley was Martin Giles’ interview of Ed Catmull, Pixar’s co-founder and president. I was struck by how deep and deft Catmull’s understanding of personal and group dynamics is, as well as how unobtrusive his ego is.

Pixar has had a phenomenal run of movies, but it might not have gone that way as early as Toy Story 2. How Catmull managed that process is a fascinating story.

You can see some of this expertise in this talk Catmull gave in 2007. Fortunately, The Economist has published the more recent interview on its site (albeit without a permalink yet), so I’ll share it with you here:



One response to Ed Catmull, Pixar’s talented cat herder

  1. OMG! he’s amazing! (which, by the way, is the only possible explanation of the results they achieve).

    Now seriously, he make wonderful deconstructions of the dynamics of the groups. That’s the key they use to build a solid foundation for the director (that is receiving feedback, even brutal, yet personally supported by the group).

    I think that people can process well feedback but in doses. What’s interesting from Ed is that he (and his people) have figured out how to use the group as feedback provider *and* support donor for something very geek (and at high pressure). That is catalyzing everything. That makes it work. They feel safe (despite of huge pressure) and can lost themselves in the help and then go to do their homework (with the team).

    The other ideas I’ve found amazing here are:
    1. you don’t have a movement unless you have a sustainable culture.
    2. you should not change for the wrong reasons (said that you can fundamentally chance as much as the world demands you to).
    3. if you can’t drive the best in people, you fail (because you can make 1.)
    4. you lead something by inspiring them to follow you or you have nothing (with chances to be remarkable)

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