My two-year-old loves dinosaurs – everything dinosaurs! We watched The Good Dinosaur together and he was engrossed (as was I), so we bought a copy.
Last night we were going through the special features and noticed a clip called Recyclosaurus. It turns out Pixar sporadically run company-wide competitions challenging its employees to create and compete in, what could be referred to as, pretty dumb contests. I loved it! They have bakeoffs, make sculptures, at Hallowe’en they create elaborate and highly impressive costumes, they make animated shorts, put on shows, etc. This particular contest saw each department constructing a model dinosaur out of unwanted items from a table in the studio called the free table (where people can leave anything they no longer want but are too good to throw out). The results were incredible.
If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they’ll screw it up. But if you give a mediocre idea to a great team, they’ll make it work.
The important thing to note here is that none of these things are directly generating any money for Pixar. In fact, most of them aren’t even shown to the public. But small creative exercises like these are an essential component in a company like Pixar just as they are to any business in the creative industry. And it’s about a lot more than company morale or blowing off steam at the end of a big project. It’s about stimulating, enriching and empowering people; it’s strengthening team working skills (team building and social dynamics); developing communication methods and allowing a natural flow of contact outside of organisational hierarchy; it allows spontaneity, surprises and innovation to occur; for people to knowledge share naturally; experiment; exchange roles; and so many more valuable experiences.
The view that good ideas are rarer and more valuable than good people is rooted in a misconception of creativity.
Although Front Page isn’t quite Pixar, it certainly seems to adopt this same understanding that the continual development of its employees is key to its success. We’re encouraged to explore ideas and work together on things that might never see the light of day. Everything we do informs our work. The skills we develop. The techniques we learn. The relationships we grow. Everything.
With our fortnightly poster exercise, our internal side projects and external pro bono work; even the wee Post-It war we have going on between the first and the ground floors, where every month we change our window art in a bid to outdo each other. This is what creativity is. It’s about people and the way they work.
So next time you see folk “wasting valuable time at work” take a closer look and you might just find a bunch of people becoming a better team.