What a dream come true it would be to go hang out at Pixar Studios, a place where the only real goal is to “make the product great”, where they not only say that, but demonstrate it in a deep culture constantly evolving to “be great” in new, undiscovered ways? I think that dream, though, is akin to the Christian believer who dreams of walking with Jesus for a few formative years. It is easy to sit at the feet of, or hang out with, the avatar; it is much harder but more real and authentic, to try to put into practice the preachings. After all, those avatars had to struggle like heck before they ever distilled the essence of what they had learned. So should we.
If you follow me on Twitter you know that I just dumped a bunch of quotes attributed to Edwin Catmull, co-founder of Pixar, and author of Creativity, Inc., an absolute must read for anyone starting or running a company, any manager, and pretty much everyone in education (HT @boadams, as always, for the reading recommendation). It is the story of how Pixar was born, how it came to be one of the most successful companies on the planet, why it is an organization where really smart, talented people desperately want to work, and how it continues to evolve to pursue, and actually achieve, that one key goal of making a great product.
I can’t, and won’t, begin to highlight the key points of the book; they are many and varied. But this blog is mostly read by educators and those interested in transforming education, so here is the reason the book is a must read. Most schools have stopped creating, and this is a death knell for a knowledge-based industry in times of rapid change. Schools have to become creativity incubators again in order to achieve a goal that is exactly the same as Pixar’s: to become places of great learning. If they don’t customers who are now closer than at any time in human history at having real choice, are going to choose a school where “creativity” and “greatness” are the norm.
If I did not have a few other things on my plate, I would craft a set of educator workshops completely around the key lessons of Creativity, Inc. I could do it in a day and live off of it for a couple of years. But I do have other big pressing projects, so for now, I will distill some of the key takeaways of the book and add them to my quiver of arrows, to be pulled out when the school I am working with is ready to embrace them. The lessons in this book are immediately relevant to school communities that are realizing that their futures lie with innovation; that are uncomfortable with change; and that have all or most of the tools they need to truly “be great”, but either don’t know it or are not using those tools effectively. Sure, it will take some translating, to change the language from that of a movie studio to that of the educator, but that is what I do!
In the meantime, this really is a must read!