Monday, May 05, 2008

Brad Bird's tips on fostering creativity

gigaom reports: [edited]

Herd your black sheep
“Give us the black sheep. I want artists who are frustrated. I want the ones who have another way of doing things that nobody’s listening to.

Perfect is the enemy of innovation
Not all shots are created equal. Certain shots need to be perfect, others need to be very good, and there are some that only need to be good enough to not break the spell.

Look for intensity
Involved people make for better innovation... Involved people can be quiet, loud, or anything in-between - what they have in common is a restless, probing nature: “I want to get to the problem. There’s something I want to do.” If you had thermal glasses, you could see heat coming off them.

Innovation doesn’t happen in a vacuum
As individual animators, we all have different strengths and weaknesses, but if we can interconnect all our strengths, we are collectively the greatest animator on earth. So I want you guys to speak up and drop your drawers. We’re going to look at your scenes in front of everybody. Everyone will get humiliated and encouraged together…

High morale makes creativity cheap
The thing that has the most significant impact on a movie’s budget - but never shows up in a budget—is morale. If you have low morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about 25 cents of value. If you have high morale, for every $1 you spend, you get about $3 of value. Companies should pay much more attention to morale.

Don't try to protect your success
You don’t play it safe - you do something that scares you, that’s at the edge of your capabilities, where you might fail. That’s what gets you up in the morning.”

Steve Jobs says, ‘Interaction = Innovation’
Steve Jobs designed this building. In the center, he created this big atrium area, which seems initially like a waste of space. Steve put the mailboxes, the meetings rooms, the cafeteria, and, most insidiously and brilliantly, the bathrooms in the center - which initially drove us crazy - so that you run into everybody during the course of a day. [Jobs] realized that when people run into each other, when they make eye contact, things happen. So he made it impossible for you not to run into the rest of the company.

Encourage inter-disciplinary learning
One thing Pixar does is Pixar University. If you work in lighting but you want to learn how to animate, there’s a class to show you animation. There are classes in story structure, in Photoshop, even in Krav Maga, the Israeli self-defense system. Pixar encourages people to learn outside of their areas, which makes them more complete [and more creative].

Get rid of weak links
Brad Bird: Passive-aggressive people - people who don’t show their colors in the group but then get behind the scenes and peck away - are poisonous. I can usually spot those people fairly soon and I weed them out.

Making $$ can’t be your focus
Walt Disney’s mantra was, “I don’t make movies to make money - I make money to make movies.” That’s a good way to sum up the difference between Disney at its height and Disney when it was lost. It’s also true of Pixar and a lot of other companies. It seems counterintuitive, but for imagination-based companies to succeed in the long run, making money can’t be the focus.

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