Sunday, November 22, 2015

Agency and the Policy Change

Nothing Has Essentially Changed

If you read my blog, you know that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, LDS for short, or Mormons if you don't know who we are at all. If you follow any of the local news in Utah, you also know that there is an uproar in Salt Lake because of the Church's stance on homosexuality and how that affects marriage, the family, etc. If you don't know what I am talking about, watch the link below. It is a 10 minute clip from one of the leaders of our faith.

Understand that Salt Lake City (as of 2014 statistics) is home to the 7th largest LGBT population in the United States and of the six other cities that higher on the list, it is one of two metropolitan areas that also has a growing number. With this in mind, a group or a variety of group decided to send those new policy changes to mass media outlets who in turn put their own sensationalized twist to them. So how does that affect me or why am I writing about it?

I have a few different friends who either personally have homosexual attractions or have family members or close friends that have them. I love my friends. I think they are fantastic people. But like most of my friends, I don't agree that their lifestyle choices are the best. This includes my friends that drink or have premarital sex or gamble. There are lots of things that we all differ on but that doesn't mean I love them any less. It simply means that I won't have that in common with them or embrace that lifestyle personally. The way that the policy change and the aftermath of that has affected me is in a variety of different ways but it can be boiled down to something simple, some of my friends are confused, upset, and some have left our shared faith.

The reason I have stayed strong is because the policy "change" isn't a change at all. It was simply putting into writing the way we handle as leaders in our faith the new social changes that have come about when gay marriage became legal. Homosexual activity (not attraction) is still a sin and hence individuals who have a homosexual marriage cannot stay in the Church with good standing. And in situations where any children that have homosexual parents wishes to be baptized, they will be treated the same as children from a polygamist family or from an anti-family where the parents do not believe or follow or give permission for their children to be baptized into the faith.

So when I have friends who struggle with this idea or don't believe that our Church leadership is up to date or need to adapt to society, they are missing the point.

Our Church is lead not simply by men. It is lead by prophets and apostles who speak with God and Jesus Christ and receive their direction on how to lead and guide their children here on Earth today. God leads this church. God establishes His word. General conference is full of scripture spoken from the stand and not just a list of nice reminders and suggestions. So to be direct, their struggle is not with their testimony of God, the Atonement, or Jesus Christ. Their struggle of testimony is with modern-day prophets and their faith that God does continue to speak through his servants in our day. Or it may be with some other doctrine or principle of the gospel and this was simply the last straw, but in essence, how we choose to respond to the direction that God gives us through His prophets is up to us.

Connection Between Agency and Knowledge

Agency is an interesting topic to begin with. Agency as our ability to choose between good and evil. Many people don't like to think about agency as being that black and white because life is full of so much gray and there are things that don't feel like they necessarily bring us any closer to God or Satan so how do we differentiate that. The other thing that a lot of people talk about is that how come people who supposedly sin appear to be so happy? It doesn't make sense.

Agency is choice. In order to have different choices, there has to be different options with a variety of outcomes or consequences. Knowledge is important because it helps us understand that with every choice, there are eventual outcomes associated with each of them. God and Satan both entice us to try to make choices that will turn that agency over to them. Both of which, think of our agency with our eternal destinies or long-term potential in mind. Satan lets us know that in the short-term, we can have pleasure, avoid pain, and fulfill a variety of our physical appetites. Satan is the great entertainer. He likes us to waste away our probation and limit or damn our eternal progression. His promises are very real but they are also very temporary. In the end, the promises we can have are damnation, captivity, and spiritual death so the devil hedges his bets by selling us on the short-term benefits instead.

God has let us know that long-term, his plan will provide us joy, freedom, happiness, and eternal life. The life of a disciple however is not easy. It will be painful and their will be a lot of growth. There is going to be tough times. These are all a part of the purifying and learning process we go through as we move from mortality into immortality and eternal life. But there is beauty along the way. There is happiness to be had. There is love to give and to be felt. You are not alone as you move through your probation here on Earth. That fact alone is a huge differentiation: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Satan wants you to feel alone. The more you build and create habits of sin, the more you isolate yourself. The more you follow and keep the commandments, the more that God empowers you and strengthens you. He sends you His Spirit and angels to guide us. He wants you to become like He is. He wants to show you how to have all that He has. You are His child and you have divine potential.

We always have a choice. We can act or choose not to act. We can do whatever we choose to do but in every choice, we subject our will and our very being to the consequences of our actions. It is not easy to always know how that works. In my life and being raised in my family, we were taught to remember one thing: "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." We were given our agency but it is essentially the only thing we have to give back to the Lord. In fact, it is the only thing He asks. He wants us to choose Him, to follow Him, and if we give a perfect and complete effort, He promises that through grace and the Atonement of Jesus Christ we will gain eternal life, sealed as families throughout time and all eternity. Marriage and family are nothing unless God is a partner in that relationship as well.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

"How Will You Measure Your Life?"


Clayton Christensen is an excellent writer, philosopher, or a genuinely deep thinker. I like reading his books because they are riddled with analogies and examples of the theories and principles he is trying to portray. These theories aren't so much correlating ideas or trying to prove causation but trying to see the underlying the principles. And if we are able to identify those principles and test them for anomalies, we can use them in the future to predict outcomes and behavior. A great example of a principle is that we will sacrifice our wants to fulfill our needs.

We all have an inherent sense of survival. The problem with this principle is our ability to identify what are truly wants and what are truly needs. Not all of our bills and expenses are truly needs as much as they are a consequence of a want or lifestyle choice. We have an inherent needs to be to happy, to love, and to be loved and sadly, it is highly common for people to compromise their own happiness for the sake of their careers. So how do we avoid this? We can be more intentional in our choices. We need to develop a strategy.

Strategy is the concept that once a target or goal is identified, you develop a process on how to get there. You allocate resources based on prioritizing key factors and using a continuous feedback loop to check your progress on moving you forward towards your end game. So if this describes the general concept of answering the question of how, the real question is answering what... What truly motivates us?

Motivational Theories

Corporations and businesses have tried to answer that question for years with their employees and workers. The most commonly accepted theory for a long time was the "Incentive Theory." Financial incentives align desired behavior through equations based on debits and credits. You positively or negatively reinforce behaviors through money. The problem was that it didn't work. There is only a specific threshold where this did cause behavioral changes and a point where it simply didn't matter any more. The next iteration was no longer one-dimensional but a two-dimensional concept called "Motivation Theory." The two factors are satisfaction and dissatisfaction.

Normally, we would assume that these are polar opposites because of the roots of the words linguistically however, in the scale we want to think of them as a x- and y-axis. Satisfaction is influenced by intrinsic characteristics like being challenged at work, receiving recognition or responsibility, or obtaining personal growth. Dissatisfaction is related to things like hygiene and compensation. Money isn't a constraint if you have learned to live within your means. Money is not bad but it is also not a motivator. It is simply an easy comparison tool. So back to our original question of identifying what motivates us, it goes back to the things that increase satisfaction. Managers directly influence 8-10 hours of an individual employee's daily life with a variety of opportunities. They can give them more responsibility. They can challenge them by asking them to do something where success will only be reached by learning something new.

The challenge for managers is that we clearly need to have a plan but part of that has to include planning to be flexible. We can have both a deliberate and emergent strategy. These will fight one another for attention and resources so there has to be a balance between problems and opportunities. Before moving forward, do you have enough information to answer the question: "What has to be proven for this to work?" Once answered an initial strategy defined, we have to review how successful we were in rewarding and measuring the behaviors we wanted to control. Do the interests of the employees and the overall organization match? How do we actually spend our time and money? Is our focus on short-term or long-term goals? Even the journey towards a goal can be a motivator in and of itself.

Dr. Christensen describes a time with his children when they decided as a family to construct a tree house. They picked the tree, bought the materials, and worked on it for months. They designed, cut, and built the tree house and each time there were visitors over, it was a topic of pride for the family in discussing the progress they were making. What fascinated Clayton was the fact that once it was completed, the children hardly, if ever, used the thing. The motivating factor was the journey itself in actually building something. In my family, we had a saying that described this phenomenon: "The purpose of the task was to build the boat." As a little kid, I had issues remembering, nevertheless saying, the word "relationship," so I mentally shortened it to a more exciting word, "ship." We never did end up "building a boat" but a kid can always dream, right? We did however build fantastic relationships with all of my family members because we took the time to work together often as a team.


Relationships are key in business in so many ways. I personally am passionate about understanding the value of people. If you invest in your relationships now, you have the ability to rely on them later. It is similar to a business where in the initial stages there are high startup costs where the company has to invest all its capital in original strategies. Over time, the strategy has to change and transition from being patient for growth and impatient for profits, making quick decisions as cheaply as possible, to transitioning to the opposite and trying to trying to scale quickly. The company had to be adaptable and pivot strategies, leveraging what they had built so far. Once the company is ready to scale, the why of a purchase is more important than price comparisons.

Growing companies or any person in marketing can see the importance of empathy. The value of understanding what's important to other people helps us see how we need to position ourselves with our clients. Is a combination of product and experience trump price? What is "the job to be done?" This type of interaction with customers require communication more than assumptions. The same is true of our personal relationships: Our wants and needs are going to be different than our partner's. Real commitment comes from finding someone who you want to make happy and will sacrifice for. From my own experience, sacrifice deepens our personal commitment so be careful that what or who you're sacrificing for is truly worth it.

The one relationship that should never need to be questioned in terms of worth is family. The family is a place where we are free to be ourselves and where we can make mistakes. Parents have the opportunity to teach responsibility, practice problem-solving and failure, work, and various other values. What is even more important than giving kids opportunities (which might in itself be a lost opportunity) is to challenge them. If we learn when we are ready to learn, then it is a benefit to our children to have obstacles in their path that they can overcome rather than creating the expectation that as their parents, we will clear their path for them and give them things. By all means, we should help and my parents definitely work alongside me but I wouldn't recognize or value things the same way if they came to me freely and without any real effort on my part. The terms that Dr. Christensen uses are: resources, processes, and priorities.

Measuring and Learning

Resources are physical, measurable, tangible assets. These include things like skills, talents, and knowledge. The debate on resources is whether we are born with those skills or whether they can develop "the right stuff." Morgan McCall's High Flyers believes that these better skills can be hone along our way through life from learning by experience. Instead of looking for people that could have the skills that are necessary, asking whether they have actually been in that situation. As individuals, we should look for ways to practice skills and not shy away from challenging situations. Solving problems or creating opportunities are essential skills.

Processes are how we use those resources to solve problems. One of the first things we have to do to find a solution is to understand the real problem. This requires communication, decision making, and other skills that refine the manner in which or how we ask questions, work, or solve problems. Processes play a bigger role than resources so what processes are already in place? If those processes aren't established, practice with small experiences before it becomes absolutely necessary. Celebrate success and celebrate failure. Set high goals. Fix things yourself and become self-reliant. Once we understand the "how," the next step understanding the "why."

Priorities are defined as strategic direction, major investments, or core values. Our biggest concern is making sure that we are the ones that truly define those in our lives and in our families. The "way we do things" can be described as the culture. It is the autopilot of decision-making or instinctual response. This is defined early on in any relationship, business or personal or otherwise, as weighing the response to a specific process to see if it meets minimum requirements or expectations. Once established, those responses are assumed to be okay from then on so it is important to know what kind of culture you want to create early on or even before the situation comes up and then consistently follow through and control the bad and celebrate the good behavior. The way we establish that norm is by solving challenges together repeatedly.

Progressing Towards Goals

Now that we have discussed all the parts to decision making, we can put it all together. If we can have an idea of what things will look like at a critical milestone in the future that is on our path to our ultimate goal, we have a vision of a "likeness." It is important to have these smaller goals so that we can commit to that likeness. We measure our progress on reaching our goals using metrics. So although we theoretically have a plan and a picture of what we want to accomplish and where we want to be, the target is deliberate but the pathway is always evolving.

Businesses can provide a great example. You have companies that want to be leaders in their industries and so they develop a widely successful process or product and excel in the marketplace. The issue is that many established companies see change from that point on as a choice between the status quo and new marginal costs and revenues. They are already in a good place and they don't want to lose their position as a leader. There is a clear difference between that marginal cost versus the "full cost." There is an unseen cost of not innovating and changing. There is a cost to letting others bring new things to market. Small decisions can lead to big mistakes and without realizing the "full cost" of keeping the status quo, can lead to a major player being taken out of business or their industry altogether. Do you remember Kodak, IBM computers, or Blockbuster? Stay 100% committed to your goal but accept that change is inevitable.

When it comes to each of us individually, it makes us take a moment to ask, "Who do I want to become?" Do we consider all the facets of our lives? Family? Our core values? Our professional selves? Who we are as individuals? I want to be a man dedicated to helping improve the lives of others. I want to be genuinely kind, authentically honest, forgiving and selfless. I want to be a husband, a father, and a friend. A man that doesn't just believe in God but believes God. I want to be a facilitator who empowers people and educates them. Someone who motivates people to act. I want to be a traveler or an explorer. I want to be challenged and always striving to learn new things and improve.

You can always revisit and rewrite that likeness if you find yourself not liking what you're becoming. You can have a vision of what you want to become but that is your vision and your choice and that can change as well. The point is whatever you chose to become, be fully committed and devoted to it.

Finding The Right Metric

"I realized that, constrained by the capacities of our minds, we cannot always see the big picture.... We need to aggregate to help us see the big picture. This is far from an accurate way to measure things, but this is the best that we can do.
"Because of this implicit need for aggregation, we develop a sense of hierarchy: people who preside over more people are more important than people who are leaders of fewer people. A CEO is more important than a general manager of a business unit; that general manager is more important than the director of sales; and so on.
"Now let me explain in religious terms: I realized that God, in contrast to us, does not need the tools of statisticians or accountants. So far as I know, He has no organization charts, individual person in order to comprehend completely what is going on among humankind. His only measure of achievement is the individual.
"Somehow, after all of this, I came to understand that while many of us might default to measuring our lives by summary statistics, such as number of people presided over, number of awards, or dollars accumulated in a bank, and so on, the only metrics that will truly matter to my life are the individuals whom I have been able to help, one by one, to become better people. When I have my interview with God, our conversation will focus on the individuals whose self-esteem I was able to strengthen, whose faith I was able to reinforce, and whose discomfort I was able to assuage - a doer of good, regardless of what assignment I had. These are the metrics that matter in measuring my life.
"This realization, which occurred nearly fifteen years ago, guided me every day to seek opportunities to help people in ways tailored to their individual circumstances. My happiness and my sense of worth has been immeasurably improved as a result."

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Creative Cultures of Innovation

One of the biggest buzzwords in today’s business world is innovation. We hear how different companies claim to be centers of innovation and are pushing the limits of creativity. From a marketing perspective, it is a great way to sell your company as having a culture that inspires and accepts new ways of thinking. Ed Catmull, CEO of Pixar, is quoted in saying, “Managers scour books and magazines looking for greater understanding but settle instead for adopting a new terminology, thinking that using fresh words will bring them closer to their goals… To ensure quality, excellence must be an earned word, attributed by others to us, not proclaimed by us about ourselves.” Pixar is a recognized leader in creating widely admired stories with both inventive plotlines and emotional authenticity. IDEO is another award-winning firm that focuses on human-centered design to help organizations innovate and grow. In a case study comparing these companies, we will discuss leadership approaches that support a creative culture, benefits of project limits, appropriate team dynamics, value of experimentation, and a strong mission focus.

Historical Theories

Over the last few years the debate on whether or not lone inventors are the source of breakthroughs has continued to evolve. The idea generation process goes through three basic phases: variation, selection, and retention. Data suggests that although individuals can’t typically recognize the difference between good and bad ideas as well as groups, a group that generates ideas together won’t produce as much variety. Hybrid teams that start as individuals and then come together for the last two phases have better average quality of ideas, quantity of ideas, and variance of ideas.

Team dynamics also play a factor with the greater the diversity in a team, the more creative the results. Varied backgrounds of individuals will increase the collective knowledge of the group and allow for connections to be made across divisions of individual expertise. One theory is that ideas and knowledge exist because of the individuals whom make the necessary mental connections. Resulting from this hypothesis, the importance of individual talent is key to an organization’s success. One study suggested that approximately 5% of all the employees in an organization create more than 50% of all the new ideas for a firm. In fact, who is leaving or joining the firm determines the culture which attracts, selects, and causes other people to remain in the firm. The key takeaway is that talent is the most important asset or resource a firm can acquire and cultivate.

Leadership and Culture
One traditional framework for leadership in a business is where the company hierarchy establishes a vision for the future plans and growth of the organization and then works to inspire others to execute that plan. Creative leadership is fundamentally different. Following Disney Animation’s purchase of Pixar, one of the managers came to Ed Catmull with a two-year plan that laid out exactly how she was going to manage her department moving forward. He responded by telling her she had narrowed her thinking and that chances were that they would end up somewhere other than where she had planned (see below).

“Instead of setting forth a ‘perfect’ route to achieving future goals (and sticking to it unwaveringly), I wanted [managers] to be open to readjusting along the way, to remaining flexible, to accepting that we would be making it up as we go.” Leaders have to create space or an environment for innovation, a place where people want to belong and interact. This environment is both a spatial and social atmosphere where experimentation is common. Leaders need to be aggregators of conflicting viewpoints who empower the voices of all their employees. It is better to be fuzzy and vague at the top than giving answers and solutions. You want to be able to encourage ideas from those within your organization that interact with the customer and have an environment where those ideas are tested with candid feedback from your entire team. In my conversation with Ed Catmull, he said, “Hierarchy is there but communication is separate.” Teams are created for problem-solving. The feedback they receive is to communicate ideas and identify problems but decisions come from within the team. Management’s role is to help build teams, find talent, help teams fulfill their role and help others see conflict as healthy.

Benefits of Project Limits

There are many ways that conflict is healthy for a creative culture. Unless a company is willing to attempt to do something that might fail, they aren’t pushing themselves enough. Fail early and fail often. By encouraging risk and pushing the limits, people are forced to improvise and create unexpected solutions for unexpected problems. IDEO and Pixar both empower their employees to act and solve their own problems as they find them. When Pixar and Disney combined, Ed Catmull and John Lasseter decided that Disney needed to create its own culture and they would not share resources between the two studios. Limits forced groups to find creative solutions when time was short or they were having issues rendering a particular effect for a film. Limits imply that you can’t do everything you want so you must think of smarter ways to work and think. Balance is inherently required when working within constraints.

IDEO specifically begins their design process by evaluating ideas with three overlapping constraints in mind: feasibility (what is functionally possible within the foreseeable future); viability (what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model); and desirability (what makes sense to people and for people)Design thinkers will work to bring these constraints into balance; however, not all constraints are created equal. Some projects are driven by technology, budget, or a mix of different human factors. An organization may focus on one factor or another. There isn’t a linear approach to balancing constraints but all of them should be considered during the life of a project.

“Most companies will start with the constraint of what will fit within the framework of the existing business model. Because business systems are designed for efficiency, new ideas will tend to be incremental, predictable, and all too easy for the competition to emulate…. A second approach is the one commonly taken by engineering-driven companies looking for a technological breakthrough. In this scenario teams of researchers will discover a new way of doing something and only afterward will they think about how the technology might fit into an existing business system and create value…. Relatively few technical innovations bring an immediate economic benefit that will justify the investments of time and resources they require.
IDEO has found that innovation comes from balancing these constraints through human-centered design. Focusing on one element of the triad may undermine the sustainability of the overall program.

Team Dynamics

A common best practice is to hire smarter talented people to be the source of creativity. Pixar expands this belief by saying “Give a good idea to a mediocre team and they will screw it up. Give a mediocre idea to a great team and they’ll either fix it or come up with something even better.” The secret, mentioned before when discussing leadership, is to focus on having the right chemistry with the right team than having the right idea. Teams focus on collective genius and not individual breakthroughs in an additive, evolving, and collaborative process. IDEO describes their smart teams as a team of teams. Each team member has strengths in two dimensions – a tangible and valuable expertise that is hard to acquire and the disposition for collaboration across disciplines. A smart team is an interdisciplinary team where “there is a collective ownership of ideas and everybody takes responsibility for them.” Pixar also subscribes to the value of cross-functional learning and collaboration. At Pixar, employees have classroom experiences and interactions where everyone can learn more about other roles in the company. These new situations taught them to be more comfortable making mistakes and to see new ways in which they could improve and change their processes they were teaching to each other.

The greatest learning opportunities at Pixar happen at Braintrust meetings. The sole purpose of Braintrust meetings is to focus on problem-solving with the film currently in development and not some personal agenda. Arguments, even heated ones, are always about the project. The film is under the microscope and not the director and his team. Everyone involved is seen as a peer and are encouraged to voice their opinions candidly. They talk about what is working and what isn’t. They make suggestions, provide feedback, and continue to rework and rework a character until the iterative process finally helps it find its soul. The one thing that the Braintrust does not have is the authority to make final decisions on the story. The director of the film always determines the path moving forward and does not have to follow any suggestions that are given in the meeting, regardless of who made them. Although the Braintrust is made up of individuals who are expert storytellers and have been through the process themselves, Pixar believes that any solution presented won’t be as good as the one the director and his or her creative team can come up with. It is this environment of candor and trust and a focus on ensuring that all voices are given equal weight that make Braintrust meetings what they are.

IDEO uses Post-it notes to measure the weight and value of an idea with what they call the “butterfly test.” After lots of research and observation and numerous brainstorming and prototyping sessions, a whole wall is covered with promising ideas. Then each participant is given a small stack of Post-it “ballots” to attach to ideas that they think should move forward. Not long after everyone has gone fluttering around the room, it is clear which ideas have attracted the most “butterflies.” Then begins a debate and a consensus is eventually reached. “The process is not about

democracy, it is about maximizing the capacities of teams to converge on the best solutions.” Certain approaches are important for making choices, but good brainstorming sessions create choices and is the route to innovation.

“At IDEO we have dedicated rooms for our brainstorming sessions, and the rules are literally written on the walls: Defer judgment. Encourage wild ideas. Stay focused on the topic. The most important of them, I would argue is ‘Build on the ideas of others.’… It ensures that every participant is invested in the last idea put forward and has the chance to move it along.” Design-thinking is a balance between the divergent and convergent process as well as the analytical and synthetic processes.

Converging is to drive toward a solution, while diverging is to multiply options to create choices. When we analyze complex problems, we break them apart to understand them better. The creative process of synthesis extracts and identifies meaningful patterns from the data. It helps create the narrative or the story which drives the project. “People have to believe that it is within their power (or at least the power of their team) to create new ideas, that will serve unmet needs, and that will have a positive impact.” This confidence is built on trust and trust flows both ways. IDEO builds trust between their designers and their clients by sharing the creative experience. Their team of experts sometimes consists of a small “unfocus” group of eight-to-ten-year-olds, depending on who the end customers are. The purpose is always human-centered design.


Designing for innovation moves through stages of inspiration, ideation, and implementation. With IDEO’s strong belief of thinking with their hands, design thinkers can test and refine a portfolio of ideas through series of experiments, not pilots. Testing how something looks through visualizing it in a picture, role-playing a scenario, or a prototype forces a designer to make immediate decisions on how a customer will interact with a service or use a product. The different stages of innovation can be observed as these experiments become more polished and refined. During the early stages, prototypes are quick, dirty, and cheap, with many being made in parallel with one another. The greater the investment in an idea, the more committed one becomes to it. As the process progresses, each iteration decreases in quantity and increases in quality.  IDEO designs for the entire customer experience, which they call the 4th dimension. By mapping out the sequence of the overall customer journey, they identify key emotional touchpoints, turn them into opportunities and build upon them, in sequential order, across time. They can then test if the central narrative of their designed experience is meeting the needs of the customer in a powerful way.

One of the key things they do during ideation is observation. They literally put themselves in the place of the end user. When designing for emergency rooms, they literally feign an injury, call an ambulance, and go through all the steps a patient will, so that they can notice all the details and feelings a patient would. Then they observe analogous situations like a driver going to a pit crew or weary traveler checking into a hotel. They want the higher level of acuity when nothing is familiar because nothing is routine. They want to know what to do and what not to do. They want to understand what to say and what not to say. They are going on what Pixar calls “research trips.” They are looking for authenticity in their storytelling.

The first guiding principles of Pixar was “Story is King.” This meant that nothing gets in the way of the story and how it makes people feel. Whether it was a Braintrust meeting or a Daily, the Pixar differentiator is that this mantra isn’t just said but it is believed and acted on as the main focus of every storyboarding process. Dailies make directors present incomplete work to their colleagues to get constructive midstream feedback. It is in essence the Pixar prototype. Another experimental arena to test a team’s ability is through shorts. They consider shorts – three- to six-minute films that begin a feature film – to be a justified expense as R&D where they improve technically, like rendering clothes on human characters. Pixar and IDEO excel because they experiment and with each iteration, improve with each success and each mistake.

Strong Mission Focus

Pixar and IDEO both focus on really the same thing – quality of the human experience. Pixar is the master of storytelling. The reason they are such experts is because they value learning and quality. At the end of every movie, they hold a meeting called a postmortem where they explore what didn’t work and attempt to consolidate what they learned. “Everyone was so engaged in rethinking the way we did things, so open to challenging long-held ideas and learning from the errors we made. No one was defensive.” They not only were proud of sharing what they had accomplished and teaching others who weren’t a part of the film, but they had to reflect and prepare for the discussion. They are able to prepare for future films and future problems because they are already asking the right kinds of questions.
Year of Release Year of Release

One of the key problems that Pixar was able to identify early was how success could affect their culture. This is where the concepts of “Feed the Beast” and “Ugly Babies” come from. The first concept is one where success leads to a demand for more success and a need for increased output and speed. The second idea describes how new ideas may be ungainly and poorly defined but are the opposite of established and entrenched ideas. New ideas take time to cultivate and rework until they become something truly amazing. They didn’t want schedule to drive their output, but the strength of the ideas at the front end. There is a balance to obtain that kind of quality storytelling between these two inherent forces.

IDEAO, as mentioned before, tries to understand feelings and experiences so the products and services they create meet latent needs and emotions. The mission of IDEO is to center all design on people. To measure the balance of their innovation efforts, they created the "ways to Grow" matrix.

Like Pixar, IDEO believes that repeating old plans will create incremental innovation through extending a successful brand or the next iteration of a current product. Evolutionary products come by "extending existing offerings to solve the unmet needs of current customers or adapting them to meet the needs of new customers or markets." These needs and markets are found in the tails of the normal bell curve of a company's market research. The outlying populations can teach us new things abut creativity from their passion, their knowledge, or simply the extremity of their circumstances. This leads to revolutionary innovation where you are creating new markets. IDEO's philosophy is that "a company's best defense is to diversify its portfolio by investing across all four quadrants of the innovation matrix."


Although Pixar and IDEO come from very different industries, they are examples that you can't have "too much" talent in terms of creativity and innovation if it's part of the company culture. Innovation is messy and there needs to be a space and an environment where conflicting viewpoints can be shared and ideas built. Interdisciplinary teams need candid communication and focused on problem-solving. Innovation is a process with mistakes and because it is new, but there is also trust that the teams involved will be successful in finding solutions for those problems. Innovation requires a balance of the limits and pressures from success. Lastly, any product requires a process or service for it to be used and that user experience should be designed (as the quality product or service itself) with the needs and emotions of the customer in mind. Creativity and innovation are not talents only for the select few but they are results from skills we can all develop and contribute, in the right environment and as part of the right kind of team.