Mavericks at Work: Why the most original minds in business win by Bill Taylor and Polly LaBarre is an interesting read on how upstarts and iconoclasts shake up the established norms. Guy Kawasaki, in his book, Reality Check, has devoted an entire chapter (all 4 four pages in a book where each chapter averages 2 pages per chapter!).
We all know how Reed Hastings drove Blockbuster to the ground through Netflix and how people like Jeff Bezos have made life difficult for once high-flying retailers. But my real interest in the topic is to find out if any of these mavericks based their innovation on the ability of their companies to learn better than its competitors. And interestingly, Pixar stood out. Here is an extract from Reality Check.
Steve Jobs is without a doubt a maverick who forever changed the way we relate to computers and animated films. Jobs bought Pixar for $10 million and sold it to Disney for $7.4 billion, but he was even smarter to enlist Ed Catmull and John Lasseter to run the place.
Business pundits have modeled the corporation of the future on the Hollywood model for work: an ad hoc collection of actors, producers, and technicians coming together around a script and financing, and then disbanding when the film is finished. The problem with that model is that it allows for maximum flexibility and minimum loyalty. What’s more, it’s usually just when the film wraps that people involved really figure out how to work together.
Turn the model on its head and you get Pixar’s version of the tight way to make movies: a tight-knit company of long-term collaborators who stick together, learn from one another, and strive to improve with every production. How do you do art as a team sport? This question lies at the heart of Pixar’s design for work, and the answers include turning the workplace into a canvas for the work and putting everyone in the organization in a position to learn together.