The cofounder of the company that created the world’s first computer-animated feature film lays out a management philosophy for keeping Pixar innovative.
Ed Catmullhas been at the forefront of the digital revolution since its early days. The president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios began studying computer science at the University of Utah in 1965. In 1972, he created a four-minute film of computer-generated animation that represented the state of the art at the time.
In his 2014 book, Creativity, Inc., Catmull chronicled the story of Pixar—from its early days, when Steve Jobs invested $10 million to spin it off from Lucasfilm, in 1986; to its release of the groundbreaking Toy Stor y, in 1995; and its acquisition by the Walt Disney Company, for $7.4 billion, in 2006. But even more, he described the thrill and the challenge of stimulating creativity while keeping up with the breakneck pace of the digital age.
Catmull recently sat down with McKinsey’s Allen Webb and Stanford University professors Hayagreeva Rao and Robert Sutton for a far-ranging discussion that picked up where Creativity, Inc. left off. They delved deeply into Catmull’s rules for embracing the messiness that often accompanies great creative output, sending subtle signals, taking smart risks, experimenting to stay ahead of uncertainty, counteracting fear, and taking charge in a new environment—as Catmull did when he became the president of Disney A nimation Studios.