Leading Edge

Pixar Animation Studios encourages imagination, inventiveness, and collaboration. What can CUs learn from its approach?

October 1, 2010

The Pixar Way

The “Toy Story” series, “Cars,” and “Finding Nemo” all represent the success and genius of Pixar Animation Studios.

Bill Capodagli, author of “Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons From the World’s Most Creative Corporate Playground,” researched how Pixar encourages imagination, inventiveness, and collaboration. Credit Union Magazine asked Capodagli how the company’s approach might apply to credit unions.

CU Mag: What’s Pixar’s approach to managing employees?

Capodagli: It’s based on a collaborative effort. Pixar goes to great lengths to make sure employees are a group of creative people who are, first and foremost, collaborative teammates.

That means they try to accomplish a common goal based on a lot of different skills. They’re constantly reviewing.

One thing many creative types there had to get used to was that Pixar has a daily review of all their work. It’s not about saying something is wrong or bad. It’s just an open area where everyone can comment and help each other.

To do that you need to have a safe haven where people can tell the truth and express their ideas.

CU Mag: How can credit unions create a safe haven for innovation?

Capodagli: It starts with leadership. Leaders must realize they can’t be everywhere all the time, and they don’t have all the answers.

One co-founder of Pixar said it’s about people functioning as a team and being [empowered] to make decisions. That’s more important than great ideas coming down from top management.

CU Mag: How does Pixar motivate employees to be creative?

Capodagli: The whole premise of our book is that Pixar is this corporate playground. When you go there, you may see people playing foosball or swimming in an Olympic-sized pool.

It has created an atmosphere where work is fun—working hard and playing hard. That’s the greatest motivator.

CU Mag: How can an organization encourage risk-taking, especially during these poor economic times?

Capodagli: As children, we learn by exploration and discovery. We try something, fail, and try again. Organizations need to do that. They need to learn to fail forward fast rather than being risk-averse during these tough times.


Where’s the Money Coming From?

More insight into members’ struggles during the recession: Many are risking their own long-term financial security and stretching themselves even further to help one another get by.

The 2010 MetLife Study of the American Dream reveals an emerging person-to-person financial system between family members who turn to each other for financial support. It’s both a silver lining and a financial burden at the same time, the survey reports. For example, in the past year, nearly half of Americans (47%) say they’ve given money to family members so they can pay their bills, and 35% have had a family member give them money.

Most of those who’ve received money from a family member are in dire straits. Six of 10 (61%) who’ve received money are unlikely to afford their financial obligations for more than a month. More than half (54%) of those who’ve received financial assistance from their families have credit card debt.

Surprisingly, many of those who have given money to a family member are struggling financially themselves. “Family givers” are more likely to have credit card debt, and 47% could meet their financial obligations for only one month if they were to lose their jobs.