When it comes to creativity, Pixar tops everyone's list. Few can dispute their success with films like Toy Story, The Incredibles, and Up, which have broken the old Disney storytelling mold of singing princes and princesses in fairy tale villages. Pixar's success has influenced corporate teamwork, culture, and creative processes, but if you want to know what really inspires their creativity you need to understand how they give team feedback.
In a 2016 talk, "Inspiring Creativity in the Workplace," Matthew Luhn shared his insights into how Pixar inspires creativity, based on his 20 years as a story artist and animator working on 10 Pixar films like Cars, Monsters, Inc., Ratatouille, and Finding Nemo. To inspire a creative environment like Pixar, Luhn shared 7 steps to giving great feedback.
Use a Braintrust to inspire creative ideas
At Pixar, Matthew Luhn shared how they formed a built-in team of directors, writers, and storytellers to help develop great ideas while still keeping one another in check. The members of the Braintrust would meet regularly to share their films and give feedback on how their films were taking shape. For your own company, form a braintrust of vested participants and meet regularly to give feedback on progress.
Deliver feedback with candor, honesty, and mutual respect
It's also important how you deliver and take feedback when inspiring creativity. You have to remember that you are delivering feedback to your friends and you want them to succeed, and vice versa. Luhn said, "When you're giving honest feedback with candor and respect it's going to help [the whole company]." The idea is that the team is in it together and that a successful project for the company will help everyone.
Be balanced in your comments
Luhn pointed out, that balance in your feedback is taking into consideration at what stage of production the project is at, and what are the time constraints and available technology you have to work with. So when giving feedback to your colleagues always balance what is possible to be done at your company with the time you have to do it in.
Time is important when working on teams. Luhn explained that brevity is necessary in order to maintain the pace of creativity, energy, and flow on a project. So be clear and concise in your comments.
Give feedback in a timely manner
Just as it is important to be brief, you must also give feedback immediately so it can still be useful. Luhn explained, "If you wait too long to give your notes, [the group has] already moved on. So you want to make sure you give your notes in a timely manner."
Ask lots of questions
Asking the right questions is also important to spark ideas. At Pixar, Luhn said they created an environment in the Braintrust where "it's okay to ask questions, where you are allowed to poke holes in ideas, and it's ok to fail. From entertainment to technology, the great creators that have existed are the ones that have taken chances and questioned the way things are."
Say 'Yes and'
Finally, to keep the creative ideas flowing it's important to maintain a positive tone. Luhn explained, "There's nothing that kills the energy and creativity in a room quicker than somebody saying 'no.'" Rather than disagreeing, say "yes" to a suggestion and build on it to keep the creativity going. At Pixar, Luhn added, "We leave our egos at the door, and inspire one another to create the best ideas and stories possible."