An intriguing short article in the Economist from weeks ago, that I just read in what will surely be a failed attempt to *catch-up on back issues. In this one the article looks briefly at some of the things that Pixar does to maintain its 11-0 record of producing top-notch creative entertainment. A few points are worth repeating from the article.
* Creative reviews, even for stuff you’re not working on. Oftentimes a company gets to a size in which no one knows everything that is going on elsewhere, which results in overlap, duplication, inefficiencies and just plain bad organizational structures. Even at 1,200 people, evidently Pixar overcomes this by having people from everywhere come together and share what they are working on. ((“Employees show unfinished work to one another in daily meetings, so get used to giving and receiving constructive criticism.”))
* People before ideas. Creative individuals trump project ideas. Bring in creative talent and allow the ideas to come from that. ((“Most Hollywood studios start by hunting down promising ideas and then hire creative teams to turn them into films. The projects dictate whom they hire. Pixar starts by bringing in creative people and then encourages them to generate ideas.”))
This is a tricky one, but I think many technology heavy companies — if I can awkwardly translate a film production company from a gadget/software/network-services/internet production company — start with a doorknob and then try to find the family with a house and convince them to put this doorknob on the front door without understanding the life/practices/rituals of the people in the house. Perhaps curious, novel, patentable ideas without a clue as to how it might make sense to normal humans.
* Constructive post-mortems on projects. I think this is crucial. The time to consider what was done and what went right and wrong is a requirement if a team/company/studio is to learn from what it spent so much time and energy to create. ((“Pixar also obliges its teams to conduct formal post mortems once their films are complete…Pixar demands that each review identify at least five things that did not go well in the film, as well as five that did.”))
The article concludes with a warning and a reminder that there are no formulas for creative success — just a few ingredients, some luck and the benefits of leadership that is mindful that creativity is not something you can plan for.
“Managing creativity involves a series of difficult balancing acts: giving people the freedom to come up with new ideas but making sure that they operate within an overall structure, creating a powerful corporate culture but making sure that it is not too stifling. Few organisations can get this balancing act right in the long term—particularly as the formula can change over time.”
Continue reading Creative Corporate Cultures
The book that resulted from the ‘inter_multi_trans_actions: emerging trends in post-disciplinary creative practice’ symposium at Napier University in Edinburgh, Scotland on Thursday 26 June, 2008 is nearing publication.
The book ‘Digital Blur: Creative Practice at the Boundaries of Architecture, Design and Art’ edited by Paul Rodgers and Michael Smyth will now be published by Libri Publishing following Middlesex University’s decision to close Middlesex University Press.
According to Amazon the book is due on 31 March, 2010.
The book contains an essay by John Marshall and myself that is preambled thus:
Marshall and Bleecker, in their essay, propose the term ‘undisciplinary’ for the type of work prevalent in this book. That is, creative practice which straddles ground and relationships between art, architecture, design and technology and where different idioms of distinct and disciplinary practices can be brought together. This is clearly evident in the processes and projects of the practitioners’ work here. Marshall and Bleecker view these kinds of projects and experiences as beyond disciplinary practice resulting in a multitude of disciplines ‘engaging in a pile-up, a knot of jumbled ideas and perspectives.’ To Marshall and Bleecker, ‘undisciplinarity is as much a way of doing work as it is a departure from ways of doing work.’ They claim it is a way of working and an approach to creating and circulating culture that can go its own way, without worrying about working outside of what histories-of-disciplines say is ‘proper’ work. In other words, it is ‘undisciplined’. In this culture of practice, they continue, one cannot be wrong, nor have practice elders tell you how to do what you want to do and this is a good thing because it means new knowledge is created all at once rather than incremental contributions made to a body of existing knowledge. These new ways of working make necessary new practices, new unexpected processes and projects come to be, almost by definition. This is important because we need more playful and habitable worlds that the old forms of knowledge production are ill-equipped to produce. For Marshall and Bleecker, it is an epistemological shift that offers new ways of fixing the problems the old disciplinary and extra-disciplinary practices created in the first place. The creative practitioners contained within the pages of this book clearly meet the ‘undisciplinary’ criteria suggested by Marshall and Bleecker in that they certainly do not need to be told how or what to do; they do not adhere to conventional disciplinary boundaries nor do they pay heed to procedural steps and rules. However, they know what’s good, and what’s bad and they instinctively know what the boundaries are and where the limits of the disciplines lie.
(Via Designed Objects.)
Continue reading Undisciplinarity (essay in book)