Why Do Successful Organizations Do Stupid Things?

By Tom Harvey (sltrib.com, 24 Apr 2017)

“Why is it that companies at the top of their game do stupid things?” Ed Catmull, animation pioneer and co-founder of Pixar, wondered.

Ed Catmull, Co-founder of Pixar

Even in his own company, things didn’t always go well — despite “Toy Story’s” phenomenal run after its 1995 release.

Catmull said he and other managers were shocked to find that they didn’t see divisions within the company during the making of “Toy Story.” Production managers felt marginalized and disrespected by the creative teams — and they were.

His dream of making the first feature-length animated movie realized, Catmull shifted his passion to understanding why companies made bad decisions after initial successes and trying to figure out how he could help nurture and sustain creativity at Pixar.

For him, it’s less about bosses managing creativity than getting out of the way.

That involves removing hierarchy from meetings and communication.

“It isn’t easy,” Catmull said. “You have to pay continual attention to it.”

“Ed’s story is clear,” Josh James [one Utah’s most successful tech entrepreneurs], said in an email. “While data and technology are important, success really comes down to the people in your organization. His story challenges you to think if you, as a leader, are creating the right environment to get the best out of all the people on your teams.”

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