There's a reason Pixar keeps producing blockbuster films. Its over-the-top animation and charming stories appeal to all ages. Its success can in large part be attributed to what Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar Animation Studios, has said: “Creativity must be present at every level of every artistic and technical part of the organization.” But how does an organization keep creativity thriving at every level day in and day out? One possible answer: allow individuals the freedom to contribute in their own way, within boundaries.
Giving individuals the ability to be entrepreneurial can be easier said than done. It can lead to a mess if staffers don't feel driven, inspired, and yes, even managed. This is the core of so many great corporate cultures. Pixar is known for its distinctive and successful “peer culture,” which is vital to unlocking creativity by enabling people at all levels to support one another with everyone equally committed to great results.
Smart companies understand that great culture attracts great people, and great people drive great performance. As PR pros, we see this relationship in action through many of our clients as we help them strengthen and leverage their own cultures. We can learn from clients and foster that same sensibility within our firms. Here are some thoughts on how to inspire creative work by every individual:
• Throw away divisions. With everyone being asked to do more with less, working across groups, geographies, and practice areas is now vital. Best cases for collaboration should be shared across the organization, even externally when appropriate. Individuals should also be incentivized to work together toward a greater common good.
• Recognize all contributions. Giving all staffers roles in the organization where they can contribute and nurturing dialogue and a dynamic exchange of ideas are key to empowering all employees.
• Keep learning. A culture that supports professional growth at all levels supports excellence. One of my clients encourages its employees of all ranks, locations, and business units to connect online to share experiences and ideas for the company's growth.
Driving performance means valuing the individual. Doing so instills trust and loyalty. This breeds energy and passion, which unlocks creativity, thereby helping build great culture and results.
Rachel Spielman is EVP and head of Ruder Finn's corporate communications group.