Notes From This Year’s GLS (part 2)

pixar

The second session of the GLS consisted of an interview with Pixar’s big cheese, Ed Catmull. In some ways I found this session the most stimulating and thought-provoking. He talked through the usual stuff of team morale, and long-term culture building, but three things in particular got me thinking:

  1. Outside work/research has inside benefits. We sometimes think that outside commitments take us away from what needs to be done back at the ranch (which is obviously true). What we don’t always consider is the ways in which outside work can benefit the work we’re doing at home. New environments, new ways of doing things, new articles, ideas, networks can all have a positive impact on our own situation, and so we should pro-actively encourage people to be seeing and doing in other contexts, not simply because it’s good for the wider kingdom, but because our own people stand to gain from it.
  2. Silent retreats are crucial. I don’t think he means you’re not allowed to make any noise at all. I think he rather means a retreat on your own, as opposed to with your team. He described it as time to ‘sort out the chattering in your head,’ which, though it may make him sound crazy, many busy people can understand! Get off the treadmill, step back, gain a sense of perspective and priorities again. It’s about taking care of your soul, which, again, ultimately has a positive impact on your health, family, work etc etc.
  3. Your physical work environment matters. He describes how he arrived at Disney to find low grade workers in poorly maintained open plan cubicles, while execs were on the upper floor in plush offices. He worked out pretty fast that physical barriers (walls, doors) and distance also created social and emotional barriers and distance. And so he rearranged the work space into something more conducive to collaborative creativity.

I guess the reason I found these ideas so stimulating is because I haven’t really given them much thought. I do a bit of outside stuff, but not necessarily all that strategically; I often consider myself far too busy to get away on my own; and I work at home in my study, and the rest of the staff work elsewhere – that’s just how it’s always been, right!? I don’t pretend to have any answers on this, but I’m definitely convicted that it’s something I need to give some more considered thought to.

Any thoughts or wisdom out there on this stuff???

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