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07 Small Group_team Paper

07 Small Group_team Paper

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Published by: owenshill on Jan 31, 2012
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 Running head: Pixar and InnovationPixar: Innovation through Teams andCreative Problem SolvingBill Gary Jr, Adrienne Hartman and David Owens-HillQueens University of CharlotteSpring 2011
 When Steve Jobs purchased the company that would become Pixar, Inc.from George Lucas in 1986, the business plan was to produce high-quality imaging computers and rendering systems for use in medicine, government andengineering. Sales failed to take off, however, so Pixar’s computer scientistsdecided to highlight their machines’ capabilities by creating groundbreakingcomputer graphics for television commercials. The demand for those high-quality imaging systems never took off but Pixar’s computer graphic expertise soon became one of the hottest commodities in marketing and entertainment. To date,Pixar has produced eleven films, which have grossed a total of over $6.6 billionand won eleven Academy Awards. (Capodagli & Jackson, 2010) When creating a film–animated or otherwise–most of today’s Hollywoodfirms follow the same path: track down a story idea, attract a mix of acting andtechnical talent, then backfill the rest of the production team with an army of freelance workers (Schumpeter blog, 2010; Lehrer, 2010). The resultingproduction teams are ad hoc and never achieve true synergy. Conversely, Pixarembraces a different ethos, one that blends the old studio system of Hollywood with modern management techniques. Pixar’s technical talent works completely in-house, guiding each movie through from conception to release. Project teamscircle around one another, eyes trained on the goal of producing the next blockbuster, but are intimate groups working through a systems approach.
The Brain Trust
Decision making at Pixar is collaborative and team-oriented. The eightsenior animators form a group, nicknamed “the Brain Trust”, which applies
oversight of all employees and operations. Teamwork is essential to creatively solving problems within the organization, and frequent, regular work critiquescultivate an air of open and honest communication. Pete Docter, director of Pixar’s 2001 film
 Monsters Inc
, explains the review process for another Pixar filmhe directed, 2009’s
“The way we work at Pixar is that we have our team that’smaking the film, and we get together about every four months and show it to [the brain trust]” (Capodagli & Jackson, 2010, p. 42)This small team–only eight people in a sea of hundreds of über-talentedemployees–provides feedback that drives the direction of each feature lengthfilm, but the decisions are ultimately made by an empowered staff of artists. EdCatmull, the president of Pixar, explained in an interview after receiving theTechnical Academy Award that one has to “[t]rust the artists. Creative peopleneed to drive the innovation, not the technical people or management. Given thishigh level of trust, the creative workforce works hard to include everyone else intheir decision-making, and deliver a high quality product.” (Computer History Museum, 2005)The “Brain Trust” provides direction to the team of technical directors foreach film. TDs, as they are known in the business, are responsible for taking thestill artwork of animators and breathing life into flat celluloid. They add theshading, the movement, the scenery around the characters, the lighting andultimately make everything move. Though the scale, scope and quality of thefinished product may belie it, each Pixar film carries only eight to twenty technical directors who ultimately set the tone and direction of the film.

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