Think Like a Director

Pixar is obsessed with only one quality measurement for every film:

It begins and ends around the story.

Bill Capodagli and Lynn Jackson, writing in Innovate the Pixar Way, want leaders to think of their team or organization as if they were the director of a Broadway play. It’s time to sit in the director’s chair and visualize the major pieces of the production and direction of the play – the story, setting, roles, and backstage processes.

Begin with the Story

What’s your dream? What story are you trying to tell? It doesn’t matter if you are creating the next Pixar animated feature film, designing a new appliance, opening a new store, or planning a new ministry to reach people – you have to bring your vision, your story, your dream to life in an exciting and exhilarating way. Craft your story in a way that will ignite the creative energies of your team and mage magical, dream-come-true moments for your “customers.”

Instead of “meeting customer expectations,” start fulfilling their dreams. Craft the experience in terms of:

  • 3-dimensional Technicolor images
  • Dreams fulfilled
  • Magical moments
  • Doing the impossible
  • Story, plot, theme
  • Unique, memorable, and engaging
  • Passionate belief in values

Build the Set

If you were a director, you would have a set designer whose job it is to make sure the visual journey of the audience complements the overall story. Like Walt Disney, Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter is fanatical about details:

Every detail has to be thought out, designed, modeled, shaded, placed, and lit…It takes four years to make one of these films and there are no excuses after the movie’s done – it’s going to be that way forever.

The “virtual set” in your organization is immense and includes everything from the parking lot, buildings, and program to the website, graphic displays, and language used. The setting is part of the creative experience – don’t overlook or shortchange it.

Recruit the Cast

As the director of a play or movie you would search the acting community to identify and cast the perfect actor for each role, selecting someone who will make the role come to life, someone who is dynamic, exciting, exuberant, interesting, and believable. Why is it that in the organizational world we tend to look for the candidates who have the best pedigrees, not for the ones who are interesting or diverse or have ideas that might be considered eccentric?

Colorful, unique, memorable, magical moments will seldom be created by boring, myopic, unimaginable people.

Design the Backstage Processes

Imagine it is opening night of your Broadway play. You have an engaging, heartfelt, emotional story. You have an award-winning set designer and have assembled an ensemble of some of the best actors in the industry. You have rehearsed and rehearsed. Fantastic reviews will be forthcoming – or will they?

What if duplicate tickets were sold, the curtain gets stuck halfway up, and the main stage lighting goes out during Act 3? What could have been a colossal hit might struggle to stay open.

Getting your “backstage” support and “onstage” show to all work and play well together can be just as important to the success of your organization as unleashing the creative energies within each department.

Remove the barriers between “backstage” processes and the “onstage” show, and watch the magic happen.

Is it time to stop cutting and pasting your old and frankly boring service and think like a director?

Tomorrow: A New Way to Play “Follow the Leader”