How can you separate your “ego” from your “ideas?” Pixar may have an answer.

I had a great conversation today with one of our agency leaders about what it takes to build a culture of collaboration. We were discussing how people often get defensive about their ideas and have a difficult time hearing others’ perspectives. They take the criticism as a personal attack (ego) instead of a critique of their idea. Granted, some people when providing feedback can be brutally honest and their intentions can be misconstrued. Yet great cultures are ones that value candid discussions and honest feedback. Ones where team members push each other to be better. And ones where taking the risk to share new ideas is encouraged not stifled. Pixar came up as an example of a company that gets this.

The Guardian recently wrote about the Pixar culture and had this to say.

Ask any Pixar employee and they’ll refute the suggestion that they can’t make bad films. “We make bad films all the time,” counters Bobby Podesta, one of Toy Story 3’s supervising animators, who has been at Pixar since 1997. “Almost every film of ours has been a horrible film at some point, but we’re very good about being honest with each other and saying, ‘This is horrible. Here are some ways to make it better.'”

The company’s brutal self-review process demands that thin-skinned animators need not apply, says fellow supervising animator Mike Venturini. “Through the interview process, we’ll decide if [prospective employees] are fit for the rigours of working at Pixar. But it takes time for animators that have worked at other studios to let their guard down and understand that when they’re given feedback it’s done in a non-judgmental, supportive way.”

Great marketing organizations must encourage those who are dissatisfied with the status quo to take the initiative to do something about it. Without marketers who can generate new ideas companies will either miss opportunities or fail to evolving in changing markets. And marketers must display the attribute of courage if they are going to maximize their contributions to their organizations.

Have you been a part of an organization that did this well? What was it like and what behaviors made such a culture possible?