Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Google & Pixar: 2 Cases of Culture Creation in Innovation Centered Businesses

Culture is a crucial aspect of any business. In reality, distinct and unique cultures of successful businesses can pass the limits of an organization to the industry or even to the level of setting new global business and non-business cultures. Culture is not really the business’s perfume; it’s the essence and the core. It determines who should be running the company, what products or services the company will offer, how it will be offered and what should customers expect from the business.
Apple inc. has a distinct culture that you’ll get a glimpse of in whatever interaction you do with the brand, its philosophies or any of its products or services. It takes much to create a distinct culture and it takes a lot more to get it spread, blended and overflowing to the entire industry or business world. In this short article, we’ll explore how innovation-centered businesses like Google and Pixar created, developed and multiplied their culture.

The Culture Theme
Coming from an academic background, Google’s founders didn’t know the difference between university and business. Regardless of this being the truth or Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, was just joking, Google has adopted very fundamental concepts and practices that simulated the university and its culture. “Everything was being debated as if new”, Eric Schmidt said in description of his astonishment of how decisions are taken in the early days of Google. The “everything important has to be debated” rule, remains a very fundamental aspect of Google’s decision-making process until today. Eric describes one of his 2 main responsibilities as a CEO, in the empowered model of Google, as having to make sure that everything important is debated, and the second as putting pressure to make this happen quickly as business is speed.
Edwin Catmull, the president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios, defines Pixar’s culture theme as of a community. This community culture contributed to many of Pixar’s successful productions and led to radical management innovations in the movie industry. The community culture of Pixar requires Pixar to have all of the teams and creatives as fulltime employees. All of Pixar’s stories, worlds, characters..etc are created internally. The team members are involved on a daily basis and throughout the project which may take 4-5 years of work. ” I know what I’m describing is the antithesis of the free-agency practices that prevail in the movie industry, but that’s the point: I believe that community matters” says Catmull.

The Culture Emerges

Cultures are not processes that you can import and apply right away. The human aspects of cultures require them growing in their environments. This makes the culture very much tied to the leadership that enforces it. Google’s culture seeds were available there from day one and it emerged and got clearer overtime. When we say that cultures emerge, this doesn’t mean that a culture is not transferable.
In certain stages cultures could be transferred and work as in the case of the merger of Pixar with Walt Disney company. Pixar’s team started to transfer the culture to Disney animations studios.

Shared Vision
The shared vision is one of the aspects that hold teams together. It helps them know the direction and figure it out on their own when needed. Shared vision around innovation is a connector that holds the souls of the Google team together. Pixar’s team shared vision of detail-oriented excellence and uncertainty is a driving force.

More posts in this series:
Google & Pixar: 2 Cases of Culture Creation in Innovation-Centered Businesses (2)
Google & Pixar: 2 Cases of Culture Creation in Innovation Centered Businesses (3)

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