Pixar’s Peer Driven Problem Solving Process

“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”

Walt Disney

When an organization produces one exceptional product after another, you need to take notice of what they are doing to foster such exceptional results.  With an unbroken string of blockbuster releases beginning in 1995 with Toy Story, Pixar is an example of a company that produces exceptional results through a peer-driven creative problem solving process that offers many examples that we can all apply.  The Harvard Business Review article How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity by Ed Catmull is more about how to derive optimal performance from every person than how to get people to be creative – though creativity is certainly a component.

Consider the following ideas for your company:

  1. Build strong cross-functional teams – Select people that are great team members and give them a clear vision with the information and freedom they need to succeed.
  2. Open up communication – Allow problem solving to flow across departments without forcing it thorough “proper channels” even if it means you may get surprised in a meeting
  3. Establish a culture of peers – This means people at all levels helping each other produce their best work.  Feedback is honest and direct and can come from anywhere.
  4. Create a learning environment – Recognize that we are all learning, that mistakes will happen and share work “in progress” so that adjustments can be made before it’s too late.
  5. Conduct project post-mortems – Post-mortems can be painful and, therefore, often only receive cursory treatment if done at all.  Great lessons can be learned here to make teams better.

The Pixar article provides a behind the scenes look at the movie-making process of one of the most successful young companies in the business.  Throughout the article I found myself grabbing my highlighter because the topic is fascinating and there are so many great insights in managing and leading people.  You can find the article here.

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