Collective genius at Pixar and Chromatik Premium

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Greg Brandeau has always focused on increasing the innovation capacity of his teams, first at Pixar and now at Chromatik. Business Digest presents his advice on how to develop the collective genius of your company.

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Providing support rather than direction
“If people feel passionate about the company’s purpose, and you don’t draw boxes around them, they will start taking responsibility in all sorts of ways. Not because you tell them to, but because they feel empowered to contribute,” explains Greg Brandeau. Such responsibility carries significant personal risk for employees, which is why Greg tries to provide as much support as possible. “I build psychological safety by letting my teams know that I have their back in the event that anything goes wrong and promise never to let them do anything so bad that it will hurt their careers or the company.”

Building a sense of community to manage difference
Greg notes that diversity of thought is crucial to both Pixar and Chromatik’s ability to innovate. At the same time, he says, having people who think very differently from one another on the same team creates conflict, which is why culture and a sense of community are so important. “Innovation is a team sport, and if you are doing it well, you are having intensely heated debates on a regular basis. For that to work, you have to believe that others have your success at heart,” he says. “Building a strong sense of community and shared purpose in my teams allows me to integrate people who think very differently onto the same teams.


Based on Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation by Linda A. Hill, Greg Brandeau, Emily Truelove, and Kent Lineback (Harvard Business Review Press, June 2014), and the interview with Greg Brandeau, former senior vice president of technology at Pixar Animation Studios, current COO, Chromatik.

Greg Brandeau was president and COO of MakerMedia. Previously, he served as the chief technology officer for The Walt Disney Studios and senior vice president of technology for Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. Currently, Greg Brandeau is an author, speaker, board member, management consultant and the COO of Chromatik. He earned BS and MS degrees in electrical engineering from MIT and an MBA from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University.