Summary of Keep Your Crises Small

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Co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, Ed Catmull, spoke about his company at the Stanford Business School. His insightful informal talk covers how Pixar avoided the pitfalls that undermined its competitors. From leveling communication across artistic, technical and managerial roles, to supporting a culture of honesty when hashing out problems, Catmull explains that Pixar exemplifies how companies can ensure their continued success. In its infancy, between A Bug’s Life and Toy Story II, his company faced internal crises it solved by realizing that a team of good people is worth more than a “good idea.”

About the Speaker

Ed Catmull was president of Pixar Animation Studios when he gave this talk in 2007. He retired in 2018.



If you are blind to obvious problems, you’ll probably fail.

Companies fail when they don’t see the obvious,” Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios told his audience at Stanford Business School. He described how his company worked to identify and even celebrate problems to ensure that it didn’t meet the fate of failed firms such as Silicon Graphics or Evans & Sutherland.

Catmull asked his audience two questions: how companies can avoid failing and whether it’s more important to bring in great people or to have great ideas. In 1991, Pixar was a young company when it worked with Disney to create Toy Story. Pixar compensated its artistic and technical staff members equally, and they were honest with one another out of necessity. This allowed them to discuss and tackle problems.

Pixar’s process involved daily reviews of incomplete...

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