Pixar Animation: Model for Nonprofit Collaboration

Nonprofit leaders know that collaboration can be beneficial. When they decide to form a cooperative working relationship with another organization (or other organizations), they can discover extraordinary innovations to conquer shared challenges.

Combining resources or facilities can produce more efficient service and generate much greater impact.

However, just because collaboration can be mutually beneficial, that doesn’t mean implementing a course of action is easy. Leaders need the how-to to be successful.

The creative process that produced the hit movies Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Inside Out offers lessons that can help nonprofits seeking to create collaborative relationships.

Ed Catmull is a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation.

In his book Creativity, Inc., Catmull reveals that Pixar films are produced through the creative efforts of hundreds of movie-making professionals.

Numerous groups must work together to create a movie project that meets both Pixar’s high standards and box office expectations.

According to Catmull, getting to a finished product revolves around idea sharing and joint problem solving.

Catmull credits the company’s success to teamwork that channels naturally occurring creative conflict in a positive direction.

He shares eight essential keys to building Pixar’s successful culture of collaboration:

  • Establish a safe environment for exchange of ideas so that fear of failure or rejection is not an issue.
  • Don’t take the opinions of others as a personal attack. And conversely, don’t make sharing an opinion a personal attack.
  • Be willing to give up control. Collaboration participants must accept input from others and be willing to let go of practices that don’t work.
  • Don’t succumb to feelings of winning and losing. Give-and-take interaction should produce balanced solutions.
  • Be ready to listen, and prepared to hear the truth and viewpoints that challenge the status quo.
  • Know the difference between criticism and constructive criticism. One tears apart and the other builds.
  • Welcome disagreement as an opportunity to test ideas so the best concepts survive.
  • Schedule progress reports for review and frank evaluation.

Nonprofits seeking to undertake a collaborative venture, such as a strategic alliance or a merger, can benefit from these valuable insights. In addition, they might consider the use of an outside facilitator to keep initial discussions among new partners on track.

The nonprofit sector faces numerous challenges. Find innovative collaborative solutions by incorporating the eight keys of positive interaction that Ed Catmull considers pivotal in Pixar’s success.

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