Pixar’s HR Strategy

16 February 2009 at 11:21 pm 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

Mostly, it’s about hiring ultra-nerds with good communication skills. To wit: You want people who have become exceptional at a tiny discipline, no matter how obscure or dorky, since it’s that compulsion to truly master something that predicts how they’ll handle a new task. (Wannabe Pixar employees: Don’t bury your unicycle or juggling skills on your resume.) Another idea is looking for people who have failed and overcome — as [HR chief Randy] Nelson puts it, “The core skill of innovators is error recovery not failure avoidance,” which is key if you’re asking someone to solve a never-before-solved problem. But perhaps the squishiest trait is the ability to make others around you better, through communication and camaraderie.

From Kottke via Fast Company. See also “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity” from last September’s HBR.

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Management Theory, Strategic Management.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dick Langlois  |  18 February 2009 at 10:35 am

    In some fields, the “ability to make others better” is less squishy. The New York Times Magazine this past week has a marvelous story by Michael Lewis — the author of Moneyball — on Shane Battier of the Rockets, who looks bad in the box score but always “makes his team better, often much better, and his opponents worse, often much worse.” The Houston front office is apparently well aware of this and tries to measure the effect. One statistic is the counterfactual score differential when he is on the court versus when he is not. Battier’s number was +10 earlier this year and +6 lifetime,which puts him in the same class as the likes of Kevin Garnett. (In his best season, Steve Nash was +14.5.)

    Needless to say, it wouldn’t be as easy for Pixar to measure this sort of thing.

  • 2. Michael E. Marotta  |  20 February 2009 at 4:23 pm

    We grow too soon old and too late smart. — Pennsylvania Dutch witticism.

    “You want people who have become exceptional at a tiny discipline … to truly master something … ”

    I followed Robert Heinlein’s advice that the generalist more easily adapts to new opportunities. Tied to that is the survival power of neoteny, the retention into adulthood of immature characteristics, again, allowing for adaptation. I still adhere to that. However, along the way, I have picked up some specializations. I always apologized a bit for them — numismatics, in particular. Now, however, I free to come ouf of the closet, so to speak.

    One validation of that — risky as specialization is, specialists earn more because they can charge more.

    “Don’t bury your unicycle or juggling skills on your resume.”

    During the last Ice Age, I got the same advice from a successful mammoth hunter. Speaking of his job at Microsoft and encouraging me to apply, he said, “If you know how to juggle, tell them you know how to juggle.”

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