Innovation the Pixar Way

While we’re on the subject of Pixar movies…one of the things I love about Pixar Studios is their approach to innovation. Several years ago on the “Special Features” section of a Pixar DVD, I watched Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter explain Pixar’s creative strategy. Basically, for each movie Pixar decides to do something that “can’t be done” or hasn’t been done before in animation. In Finding Nemo, it was animating water; in Monsters Inc., it was creating and animating realistic-looking fur. In the original Toy Story, of course, the challenge was bringing toys to life, and I still remember my amazement the first time I saw the results of their efforts.

At Pixar, phrases such as “It’s never been done before” or “We can’t do that” are motivators, not dead ends. The decision has been made; the problem is not whether to do it, but how. And the pressure of already saying “yes” means they have to find a solution.

Contrast this to the approach of many churches and ministries. Too often we let the challenge overwhelm instead of inspire. I once heard Rick Warren of Saddleback Church (also in California; coincidence?) address this at a Pastor’s Conference. At Saddleback, Warren said, decision-making meetings and implementation meetings were held separately. For example, the decision-makers might determine that the church needs 1,000 new small groups. (Remember, Saddleback operates on a very different scale from the majority of the church world.) The implementation meeting doesn’t argue whether the decision is the right one or even suggest possible problems; it only focuses on how to make it happen.

Think about how adopting the Pixar/Saddleback approach might transform your ministry. Instead of considering all the options and the pros and cons of each before making a decision, you might dream bigger, trusting that a solution will emerge. The process could be a lot scarier, sure; but it could also be a lot more exciting and you may be able to accomplish far more than you ever imagined.


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