8 Lessons from Pixar for Churches and Pastors

book I recently read the new book Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull on the story of Pixar and the culture of that company. The lessons churches and pastors can learn from them are numerous. There were so many, I’m actually going to share the lessons in multiple blog posts. You can read the first 10 here and the next 9 here. Below are 8 more:

  1. The more people there are in the room, the more pressure there is to perform well. This is counterintuitive, which is probably what makes it correct. The more people who are part of making the decision, the more clouded it will be. Everyone fights for their turf, their perspective and it is easy to get off track. As well, if you lead a team, the larger it is, the harder it is to connect with them all. I’m not advocating for smaller teams, but smaller amount of people who report to a leader in terms of giving that feedback. I know many pastors have committees with 20 people on them so everyone has a voice. That is often problematic and halts things from happening. Give a chance for people to give feedback and then have a smaller team make a choice.
  2. People need to be wrong as fast as they can. The sooner someone can move into leadership, have a chance to mess up, the better. The fastest way to learn is failing yourself. Churches can wait too long to give someone the room and authority to fail and learn. This doesn’t mean you should make a second time guest an elder or teacher in the kids ministry, but give people a chance to lead and fail faster than you might normally.
  3. To be a truly creative company, you must start things that might fail. If you haven’t tried anything that might go poorly recently, you aren’t really trying. Experiment, think outside the box. If you’ve never used a video sermon, use one. If you’ve never tried a certain style of music, use it. Bat around the craziest ideas and see if something sticks.
  4. If you don’t use what’s gone wrong to educate yourself and your colleagues, then you’ll have missed an opportunity. If someone makes a mistake, discuss it with them, walk with them through it, talk about it with them. Don’t miss this chance to coach them and help them learn.
  5. There is no growth or success without change. Churches and pastors don’t want to hear this because we love what we are comfortable with and what we know, but the reality is, if you don’t change, you’ll die. If you don’t adapt, you’ll fall behind. It is that simple. That doesn’t mean you change the message of the Bible, it means you figure out how to communicate things best to the environment you are in.
  6. We were going to screw up, it was inevitable. And we didn’t know when or how. We had to prepare, then, for an unknown problem—a hidden problem. From that day on, I resolved to bring as many hidden problems as possible to light, a process that would require what might seem like an uncommon commitment to self-assessment. Failure is coming. If you aren’t failing now, it is around the corner. Churches though are in the habit of playing it safe and working against failing. It isn’t that we are trying to succeed, we aren’t often trying not to fail. That is a recipe for disaster.
  7. Use the schedule to force reflection. If you are like most pastors, you have very little time for reflection. You run from one thing to the next, one fire to the next, one crisis, one email, one call or text to the next one. You are constantly dealing with what is urgent, not what is important. You have little time for solitude, thinking, planning, reflecting on your heart or what is working or not working. Build it in. It is that important. Build time into your schedule to learn, grow, and reflect.
  8. While everyone appreciates cash bonuses, they value something else almost as much: being looked in the eye by someone they respect and told, “Thank you.” This is one area I think churches have an advantage over profit companies. Our vision must be clear for people to serve, otherwise they won’t see it as worth their time. We can’t give people raises, but we can say thanks for what they do. We can show them their value by how they serve and help.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this walk through this great leadership book with me. I’d highly recommend you add this to your summer reading list. Such a fascinating story of how Pixar got started, the in’s and out’s of their movies and the leadership behind it.

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