Why You Should Put Yourself In New, Uncomfortable Places
Thanks to the continual spate of interviews with luminaries paying tribute to Steve Jobs, the D10 conference dominated last week’s tech and media news flows.
I wasn’t there live, but I followed the coverage and watched some of the videos.
My favorite was an interview with Dr. Ed Catmull, president of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios. He also founded the computer graphics laboratory at the New York Institute of Technology, the computer division of Lucasfilm Ltd, and Pixar Animation Studios (where he was partners with Steve Jobs). Perhaps more than anyone else, Catmull has been behind the most significant animation breakthroughs and movies of the past two decades.
There are two lessons revealed in his interview I thought were particularly relevant and sobering for anyone working in an industry where innovation is core -- like ours.
The first lesson has to do with putting yourself in uncomfortable, even risky places. Doing so fosters creative problem-solving and innovation. This came through as Catmull described to interviewer Kara Swisher what the “next level” is for animation:
“There should always be a next level. For us, we just rolled out our next-generation software... a massive effort. Almost every company that switches to new software in the film industry has failed, and there are reasons for that. But we went through a conscientious effort to go through this...The fact is, we didn’t have to do that, and for some people, of course, why did we do it? But I believe strongly that you need to do stuff that’s just ‘out there.’ You always have to do something you can’t quite justify, but you’re pushing it because it just gets your head in a different place.”
The second lesson has to do with being comfortable not knowing the future, and putting faith in a consistent, proven methodology to continually advance. Catmull described what he’d like to do in animation that he hasn’t yet done:
“One of them is [solving the challenge of] new kinds of looks. I don’t know what they are...I don’t know what the ‘there’ is. The fact is if I knew what it was,
I’d say let’s go do that. But that was always true...what we have now was not the thing we actually said we were going to do. We just had a framework and direction to go. We never
predicted the future. We just had our framework and set of problems.”
These are two great principles to apply both individually, and to your business.
How are you living them out?