Friday, January 03, 2014

Lab Notebook: Jobs' "A team" vs creative malcontents (black sheep)

Steve Jobs famously insisted on working only with an "A team" at Apple. Remarkably, an experience from his other company, Pixar, shows that a group of malcontents, i.e. employees who have something to prove, can be as creative. Here's a quote from a Brad Bird's interview about his work on The Incredibles and Ratatouille:
So I said, “Give us the black sheep. I want artists who are frustrated. I want the ones who have another way of doing things that nobody’s listening to. Give us all the guys who are probably headed out the door.” A lot of them were malcontents because they saw different ways of doing things, but there was little opportunity to try them, since the established way was working very, very well.

We gave the black sheep a chance to prove their theories, and we changed the way a number of things are done here. For less money per minute than was spent on the previous film, Finding Nemo, we did a movie that had three times the number of sets and had everything that was hard to do.

I would say that involved people make for better innovation. Passionate involvement can make you happy, sometimes, and miserable other times. You want people to be involved and engaged. Involved people can be quiet, loud, or anything in-between—what they have in common is a restless, probing nature: “I want to get to the problem.

One of the "secrets" of Silicon Valley is that malcontents from one company can form highly successful startups. (Adobe, 3Com, SGI, Netscape, Seagate, Palm, etc.)

tags: innovation, book, example, creativity

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