How Pixar predicts mastery in a potential employee

Randy Nelson, Dean of Pixar University, outlines four criteria that they look for when hiring new people into the team at Pixar.

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  1. Depth (in any area) – Randy believes that the best predictor of ability to master any one area is if somebody has already mastered another area.  It is more likely that someone who has achieved mastery in golf will achieve mastery as a Pixar artist or programmer than any set of pre-existing talent as an artist or programmer.  Mastery requires discipline more than talent.  Discipline requires humility.  In the highly important NASA search for the astronauts to travel to the moon they were looking for mastery after some form of setback.  They placed a huge value on people who had failed and recovered. In doing new things (buzz word “Innovation”) the key skill is “failure recovery”.
  2. Breadth – He says they look for interested people more than interesting people.  People who are broadly curious rather than just “different”.  The key question is does this person “amplify me”? Can this person take my ideas and return them with passion?
  3. Communication – Communication requires a process of translation.  When a techie speaks to an artist she must speak in language that the artist understands.  Randy says that nobody can be considered articulate, because the only success of communication is that the listener can say “I understand you”.
  4. Collaboration – This is far beyond simple cooperation.  Cooperation is for assembly lines, Ford Model T production workers. Knowledge work requires the ability for team members to amplify each other – creating truly connected human beings.

The full video is available here on the blog. It is well worth the 10 minutes to watch.

Chris Spagnuolo at Edgehopper blog has another great article about Randy’s ideas on learning and working in the collaborative age.

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