A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Our decision making is better when we draw on the collective knowledge and unvarnished opinions of the group. Candor is the key to collaborating effectively. Lack of candor leads to dysfunctional environments.
So how can a manager ensure that his or her working group, department, or company embraces candor? By putting mechanisms in place that explicitly say it is valuable. One of Pixar's key mechanisms is the Braintrust, which we rely on to push us toward excellence and to root out mediocrity. It is our primary delivery system for straight talk.
The Braintrust meets every few months or so to assess each movie we're making. Its premise is simple: Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid.
The Braintrust is not foolproof, but when we get it right, the results are phenomenal.
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