Pixar fosters an incredible environment for creativity and discussion. In the book, Creativity, Inc., Ed Catmull details Pixar’s creative process called Braintrust meetings. These meetings shape and form ideas and drafts of films into well-rounded stories. Toy Story, Inside Out, and Wall-E each went through Braintrust meetings during production where various creatives in the Pixar organization shared honest thoughts and opinions.

A key to Braintrust meetings is candor. Candor is the act of being “unreserved, honest, or showing sincere expression.” When an idea, scene, or storyline could be made better, Pixar employees share honestly to help the director make the movie better. An environment like Pixar’s Braintrust is difficult to create in an instant; openness takes time to weave into the culture of a team or company. 

At Pixar, trust is strong enough that movie directors take criticism from any and all individuals who take the time to listen to drafts and watch previews. Egos remain on the sideline as directors understand they can learn from anyone. If you take your work personally, the environment can create friction and distrust among team members.

While a Braintrust meeting may be difficult to imagine yourself in, it is a driving reason why so many Pixar movies are incredibly well received and top box office performers. The ideas are put through a grinder to create something great by the end.

A key to this meeting style is the ability to separate the person from an idea and the consciousness to separate work from individual identity. Pixar makes it clear when you participate in the Braintrust meetings: Do not attack the person in charge. You share ideas about how the movie makes you feel or what felt off in the storyline. All comments are focused on the work, not the shortcomings of the team or director.

Just like creating successful movies, conversations require you to separate the person and his or her actions or behaviors. You may be frustrated with your friend because she ate your food without asking or borrowed a stapler from your desk and did not bring it back. Before launching into a strenuous conversation, silo the frustrating action in your mind. People often think that asking if you like an idea is the same as asking if you like the person who created the idea. These are two separate things and we have grown up in dialogue where people interpret them as one and the same. You can still like a person while disagreeing with their behavior.

In order to clearly address a conversation prepare your heart and mind by separating the actions from the person whom you want to talk to. In doing so, you may realize that the other person may not frustrate you as much as you thought. It may just be a specific action that is preventing you from seeing them in a positive light. My mom always told me that just because someone makes a bad decision, that does not make them a bad person. You may not like someone’s action or behavior but that does not mean you must dislike the person.

I appreciate you.


This excerpt comes from my new book launching in the coming months. If you want to stay up to date with news and information about the book, subscribe to my email list:

3 thoughts on “Braintrust

  1. kathyniepagen May 10, 2021 — 7:40 am

    Congratulations Jared! Proud of you!

  2. This is great stuff Jared!

  3. I am so incredibly proud of you. Love you, kiddo!

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