James – really enjoyed your post. I can appreciate that process design and culture is both vital and tricky in creative environments. It’s a great insight that a company’s communication structure shouldn’t necessarily mirror its formal organizational structure. At Pixar, everybody talks to everybody, and ideas can come from anywhere.
From what you described, it also sounds like the Brain Trust has been critical to the studio’s success—particularly as a means to examine in-process work very candidly for improvements, without allowing any criticisms to get personal for the lead creator. Do you think this is a procedure that could easily be emulated by other companies? Or is this a Toyota-style ‘secret sauce’ that is difficult for other companies to mimic even if they see the Pixar recipe? Btw, Ed Catmull’s book Creativity Inc. was a great read and I would definitely recommend it, as it boils down the Pixar experience into many transferable lessons!
Great post, Khan! I am an Everlane fan and agree that they have carved out a nice niche in the crowded online retail space. Their distinctively minimalistic and clean design aesthetic (both clothing style and website design/photography) seems to be another deliberate yet subtle way to convey alignment with an operating model that is pared down to its simplest, most efficient form.
Eschewing the more traditional retail model in favor of a vertically integrated, direct-to-consumer approach seems to be today’s more popular path—when you think about Warby Parker, Bonobo’s, ASOS, etc. Do you think though that cutting out the middleman, moving online and even transparent pricing is enough for long-term differentiation? Feels like the endurance of these companies may depend on their continued ability to have a strong point of view that keep the attention of consumers who may have difficulty finding brands that speak to them.