Sunday, May 21, 2006

Learning from Steve Jobs, part II

Despite its popularity in the business world, mediocrity isn't all it's cracked up to be.

To reinforce that lesson, turn to the auto feature in The New York Times this morning. Just reading about the cast of Pixar's new movie, "Cars," has got to be more entertaining than sitting through the entire film of the Da Vinci Code.

Seems that John Lassater, Pixar's (and now Disney's) animation genius, is a long-time car nut. "Cars" is his labor of love. If the movie, which opens in June, lives up to the cast descriptions, it will be HUGE!

The voice cast includes Paul Newman, retired race car driver, playing Doc Hudson, retired racer. That's how Doc got blue eyes.

Filmore, the VW only a flower child could love, is voiced by George Carlin.

Like Apple, Steve Jobs' first venture, Pixar was born of the desire to make stuff that is "insanely great." Apple has stumbled from time to time (firing Jobs didn't help) but Pixar' s output has ranged all the way from very good to really great.

How does Pixar do it? Two clues that financial-services marketers might find useful:

1. According to this earlier NY Times article ($$$), all employees are encouraged to learn animation at Pixar Univerity. All employees. According to the dean of the university, an ex Flying Karamazov Brother, "We're trying to create a culture of learning, filled with lifelong learners.

"Why teach drawing to accountants? Because drawing class doesn't just teach people to draw. It teaches them to be more observant. There's no company on earth that wouldn't benefit from having people become more observant."

Arguably, knowledge of investing and financial planning is at least as necessary as knowing how to draw and animate. Does your IT guy know a derivative from a debenture? Can your receptionist participate in a discussion of disclaimers? Steve Jobs might tell you that the answers should be "yes."

2. Today's Times story says John Lasseter and his group visited design studios for the Big Three automakers and particularly hit it off with J Mays, the Ford design chief.
Mr. Mays and Mr. Lasseter bonded and exchanged studio visits. Mr. Lasseter learned how real cars are designed. Mr. Mays was impressed with Pixar's obsessive attention to detail. "They want to get things right even if no one can tell," he said. "If it was wrong, they would know."
How obsessive? The Pixar team hunted down vintage Hudson Hornet paint chips to make sure Doc Hudson is the correct shade of blue!


Jim Gust said...

Though firing Jobs might have been a mistake for Apple, he has said it was one of the best things that ever happened to him, painful though it obviously was.

Um, do banks in your area still have receptionists? Not that I'm against continuing education, on the contrary.

JLM said...

My little bank branch? Gosh, no. But I'm assuming that wealth-management and trust units are more upscale. Because all the oldtime trust departments that were around these parts have vanished, I can't easily check that assumption.

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