Lifelong Learning: What Pixar University Tell Us about

For me personally, the time I always I adore the most is when I attend undergraduate school and listen to lectures. Not the boring one, where the professor sat and read his ppt along through the whole class. I mean that kind of lectures where you can feel the professors were so passionate about their topics as if they were trying to indoctrinate us with their interests. The feeling you got after coming back from that kind of lectures were feeling positive, as you have been through inspiring moments and learn new facts or things.

Getting to a serious environment where you are always under the pressure of targets and goals are kinda frustating for me. The moment I hop into my first job as a restaurant in-house graphic designer was not pleasant for me. Not because people acted negative or did bad things, it’s just they lack of something called learning – basically you were given set of tasks, get it done until your seniors or boss satisfy enough with it. There is of course a bit of learning, when your senior taught you how graphic design works in restaurant by featuring images of food and make it tempting, but there was no intense interaction or dialogue as you basically just hear what he has to say.

And you think creative fields will ensure you will get happy at jobs? Not really.

Pixar knows it well. Things get better done when their employees were happy. And to make them happy is by keeping them learning. Establishing Pixar University, an inside university attended by the employees from janitors to president, is how everybody at Pixar keep learning new things. You might guess that this university is the way Pixar give their employees training about digital animation and things. No, some classes are even about personal development, such as improv class!

But why do learning, even having no any relation to animation, might help Pixar build their companies?

The point of improv — like most of classes in the packed curriculum — is to push Pixar employees to try new things, work together better and test new ideas. “If you don’t create an atmosphere in which risk can be easily taken, in which weird ideas can be floated, then it’s likely you’re going to be producing work that will look derivative in the marketplace,” said Pixar University Dean Randy Nelson. “Those kind of irrational what-ifs eventually lead to something that makes you go, ‘Wow, I never would have thought about it.'”
Hempel, 2003 for SFGatePixar University: Thinking Outside The Mouse

The moment you stop learning is the moment when you stop risking opportunities to discover new ideas. Just like a man who stop sailing to discover new land, learning process more or less works that way. Having their employees to work out new things through learning, is actually encourage them to produce new ideas – something like Pixar or any other companies need to compete in the marketplace. Ideas don’t even have to come from related fields, but might come from opening new perspectives!

Moreover, learning actually empower people to be more happy at work. As what Alexander Kjerulf told in his book,

“Pixar realises that happy people make better movies and that learning is a key part of making them happy.”
Kjerulf, Alexander. “Happy Hour is 9 to 5.” (2007).

So if you feel less aspired in your workplace and having midlife adult crisis, try learn new things. You can even spread the words of learning to your whole companies! Who knows you might change things and get more positive atmosphere in your workplace?

Logo of Pixar University, from the Pixar's book

Logo of Pixar University, from the Pixar’s book “To Infinity and Beyond”. Cited from http://retinart.net/book-reviews/toinfinityandbeyond/



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