Pixar, Oregon Ducks, And How Culture Builds Winning Teams – Forbes
Two seasons ago I enjoyed my first football experience at Autzen Stadium at the University of Oregon. I traveled to Eugene to visit my nephew who was attending the college and to see what all the fuss was about. I should have realized when every hotel room in town was booked for the first home game of the year, that something special was happening.
The Oregon Ducks who play in Monday night’s championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes are known for their flashy uniforms, speedy no-huddle offense, and glitzy training facilities paid for by their biggest supporter—Nike’s Phil Knight. At least that’s what I “saw” when I visited the campus and that’s what millions of people see on television. But as this Wall Street Journal article points out, it’s the Ducks culture that makes the team special.
“In a move that may send football traditionalists into a sideline meltdown, Oregon coach Mark Helfrich and his staff have ditched the age-old technique of screaming at players to motivate them. Instead, Oregon’s coaches have implemented a softer, less confrontational and altogether cuddlier method of running their team.” In other words, the coaches don’t yell at their players.
This small cultural shift might seem overly simplistic to explain Oregon’s extraordinary success—and, of course,–it’s only one factor. But what Oregon coaches have discovered is that culture matters and it matters a lot, especially when it comes to leading young people. This year Millennials are expected to be the largest generation in the workforce and they do expect to be treated differently. A recent PwC survey of Millennials found that they “want a flexible approach to work, but very regular feedback and encouragement. They want to feel their work is worthwhile and that their efforts are being recognized.”
Millennials really are different than previous generations and only the leaders who recognize and embrace these differences will find success on the gridiron or the sales floor.
On the day I read the Wall Street Journal article about the Oregon Ducks culture, I finished reading Ed Catmull’s book about Pixar, Creativity, Inc. The word “culture” appears no fewer than 73 times. I didn’t know I’d be reading a culture book when I first started, but it’s clear that Pixar’s success is based on the unique culture it’s created. The common theme between Pixar’s culture and the Oregon Ducks is that both cultures are focused on building trust, transparency, candor, and openness.
“A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candor, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments,” writes Catmull.
It’s pretty difficult to create a culture of candor if players or employees feel as though they’ll be yelled at for making a mistake, voicing an opinion, or raising a criticism. Not only does it create a hostile, unpleasant work environment, today’s Millennials won’t stand for it. They’ll go somewhere else where they feel as though their opinions matter.