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Interview with Andrew Gordon

Andrew Gordon is an expert when it comes to creative culture and storytelling. He is an animator for Pixar Animation Studios and is the man behind several famous characters like Mike Machowski in Monsters Inc. and Gill in Finding Nemo. In Andrews keynotes and workshops he takes his knowledge and experience from the animation world and transfers it to the business world. Read his interview and learn more about him and his speaking career.

Can you give three tips to individuals struggling with creativity?

Creativity is a process of understanding how to see things in a different way. The first thing I would suggest is to do a lot of research on the subject you are wanting to be creative about. At a film studio, the development process is a lot about digging into the story, character and world of a story. Research is a huge part. The second thing I would suggest is to exercise. When you allow your brain to rest and take the time to go for a swim, this is sometimes when the best ideas might come into your head. The last tip I would say, is to be collaborative showing your work often. It’s important to try out your ideas on fresh eyes and also work with people so that you can avoid mediocre ideas.


What’s the biggest challenge when working in a creative workplace?

I think that when you are working in a creative place, the challenge is to keep your door open both figuratively and physically. The biggest enemy of creativity, is complacency. Candor and honestly are also so important in a creative workplace. It’s important to not have that candor in the hallways, but in the rooms where it fundamentally matters. Staying creative means being open to risks and trying different options and knowing that this is part of the process. We always would say “Trust the Process.” This speaks to knowing that it may not be pretty in the beginning, but if we allow and idea to develop, it may turn into something beautiful.


Why do clients typically hire you to speak?

Clients typically hire me to speak on the topics of Storytelling and creative culture. They want to be inspired by how a studio like Pixar is able to produce such great films but also how to apply that Story process to what they do. Companies like Sales Force has have used a lot of the techniques we do in order to get ready for a client pitch or map out a customer story. A company like Deloitte hired me to get their teams to start thinking more about storytelling and launch them into rethinking their strategy. Many of my talks can also be turned into full or half day workshops where the client gets a chance to work on their stories and get proper feedback.


What types of unique experiences have you had as a result of your profession?

I have had many experiences as a result of being at Pixar for 20 years. I have seen the company go from 300 people, when Steve Jobs was there, to its big move and on to the sale to Disney. I have witnessed the golden age of Pixar films and had the opportunity to be the mentor of the companies founder, Ed Catmull.  I also had the great honor of creating three of Pixar’s secret rooms, in which I have met an incredible amount of creative, intelligent, successful people. Each time I met them I learned something new about how they got to where there are in their life or a lesson they passed on. I have spoken to people that have walked on the Moon, had cocktails with famous actors, musicians and heard too many stories to count. I have also had the unique opportunity of teaching all over the world, helping to inspire people and to demystify the story process and help people realize that it is part of our DNA. In the business world, I believe that many have just lost touch with that creative side of the brain, which is why many corporate stories don’t connect.


Most companies want to be innovative, but when it comes to the process of thinking out-of-the-box and creatively, they get scared. Why do you think that is?

I believe that the process of innovation, or in my case film making is messy. People don’t often understand that some of the most innovative things come out of a lot of failures, and iterations. Many ideas have to be tried and tested and the best will hopefully float to the top. Companies lose sight of innovation because they are being too safe and are scared to take a risk or fail. In my business I have learned that we don’t go in a room worried me may fail, we go in knowing that we should be prepared to fail and learn from it.


How did you start your speaking career?

I began my speaking career teaching students animation and story and then began talking about it around the world. Mostly the audience was aspiring film students. It was not until my brother, who worked for Sales Force at the time convinced me to speak on Story telling to his group. It was then, that I realized that many people besides people in the motion picture industry could learn from all the teachings I learned at Pixar in the form of Story, Culture and the Process of being innovative and disruptive. I still believe one of our key principles: “Story! No Glory.”

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