Lessons from Hollywood: Insights into Talent


With Disney Pixar once again topping the box office chart with their latest film Inside Out, we explore what it is about them that creates continued success.

The American actress Amy Poehler was recently interviewed by Sky News about her role Inside Out, where she described her experience with the talented individuals at Pixar. Some of Poehler’s comments give real insight into what ‘talent’ really means.


“Usually the most talented people are very collaborative.”

In sport and business, we are often quick to attribute success to raw individual talent or hard work. To take a historic example, think of Thomas Edison and picture him. Where is he? What is he doing? Who is he with? During this exercise, most picture Edison alone in a laboratory. However, in truth Edison was accompanied by a team of 30 scientists, with whom he collaborated. In business therefore, it’s important to recognise that some of the benefits of talented employees come from their relationships and collaboration with their peers, just as much from their own individual work.


“If you’re really talented, you’re not very fear based – you’re not worried this is your last good idea.”

When you know what you’re good at, there is a risk that you sit back in your comfort zone. This is demonstrated in a clever experiment by Carol Dweck, who praised children on either their hard work or their talent after completing a task. Sure enough, only those who had been praised for their natural talent chose to avoid more challenging tasks in the future. This is despite research suggesting that the highest performers continually stretch and test themselves 1. What Pixar have demonstrated is that for talented individuals to become high performing ones, it’s vital they continue pushing and stretching themselves, even when this is not the easiest option.


“It is so great working with people who are smarter and more creative than you.”

Sometimes, it’s easy for talented sportsmen or business people to feel intimidated or under threat if they are not the best in any given exercise or activity. However, the most talented individuals turn this threat into opportunity, asking: What are others doing which means they perform better? What can I learn from this? Taking inspiration and learnings from high performers is likely to facilitate future performance, maximising an individual’s potential.


“I was a small part of a big machine, and I loved every minute”

As a talented employee in a large organisation, it’s easy to feel disillusioned or dispensable. It’s vital therefore that employees are able to link their day-to-day roles with the organisation’s overarching goals and strategy. Research has found that when this is the case, employees feel more engaged in their work 2. What’s more, a ‘family’ rather than ‘corporate’ feel to an organisation is likely to help employees to feel engaged. For instance, recent CIPD research has found that 55% of employees prefer an ‘organisation with a family feel, held together by loyalty and tradition. Leaders are viewed as mentors or parents’.


The above examples have enabled Disney Pixar to dominate the box office with their animated films for the last 20 years. Of course, there are other contributing factors such as the way they innovate and the way the organisation is led, but crucially it is how they utilise their talent that has had a massive impact on their success.


Do you follow some of the same practices in your organisation? What do you think enables people to really perform at their best?


1Dweck, C. (2012). Mindset: How You Can Fulfil Your Potential. Constable & Robinson Limited.
2Schiemann, W. (2006). People Equity: A New Paradigm for Measuring and Managing Human Capital. Human Resource Planning, 29(1).

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