The Power of “WE” vs. “I”

In a conversation with fellow blogger, consultant, thinker, coach, and innovator, Josh Allan Dykstra, he brought to my attention an article written by Pixar’s CEO called, “How Pixar Fosters Collective Creativity”. Our original discussion was surrounding a blog post I did months ago as well as a TED video talking about how schools and corporations kill creativity and Josh sent me the article as he thought I would enjoy Pixar’s creative process. I not only enjoyed the article, but picked out something that we all ‘say’ we understand, but don’t. This article made me realize the difference in a good company versus a great company as well as a good manager versus a great manager. The difference is only 2 letters: WE.

While working at the Kaplan Inc conglomerate for about six years, creativity was not only appreciated but welcomed; and a team approach was sought to build out ideas into actions. When I was 23 years old, a woman named Wendi gave me one of the best pieces of advice that I’ve received to this day. She said, “Don’t ever use the word ‘I’. Always say ‘we’ when you’re talking about a success story, a new idea, anything; whether it be to a partner, colleague, or manager”. At the time, it made sense – but I thought it was kind of a ‘sales’ tactic. It doesn’t take a psychologist to figure out if you say, “we”, others are going to subconsciously feel a part of what you’re doing; especially if it’s a success story or an idea that will be successful.

It’s taken the last few years to realize the importance of that “we”. It is not merely a ‘sales’ tactic, but it defines a culture. The culture of companies like Pixar or Google. I didn’t “love” the last company I worked for and could never put my finger on the reason why; great vision, smart people, etc. but it hit me this morning…in meetings, it was always, “MY marketing campaign is driving $1 million in revenue” or “I will have the highest conversion rate”. It was a bunch of egoists. Now, I don’t have a problem with egoists as I believe most of us can be one some of the time. The reason I started blogging was so I could be an egoist…write about what I think and about what I want…but I did not bring and work hard to leave the “ego” at the door while doing business.

What I’ve learned is that Pixar’s philosophy is not brain surgery; it’s the basics of any team oriented business model. The difference is that everyone, including the CEO, buys into it. They live it, breathe it, and it has become their culture. Hats off to Pixar and hats off to anyone else who works at a company where “we” beats the “I”.

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  1. May 12, 2010 at 10:03 am

    Great Post Jamie and I 100% agree with this. It’s really interesting to see companies that don’t buy into this or don’t really see how creating a team environment where there is only a ‘we’ instead of a bunch of ‘I’s’ is more beneficial to the succcess of the company.

    The first thing that I did for the last job that I worked in is weeded out all the ‘I’s’ and focused on the people that would buy into the ‘we’. Our department became a unified team and we stood out to other areas of the company as being able to work together and produce great results. It was however, difficult to maintain this all the time since the rest of the company did not follow this guideline so we continued to hit negativity walls. But in the end, no one could argue with how our team performed together and we became a power house of knowledge and creativitiy that was able to implement lots of changes that were beneficial to the entire group.

    Great post and glad to hear that there are companies out there that understand the value of creating a team environment.

  2. May 13, 2010 at 4:07 pm

    We is certainly a good pronoun when imparting positive news. Do you feel it is as effective imparting negative news? Sometimes I feel “we” is used by bosses to divert blame further down the ladder.

    • May 13, 2010 at 5:31 pm

      Interesting perspective. I can certainly see how that would be interpreted; especially if you’re in a culture that assesses “blame”. That said, going back in my ‘bank of memories / experiences’, when I’m addressing a group of employees versus colleagues and talking about a failure, I always take the blame for the failure…I think that’s part of being a good manager…so you’re probably right. Great point.

  3. June 18, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    really terrible article you give, I really liked it. awaited continuation next article.

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  4. June 22, 2010 at 5:09 am

    I was very impressed with the article you give, it seems you are a professional writer.

    Dog Crates and Dog Kennels Store 10:09

  1. May 12, 2010 at 10:34 am

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