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”.