Innovation 101: People vs. Money

In some earlier Innovation 101 posts, I tried to introduce my take on concepts like inversion, people focus, creative thinking, etc. I have also suggested that we consider turning things over on their heads. Here’s another provocation …

People don’t make money. Money just gets made.  Of course we don’t agree because we think money is the piece of coloured paper with somebody’s picture on it that gives us the power to buy things. In that sense, and we may actually be right, the printing guys at the government treasury approved presses are the ones that actually ‘make’ money. I’ve actually wondered what they do with the rejected material. They should sell them discounted to employees!

But in business and society, money gets made because people work, because some people give their best, because some people believe in following their dreams. In this interview on, Oscar-winning director Brad Bird endorses … [highlights are mine]


Brad Bird.
Brad Bird at the Oscars

Brad Bird: When I entered Disney, it was like a classic Cadillac Phaeton that had been left out in the rain. It was this amazing machine that was beautiful but old and getting a little decrepit. Still, they had the best system on earth at that time. They had the best talent. The movies were still well executed, if uninspired.

But Disney at this time was pared down. They were making one film every three years rather than a film every year or year and a half, as they had at Disney’s height. Walt had been gone for more than a decade, and the old guys were leaving. The company’s thought process was not, “We have all this amazing machinery—how do we use it to make exciting things? We could go to Mars in this rocket ship!” It was, “We don’t understand Walt Disney at all. We don’t understand what he did. Let’s not screw it up. Let’s just preserve this rocket ship; going somewhere new in it might damage it.”

Walt Disney’s mantra was, “I don’t make movies to make money—I make money to make movies.” That’s a good way to sum up the difference between Disney at its height and Disney when it was lost. It’s also true of Pixar and a lot of other companies. It seems counterintuitive, but for imagination-based companies to succeed in the long run, making money can’t be the focus.

Speaking personally, I want my films to make money, but money is just fuel for the rocket. What I really want to do is to go somewhere. I don’t want to just collect more fuel.


Sound all too familiar in the wake of 2008??

Therefore the argument about People vs. Money is always a non-starter for me. People will always have to want to go somewhere before pulling up at the gas station to tank up. Otherwise we’ll have a Cadillac with a full tank and we’ll be sitting at the gas station wondering where to go. Like we are doing today. And all we have been doing since the time we found ourselves in what is now known as the global meltdown.

Let’s move it before we do a global shutdown!

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