Arts

Calm, Long Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine (© Rowland Williams).

Calm, Long Pond, Acadia National Park, Maine (© Rowland Williams).

Rowland Williams ’72 is a photographer living in Amesbury, MA. View more photos on his website. View more alumni via the Photo of the Week category

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A couple by the Seine River, Paris (© Owen Franken)

A couple by the Seine River, Paris (© Owen Franken)

Curious about Owen Franken? View more of his work via the Franken Photo of the Week category, learn more in this profile, read a What Matters opinion column he wrote called “Life in Brownian Motion,” or visit his Web site.

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A northen bluet damselfly at the John Jeffries House garden (© Gary Blau).

A northen bluet damselfly at the John Jeffries House garden (© Gary Blau).

Gary Blau is a photographer in Cambridge, MA. View more work on his website. View other alumni photos of the week.

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Velvet Pioppini (© Forrest Milder).

Velvet Pioppini (© Forrest Milder).

Curious about Forrest Milder? View more of his work via the Photo of the Week category, learn more about him as a lawyer and a photographer, or visit his photo websiteView other alumni photos of the week.

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Floating Ice House, Alaska (©Irina Medvedev).

Floating Ice House, Alaska (©Irina Medvedev).

Irina Medvedev is a photographer in Cambridge, MA. View more work on her website. Check out her upcoming open studio May 9—10, 2015. View other alumni photos of the week.

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Wayne Coyne in the hamster ball, The Sasquatch Music Festival, WA (© Paige Parsons).

Wayne Coyne in the hamster ball, The Sasquatch Music Festival, WA (© Paige Parsons).

Paige Parsons is a photographer in San Francisco. View more work on her website. View other alumni photos of the week.

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Teenager painting a wall, Oaxaca, Mexico (© Owen Franken)

Teenager painting a wall, Oaxaca, Mexico (© Owen Franken)

Curious about Owen Franken? View more of his work via the Franken Photo of the Week category, learn more in this profile, read a What Matters opinion column he wrote called “Life in Brownian Motion,” or visit his Web site.

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Shadow play at the Barker Reading Room, MIT (© Clinton Blackburn).

Shadow play at the Barker Reading Room, MIT (© Clinton Blackburn).

Clinton Blackburn is a photographer in Cambridge, MA. View more work on his website. View other alumni photos of the week.

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Balloon launch Kenya, Africa (© Shelley Lake).

Balloon launch Kenya, Africa (© Shelley Lake).

Shelley Lake SM ’79 is a photographer in Florida. View more of her work on her website. View other alumni photos of the week.

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Collective-genius

Greg Brandeau ’84 SM ’85 spoke to Slice of MIT about his new book.

In the summer of 2008, Greg Brandeau ’84 SM ’85 faced a serious problem in the office.

As senior vice president of systems technology at Pixar Animation Studios, he had a major release coming out: Up. On the schedule for Pixar’s mammoth rendering computers in the next two weeks, Up was projected to be a $1 billion major movie release. Unfortunately, it was scheduled to render, the process by which each single command of an animator’s directions becomes digital film, at the same time as a new complex experiment in short film, Cars Toons.

Brandeau had personalities to manage, and deadlines with Pixar’s owner Disney, but most of all he had a serious logistics problem on his hand: how to find the computing power to get both projects done on time.

Brandeau collected the happy ending to this story, and other lessons in innovative leadership, in a new book Collective Genius: the Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, published in 2014 and co-authored with Linda Hill, Emily Truelove, and Kent Kineback.

Brandeau joined Pixar in 1996 and most recently served as chief technology officer for Disney Animation Studios, which acquired Pixar. After leaving that post to become a full-time consultant, Brandeau found the idea of a book appealing.

“I was puzzling about how was it that Pixar had made five unbelievable movies in a row,” he says, “and no other major studio had done this? And now Pixar has made 14 blockbusters in a row without one miss. What was causing this? I wondered if it was how we were managing the process that makes what we’re doing better.”

The book examines other major companies transformed by innovative leadership, such as HCL, Volkswagon, Pentagram, and Google. These are idea factories, says Brandeau, where leaders access each employee’s “slice of genius” to move the firm ahead.

“We firmly believe that it’s the context in which people work that allows them to be innovated. Instead of thinking of the role of the leader in the traditional sense…the leader’s role in our view is organizers of a place where people can thrive.”

Listen to past books podcasts with novelists, professors, and entrepreneurs by visiting MITAA on Soundcloud.

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