Not only does Greg Brandeau’s name appear at the end of many Pixar Animation Studio movies, but his two daughters’ names appear in two as well. “They’re listed under ‘production babies’ in Cars and Monsters, Inc.,” says Brandeau. “Pixar did a really great job of making everybody feel ownership in making each movie.”
This, along with the sheer volume of the studio’s successes, stuck out to Brandeau, who first joined Pixar in 1996 as director of systems technology when it was producing A Bug’s Life, its second feature-length computer-animated film. Eventually, he became senior vice president of technology at Pixar, leading the transition to the digital “pens and pencils” that its artists use to create films. “After five blockbuster hits in a row, I started to wonder what Pixar was doing that was allowing us not to make a flop,” he says.
To learn the secrets of digital companies’ successes, Brandeau traveled worldwide with Harvard Business School professor Linda Hill, exploring companies in many different industries. They ultimately coauthored, along with others, a book titled Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation.
The book struck a chord with business leaders, who started contacting Brandeau and Hill for help. So in 2014, the two founded a consulting firm, Paradox Strategies. Today, Paradox’s team of experts use research-based innovation surveys to identify the factors preventing innovation and provide tools to overcome them.
“I realized that I used to be an engineer, but now I engineer organizations,” says Brandeau. “When you think about an organization, it really is a bunch of moving parts. How you get people aligned, how you communicate with each other, how you organize, how you manage your supply chain—all of these things are a result of individual people coming together and doing things that by themselves they couldn’t do.”
Much of Brandeau’s insight comes from his 20-plus-year career in technology in Silicon Valley, including the more than 11 years he spent at Pixar and two years as CTO for Walt Disney Studios. Before Pixar, Brandeau worked at NeXT Computer for Steve Jobs. He spent four years after MIT in the Air Force before earning his MBA at Duke.
Brandeau lives in California with his wife, Joan, and daughters.