“Throughout the Pixar creative process, they rely heavily on what they call plussing; it is likely the most-used concept around the company. The point of plussing is to build upon and improve ideas without using judgmental language. Creating an atmosphere where ideas are constantly being plussed, while maintaining a sense of humor and playfulness, is a central element of Pixar’s magic. The practice of plussing draws upon those core principles from improvisation: accepting every offer and making your partner look good. Rather than criticize an idea in its entirety (even if they don’t think it’s good), people accept the starting point before suggesting improvements”
I like it a lot, mainly because you don’t even need to explain the idea of improv in order to get people to understand and adopt plussing.
You can approach it from the football angle – great players aren’t just great players on their own, they make the entire team look good. You can approach it from the bro code angle too, if you wanted to: your ‘wingman’ exists to make you look good in front of others and cover your back. It’s fortunate to have so many handy analogies.
What’s soul-destryoing is that I see too many people imagine that if it works for Pixar, it’s a quick win that you can adopt and start using in the office on Monday morning for your first meeting, because everyone needs a bit of cheerleading. Not really.
The problem is that you always, always have to accept the others as being good, not just force yourself to ‘plus’ the ideas of someone you can’t really stand; that means you’re doing it to feed your ego and earn some points for future use. It forgets that Pixar does a few other things:
1. It has people who want to be together: it formed as a company because it wanted to combat the Hollywood-style way of doing projects where everyone gets together for 9 months, makes a film and then disbands.
2. It makes a point of encouraging encounters in the company, so plussing isn’t just confined to your meeting rooms, but maybe meeting someone in the lift and going, hey, you know that thing you mentioned yesterday…I thought about it.
3. It also makes a point of following the ‘hire people smarter than yourself’ rule: if everyone’s thinking the same, no one is really thinking.
4. It does execute on those ideas, whether in something like Pixar University or somewhere else: plussing ideas that get nowhere is frustrating (and proves disastrous if you ever do a straw poll asking people if they think the company is going in the right direction or not – of course it’s not, if they feel like no one listens to them.