Wednesday, August 7, 2013

What Makes For Success? (Hint: It's Not the Bathrooms)

If I’ve seen it once I’ve seen it a dozen times—the article about the genius stroke Steve Jobs had in locating the bathrooms at Pixar.  He “insisted there be only two bathrooms in the entire Pixar studios, and that these would be in the central space. And of course this is very inconvenient. No one wants to have to walk 15 minutes to go to the bathroom. And yet Steve insisted that this is the one place everyone has to go every day.”

The moral of the story is that Jobs “wanted there to be mixing. He knew that the human friction makes the sparks, and that when you're talking about a creative endeavor that requires people from different cultures to come together, you have to force them to mix. . . And so his design was to force people to come together even if it was just going to be in the bathroom."

Now I ask you, does this really make sense?  

Do you really believe, had there been four or six or eight bathrooms spread throughout Pixar, that somehow Toy Story would have suffered?  

Do you really believe that a healthy company needs to force its employees to attend mixers near the toilet bowls?  (For that matter, do you really think, except for maybe the Pentagon and a NASA facility here or there, anyone actually has to walk 15 minutes in any office to find a bathroom?  That would certainly limit my Diet Cokes.)

By this theory, incidentally, the smokers in a company should all be wildly creative because they gather together in a little smelly place about a dozen times a day.

I would propose to you that this story is a function of 1) Steve Jobs’ halo effect, and 2) the fact that when a company is successful we back-attribute everything they did to that success.