A Pivotal Day for TRIdigital, Owed to Pixar

What is Canvas Day?

Canvas Day is a day dedicated to the improvement and continuous innovation of TRIdigital. It occurs the first Friday of every month. For each Canvas Day, we divide our entire staff into four equal teams of five, thirty days in advance. The teams are selected completely at random using an automatic team generator. The assignment is as follows: for this day only, TRIdigital is a blank canvas, and the assignment is for each team to work together and create a new amazing idea that will help improve and transform TRIdigital. Positions and titles don’t matter on Canvas Day. Everyone has an equal voice, and their ideas can be heard in front of the entire staff. To make it even better we all vote at the end to see which team had the best idea, so it remains fun and competitive. There are no rules other than everyone must attend and participate, the rest is up to the creativity of each team.

What Does the Agenda Look Like?

8:30 am – 8:45 am The day kicks off with a little all hands meeting. We’ll remind everyone to have fun, work together, and most importantly of all show off their creativity. Immediately after the teams break away and claim a portion of the office as their lair by hanging premade signage with their team names.

Now remember, we never said they had to come up with team names or signage, but they did it anyway. It just goes to show how passionate the team is about Canvas Day and how much they enjoy it. As a CEO watching all this I gotta tell you; it’s pretty awesome!

9:00 am – 12:00 pm – Teams work on their ideas

12:00 pm-1:30 pm – Everyone has to stop working to have a social lunch which comes with and an organic ice cream bar for dessert

1:30 pm – 4:00 pm – Teams work on their ideas and finalize their presentations.

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm – Teams present their ideas to the staff

5:00 pm – 5:15 pm – A winner is chosen and glorified with a wrestling championship belt!

5:15 pm – 5:30 pm – Meeting to wrap up Canvas Day and thank everyone for their contributions

What are the results of Canvas Day?

You’d be surprised at what the teams produced in less than 6 hours. Each team had great ideas and presented them in well thought out articulate presentations. Most of the presentations were very funny and super entertaining. Our winning team “Juan Direction” put together what I call a “Canvas Day master class.” 

Not only did they choreograph a team dance with introductions of their fictitious names,  but also leveraged the specialized skill sets of each team member to bring their idea to life. The team produced well written and professionally designed internal and external facing documents that could be put into production immediately.

What was their idea?

Based on feedback we received from one of our great clients IT Direct and a core value that we’ve adopted from them, “The 5 P’s” (Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance), team Juan Direction wanted to make it possible for all deliverables to come out perfectly on our first try.

They then created a series of questionnaires for every single deliverable we’ve ever been asked to create to ensure we had sufficient information from our clients to meet their expectations. They then created steps in our process where this information is shared and strategized as it passed through departments. They did this by mapping out a very efficient workflow for the team can begin following immediately.

That is what Canvas Day is all about. We all have ideas to improve the companies we work for every day. A lot of the people voice their ideas all the time and when it is not implemented they feel their opinion is not valid. What’s worse is when someone else presents the same idea (only with a better presentation) and then it gets adopted. The person who originally came up with the idea feels even worse. Canvas day allows you to work with people you don’t normally work within a focused environment. They then learn the strengths of each person and leverage them to get their idea across. The best part is they then lean on each other in their everyday work which produces even better results all around.

 

Pixar

What does Pixar have to do with Canvas Day?

Everything. TRIdigital’s operations run on the philosophies outlined in Ed Catmull’s book Creativity Inc. For me, Creativity Inc is the greatest business book I’ve ever read. It struck me emotionally in so many ways. My passion for art came from relentlessly rewatching Disney and Pixar movies my entire life. I grew up wanting to be an artist and would show my renderings of characters from various infamous Disney titles such as The Jungle Book, Oliver and Company, and Aladdin. The magic of Disney and Pixar has captured my heart and my mind for my entire life, and I am glad that I never grew out of it. To this day, I zone out with my kids and rewatch movies like Finding Nemo, Toy Story, and Zootopia, over and over and over again.

In this book, he talks about his journey from a child who admired the magic of Disney to becoming a Software Engineer set up on creating a new form of art through the power of technology. Spending 20 years pursuing that dream and accomplishing it only to uncover a new passion about how to be a good leader and how to inspire a new age of creative individuals that are both technical and artistic. His detailed interactions with his leadership team which includes John Lasseter and Steve Jobs to his detailed interactions with hundreds of his employees. How he learned with dealing with the unforeseen problems and failures that innovation brings about and how to get everyone on the same page to overcome those challenges and create something truly great.

Canvas Day is a product of two very specific lessons this book teaches you:

  • The key to a healthy creative environment is collaboration.
  • Constant feedback and input from your staff allows you to create innovations and overcome lingering challenges.

At Pixar they had collaboration figured out. Story and Design sat at worked together. Steve Jobs designed the Pixar Campus to be the perfect environment for communication and interaction. They had experts that would cross train the entire staff in all aspects of the company.

However, constant feedback and input from their staff were a hurdle for them. The staff loved Pixar so much they just dealt with whatever issues or bottlenecks the company had. They felt that if they brought it up, it would draw unwanted attention to themselves. So Ed Catmull created Notes Day. This is an annual event where Pixar employees are allowed to send feedback anonymously to the Pixar leadership in the months leading up to Notes Day. Then the Pixar leadership would establish an agenda based on the feedback from the staff and had open conversations in smaller classrooms about how to implement some of the ideas and how to overcome certain challenges the staff was facing.

The Pixar and Disney team love notes day, and fortunately, the TRIdigital employees love Canvas Day. Although we are a much smaller operation than Pixar, our team is just as passionate about creativity as they are. We feel very fortunate to have successful company co-founded by every individual that comes to work every day and gives everything they have in the pursuit of transforming marketing for the IT industry.

 

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