Ratatouille’s Oscar Winning Version of “Good Enough”

Posted 05.05.2008

Brad_bird_2 Check out the McKinsey Quarterly for a truly incredible (yes, pun was intended all of you movie buffs) interview with Pixar Studios director Brad Bird. An Oscar winner for Ratatouille, a great movie about a rat with a passion for haute cuisine, Bird demonstrates some serious leadership chops in this conversation. The money quotes are too numerous to cite, but take a look at this one as an example:

There are purists in computer graphics who are brilliant but don’t have the urgency about budgets and scheduling that responsible filmmakers do. I had to shake the purist out of them—essentially frighten them into realizing I was ready to use quick and dirty “cheats” to get something on screen if they took too long to achieve it in the computer. I’d say, “Look, I don’t have to do the water through a computer simulation program. If we can’t get a program to work, I’m perfectly content to film a splash in a swimming pool and just composite the water in.” This absolutely horrified them. Or I’d say, “You can build a flying saucer, or you can take a pie plate and fling it across the screen. If the audience only sees the pie plate very briefly and you throw it just right, they will buy it as a flying saucer.”

Why do I love this quote?  Because it’s a wonderful example of knowing when to declare that good enough is good enough. In The Eblin Group’s 360 survey data on next level leaders, we often see lower scores on the item, “Effectively differentiates between efforts that require perfection and those for which "good enough" is sufficient.” The art of maintaining high standards while knowing when to accept or even encourage efforts that are not the 100 percent solution is critical to succeeding at the next level. As Brad Bird’s Oscar statuette would suggest, he seems to have figured that one out.