Greg Brandeau

Co-author, Collective Genius
Former EVP and CTO, The Walt Disney Studios
and SVP, Pixar

Company-wide innovation begins with great leadership.

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Biography

Greg Brandeau is former EVP and CTO at The Walt Disney Studios and Senior Vice President of Technology at Pixar, where he helped build it into the entertainment powerhouse we all know. Subsequently, he was President and COO of Maker Media, the innovative media company that jumpstarted the global Maker movement. Its publication, MAKE Magazine, and its Maker Faire are at the very center of the DIY and 3D printing revolutions currently transforming innovation, manufacturing, culture, and education.

Greg is the co-author of Collective Genius, an exciting new book about creating a culture of innovation throughout your business. The key to company-wide creativity, Greg argues, is a special kind of leadership. It doesn’t necessarily look like other kinds of “good” leadership you’re used to. It doesn’t mean creating a vision and trying to make innovation happen yourself.

Instead, as Greg explains, it means creating and sustaining a culture where innovation is allowed to happen again and again — an environment where people are both willing and able to do the hard work that innovative problem-solving requires. In his talks, Greg lays out the characteristics of this special innovation-focused leadership and shows you how to harness and unleash the “collective genius” of your organization.

Greg’s consummate understanding of creative leadership is rooted in his long experience of sending creative businesses to the top. An MIT-trained engineer, Greg’s earlier career saw him working for Steve Jobs at NeXT Computer. He joined Pixar when it was a relatively small company, and led the effort to develop strong teams and cutting-edge technology to establish Pixar as an entertainment powerhouse. Following the sale of Pixar to Disney, Brandeau became EVP and CTO of The Walt Disney Studios, where he led technology innovation from film production to global collaborative tools.

He serves on the CALIT2 Advisory Board and on the MIT Humanities Visiting Committee.

Books

Collective Genius

The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation

Greg Brandeau, Linda A. Hill, Emily Truelove and Kent Lineback

Recommended Reading For Creative LeadersForbes

Why can some organizations innovate time and again, while most cannot?

You might think the key to innovation is attracting exceptional creative talent. Or making the right investments. Or breaking down organizational silos. All of these things may help — but there’s only one way to ensure sustained innovation: you need to lead it — and with a special kind of leadership. Collective Genius shows you how.

Preeminent leadership scholar Linda Hill, along with former Pixar tech wizard Greg Brandeau, MIT researcher Emily Truelove, and Being the Boss coauthor Kent Lineback, found among leaders a widely shared, and mistaken, assumption: that a “good” leader in all other respects would also be an effective leader of innovation. The truth is, leading innovation takes a distinctive kind of leadership, one that unleashes and harnesses the “collective genius” of the people in the organization.

Using vivid stories of individual leaders at companies like Volkswagen, Google, eBay, and Pfizer, as well as nonprofits and international government agencies, the authors show how successful leaders of innovation don’t create a vision and try to make innovation happen themselves. Rather, they create and sustain a culture where innovation is allowed to happen again and again — an environment where people are both willing and able to do the hard work that innovative problem solving requires.

Collective Genius will not only inspire you; it will give you the concrete, practical guidance you need to build innovation into the fabric of your business.

Review

ReviewForbes

PRAISE

"Masterful guide."
Forbes

“The leadership of innovative teams and organizations is perhaps the most confounding mystery in business today . . . Collective Genius reveals the principles by which we can unlock the collective potential of our colleagues and release the creative potential of our organizations.”
— Tim Brown, President and CEO, IDEO

“An interesting and instructive look at how leaders can create flexible corporate ecosystems to unleash individual talent in ways that lead to greater organizational innovation.”
— Reid Hoffman, cofounder and Chairman, LinkedIn; coauthor, The Alliance

Collective Genius offers real-world insights that will help today’s business leaders challenge the status quo, drive new ideas, and create an environment where change and innovation are the norm.”
— Kenneth I. Chenault, CEO and Chairman, American Express

“Linda Hill and her coauthors argue that innovation requires a different kind of leader — someone who can create and sustain a culture that brings out the ‘collective genius’ of all their diverse and talented people. A great read for anyone leading a team, organization, or community.”
— Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos; New York Times bestselling author, Delivering Happiness

“ . . . Collective Genius is one of the few books that truly captures innovation in action and the important role — and qualities — of leaders who make it happen.”
— Terri Kelly, President and CEO, W. L. Gore & Associates

“A great read, full of important insights for anyone involved in high-impact innovation . . . I look forward to sharing it with my colleagues.”
— Mark M. Little, Senior Vice President, Director of Global Research, and Chief Technology Officer, General Electric

“. . . A must-read for any manager or participant in an organization that requires innovation — in other words, any organization that wants to be successful in the new world of continuous massive disruptions.”
— Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab

“Innovation. Leadership. Motivation. Execution. What we need to do is quite obvious. And thanks to this book, we now have a guide to teach us how.”
— Clayton M. Christensen, Kim B. Clark Professor of Business Administration, Harvard Business School; author, The Innovator’s Dilemma

Topics

Greg tailors each presentation to the needs of his audience and is not limited to the topics we have listed below. These are subjects that have proven valuable to customers in the past and are meant only to suggest his range and interests. Please ask us about any subject that interests you; we are sure that we can accommodate you.

Leading for Innovation
Company-wide innovation begins with great leadership.

However, as Brandeau and his co-authors discovered when researching the recently published book, Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, unleashing company-wide creativity takes a special type of leadership – one that differs from the profile typically associated with “good” leadership.

In this presentation, Brandeau will discuss the common leadership characteristics and practices he found when studying a wide range of innovative organizations such as Google, eBay, Pixar, and Pfizer. He’ll provide specific examples of how great leaders foster innovation at all level of their organizations by:

  • Facilitating creative thinking and diverse opinions
  • Encouraging smart risks and viewing mistakes as learning opportunities
  • Proactively managing change, promoting honest communications, and preserving culture fundamentals

Brandeau will also share numerous anecdotes from his own career, which includes leadership roles at NeXT, Pixar, and The Walt Disney Studios. Attendees will leave with new insights on the correlation between leadership and innovation and ideas for how they can help their own executive teams build cultures of innovation.

Leading Innovation: tapping into your organization’s “Collective Genius"
From Toy Story to Finding Nemo to Walle-E and Brave, Pixar has continually redefined the animated film and elevated our expectations. As SVP at Pixar, and later as CTO of Disney (now the parent of Pixar), Greg Brandeau drove the technology innovation that made these films possible.

An experienced practitioner at creating and sustaining a culture of innovation, Greg’s new book, Collective Genius: The Art and Practice of Leading Innovation, examines the lessons he has learned over 20 years and profiles successful innovation leaders of other companies as diverse as Volkswagen, Google and Pfizer.

In his talk, Greg unveils what makes innovation-focused leadership special and how these leaders create an environment a culture where innovation is allowed to happen again and again — an environment where people are both willing and able to do the hard work that innovative problem solving requires.

Videos

HR Leadership Summit

MIT Media Lab Conversation Series

Feedback

A leading research and advisory services firm in talent management and strategic HR solutions:
Greg – it was really nice to meet you yesterday and I wanted to thank you, on behalf of [. . . ] and myself for a job very well done. You had us all on the edge of our seats (literally) with that data “loss” story!  And you gave us all a lot to think about in challenging traditional “consensus” decision making and much more. I spoke with a number of people at the cocktail event and the talk was quite a hit! I’m sure you are used to great feedback, but the talk really was a perfect complement to our “Bold HR” theme (and I loved the humane resources piece!).

A financial education and services provider for children and families
Greg has consistently been a provocative, riveting catalyst for my clients. His ideas and presentations have helped instigate growth and debate in the programs he has participated in. My clients are among the most sophisticated families in the world and do not suffer fools well — I've never had a moment's concern that Greg's reflections on Collective Genius would fail to hold their attention; his ideas have a ripple effect across generations, time, and POVs.

Articles

— 3Pillar Global
— Harvard Business Review