pixarMore on why Pixar’s movies are so much better than the competition: According to “Pixar Rules — Secrets of a Blockbuster Company,” the company has created an incredible work environment that keeps employees happy and fulfilled. The result: “A tightknit company of long-term collaborators who stick together, learn from one another, and strive to improve with every production.”

At the heart of this effort is Pixar University:

The operation has more than 110 courses: a complete filmmaking curriculum, classes on painting, drawing, sculpting and creative writing. “We offer the equivalent of an undergraduate education in fine arts and the art of filmmaking,” [Randy Nelson, dean of Pixar University,] said. Every employee — whether an animator, technician, production assistant, accountant, marketer, or security guard — is encouraged to devote up to four hours a week, every week, to his or her education.

Randy Nelson is adamant: these classes are not just a break from the office routine. “This is part of everyone’s work,” he said. “We’re all filmmakers here. We all have access to the same curriculum. In class, people from every level sit right next to our directors and the president of the company.” [...]

Thanks to Pixar University, employees learn to see the company’s work (and their colleagues) in a new light. “The skills we develop are skills we need everywhere in the organization,” Nelson said. “Why teach drawing to accountants? Because drawing class doesn’t just teach people to draw. It teaches them to be more observant. There’s no company on earth that wouldn’t benefit from having people become more observant.”

That helps to explain why the Pixar University crest bears the Latin inscription, Alienus Non Diutius. Translation: alone no longer. “It’s the heart of our model,” Randy Nelson says, “giving people opportunities to fail together and to recover from mistakes together.”

Nice to see that creative courses aren’t limited to “creatives.”

And here’s a great quote from Nelson on why the company eschews the industry’s standard practices (which favor one-time contracts over long-term affiliation).

“Contracts allow you to be irresponsible as a company. You don’t need to worry about keeping people happy and fulfilled. What we have created here — an incredible workspace, opportunities to learn and grow, and, most of all, great co-workers — is better than any contract.”

You can try to outspend the competition. Or you can try to outculture them. Create a place that makes employees feel special. A place that makes them feel like they’re part of a bigger whole. A place where they continually get to learn and evolve. A place where everyone actually likes each other.

If you create a culture like that, who would want to leave? Plus, you’ll get the best minds out there knocking on your door to get in.

Related: The human side of Pixar’s robot [SvN]