Conversations That Changed The World: The Creation of Pixar

A chance conversation at an association convention led to the creation of Pixar. Are you creating easy opportunities for your members to collaborate with each other?

More doesn’t always mean better

What makes one conversation stand out from another? Why do some words resonate with some people more than others? What makes communication between a particular group of people lead to change?

In spite of having more ways to communicate with each other than ever, people are still searching for the right combination of ideas, people, and timing to move the world forward.

Still, some conversations can change the world forever.

When technology steps in to help make communication easier, the first hurdle is to keep the connection simple.

A simple exchange of ideas

Kind of like a simple exchange that happened between Steve Jobs and Ed Catmull at a computer graphics convention called SIGGRAPH. (SIGGRAPH is also a special interest group of the Association for Computing Machinery.)

Catmull was in his booth on the trade show floor when Jobs came by. After a walk around the exhibit hall during which Catmull shared his vision for creating a full-length feature film with computer animation. It was a combination of timing, chemistry, and opportunity. That conversation gave us Pixar and Toy Story.

In March 2020, ACM presented Catmull and Pat Hanrahan with the ACM A.M. Turing Award for fundamental contributions to 3-D computer graphics, and the revolutionary impact of these techniques on computer-generated imagery (CGI) in filmmaking and other applications.

The technology Catmull was developing, a system called RenderMan, revolutionized the industry. Would it have happened without the fortuitous conversation with Jobs? Probably. But maybe not. Without additional investment, it is hard to say what would have happened next.

When will your most important conversation happen?

What will your next conversation be and with whom? Will it lead to new discoveries? Could it change the world we live in for the better?

Associations have a chance to bring people together around a common mission. How can associations make it easier for people to connect around that mission? How can you encourage conversation between people who care about the same things?

Leaders who have the ability to reach their communities should consider how to do these things well:

  • Make connections available.

  • Make conversations easy.

  • Make collaborations natural.

What this means for leaders today

When the tradeshow floor closes (or is forced to virtual options), how do you continue to bring the right people together?

Explore why people want to connect to each other and how they are doing it now. What hurdles are standing in their way? How can you eliminate barriers?

For your own development, challenge yourself to reach out to one person this week to share your vision for a project you are dreaming of or working on now. See what happens when you collaborate and explore with another person. You might change the world.


Our mission is to inspire conversations that change the world. We will continue to share stories like this one on our blog. Book a demo to see how Grupian can help your members connect at a distance!

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