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Executive summary

This essay is aim to identify main factors that contribute to Pixar Animation Studio’s victory in animation industry from a motivational theory perspective and illustrate the close relationship between Pixar’s creativity practices and its empowerment management. The company has conducted a serious of motivational strategies including Financial Reward, Recognition and others, Job Design, Empowerment. And all those strategies help foster creativity and form a healthy organizational culture based on teamwork and trust. This paper will also evaluate Pixar’s empowerment from both individual and organizational aspects. Finally, we will also use Pixar’s experience to analyze Nokia’s collapse.

Table Content

Executive summary…………………………………………………………………….……………..1
1. Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………………..3
2 Theoretical arguments.……………………………………………………………………………4
2.1 Motivational factors…………………………………………………………………………….4
2.2 Empowerment management…………………………………………………5
3. Practical Implications…………………………………….…………….…………………………7
4. Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………………………8
5. Reference........................................................................................................... 9


It has been generally realized that motivation plays a critical role in finish tasks and objectives for companies that base on teamwork or workplace comprised of various positions, and it is a necessary skill used by managers and executives to energise people to behave as they wish ( Aswathappa, K. 2010). Thus employees will work hard and create as much value as possible to the organization. Countless strategies have been used to maintain a high level of motivation in certain workplace. This essay will identify main factors that may have huge influence on organizations’ management and address factors contribute to Pixar’s success in animation studio’s management from a motivational theory perspective from four aspects: Financial Reward, Recognition and others, Job Design, Empowerment. Moreover, use empowerment management theories to analyze the Pixar’s Animation Studio’s creativity practices. Individually, employees possess required competencies and realize self-efficacy. Organizationally, Pixar has spent every effort to foster a perfect organizational culture which based on trust, collaboration and care. Finally, use all the motivational and empowerment management strategies conducted by Pixar to identify the fall of Nokia and the rise of Apple and Samsung. And provide some practice solution based on the study of Pixar’s case.

Theoretical arguments
Motivational factors
According to organizational behavior, applications of motivation theories can be divided into 5 types: Financial Reward, Recognition and others, Job Design, Empowerment and Self-leadership.

Motivation through recognition can be easily found in Pixar’s case. As we know, it is of great importance to let employees feel valued and appreciated in an organization or certain work place. Pixar, as a company which takes individual creativity as their first priority, not only provides educational opportunities for all members, but also assembles a group of genius specialized in providing ideas and suggest improvements on animation. In that case, Pixar and its employees have gained widespread acclaim and numerous films awards, such as Oscar, Academy Award and Vanguard Award (McCuddy. 2006). Through year’s joint effort, Pixar has provided everyone a perfect platform to make full use of their creativity, win glories and praise from the whole industry and realize self-fulfillment. And those idols created by the company, become the driving force to motivate people in turn. Apart from glory and praise, allowing flexibility in an employee's schedule is an effective practice of motivation. Campus-like environment that has a gym, swimming pool, volleyball courts has been created some employees get permission to choose their workplace instead of staying in the office every day. Employees will no longer be taken as tools to get profit; they are valuable human resources and need to be treated as part of the team. These humanized measures will definitely relieve the pressure brought from daily work and give the brains necessary rest in order to get inspiration and come up with creative ideas.

Besides recognition, OB specialists emphasize job design as a source of motivation ( Aswathappa, K. 2010). And among all the job design practices, job enrichment has also been found in Pixar’s motivational approach. Instead of only offering training classes on the company’s software, Pixar University also provides various courses including photography, screenwriting, acting, paintings and drawing. That is exactly what job enrichment theories recommend, improve jobholders’ ability of decision-making, planning and controlling powers. Meanwhile, during the process of exploring all the skills needed in animation industries, employees will be armed with knowledge, confidence and enough creativity.

Obviously, as most organizations, Pixar uses financial reward to motivate their employees, too. However, only key employees will have an opportunity to receive significant financial incentives, which triggers a series of doubt towards the word “key”. What exactly does it mean? Is the standard of measuring key employees based on membership and seniority, individual performance, competency or job status? We know that each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. But in this case, financial reward is just an option for Pixar’s motivational management, not the major factor.

Empowerment management

Instead, the critical factor is the creative freedom employees are granted. And that is part of empowerment management practice. The word ‘empowerment’ refers to increasing the spiritual, political, social, educational, gender, or economic strength of individuals and communities. However, it means to remove all the restrictions, artificial or whatever prevents people from utilising them to their full potentials in an organization or a certain workplace. During this procedure, employees will create effective methods to distribute and influence the organization’s daily operation and sustain continuous improvement. Spreitzer(1995) divided the empowerment into four cognition within psychological level: self-determination, meaning, competence and impact. And he also found that empowerment management approaches may have a huge impact on motivation of employee. Many studies have also shown that empowerment management leadership can enhance subordinate’s motivation in their job (Kirkman 1997). There is no denying that Pixar is fully aware of the key role empowerment management played in motivating its employees, and this practice can be divided into two aspects: Individually, employees can make full use of the progressive working environment and working conditions developed by Pixar and possess required competencies. Besides, by receiving all the lessons and trainings offered by Pixar University, animators will have a better understanding of how the animation industry runs and be armed with the latest high-techs. As a result they will be able to make decisions and perform the work, realize self-efficacy. Organizationally, Pixar has spent every effort to foster a perfect organizational culture which based on trust, collaboration and care. Initially, Pixar has built campus-like environment to provide entertainment facility whenever employees want to have a rest. Some animators can even choose their own workplace instead of just staying in the office during working hours. And within the endless freedom granted, employees have been laid complete trust. Thus they will gain confidence and courage to accept all kinds of challenges. Secondly, considering the process of making animation is long and complicated, many professional software and technologies will be required, Pixar’s encouraging collaboration will be the best choice. Finally, what leaves me a deep impression that Pixar’s policy to protect its employees from job stress and burnout. The company has set a rule that its animators are not allowed to work for more than 50 hours per week and also sent a masseuse and a physician to provide professional heath care every week. In that case, they will not suffer from job pressure and lacking of inspiration. This policy indicates that employees are no longer served as tools to create value for the corporation. As a matter of fact, they have been taken as valuable resources now. Effective empowerment approaches come from the reduction in the social distance between executives and subordinates. And as managers, you are not supposed to retain your power and authority, while as employees you need to manage yourself to contribute to the organization to your highest level of competence and influence.

Practical Implications

Considering that Pixar is a company combines creativity and technology to make films, apparently there are many similarities between Pixar and mobile manufactures. And among all the companies, the fall of Nokia seems to be the most interesting case. During the late 1990s and early 2000s the 147-year-old Finnish company became a global technology star: the world’s No. 1 mobile maker and the first brand of phone everyone owned. However, the days of dominating the market share will never go back. Now the mighty giant has lost its throne at top of the global tree, instead, electronic giant Apple and Samsung have take most of the market share once belonged to Nokia. Nokia swung to an operating loss of €1.073 billion in 2011, thousands of people are laid off every year, buildings and assets are sold, and countless retail stores are closed. Nokia is taking those measures to cut expense, only seeking to survive the fierce competition brought by Apple and Samsung. Is death of Nokia really coming soon? Is there any chance left that Nokia can survive this disaster and regain the past glory? If there is, what exactly does Nokia need to do? Of course, there are many reason give rise to Nokia’s fall. But from an organizational behavior perspective, Nokia falls because of imperfect motivational system and empowerment management. We may find some clues from its main competitor’s move. Apple has taken the strategy of job design and empowerment; keep investing innovation and research, financial education seminars and tuition assistance. As a result, Apple created IOS platform, Iphone and Ipad which based on IOS. Samsung has also created Galaxy which uses the latest Android platform. However, Nokia just stick to its old-fashioned design and platform Symbian, which has been commonly recognized as the key reason for Nokia’s fall. Apple also use the strategy of providing incentives, the company offer its employees all kinds of insurance, paid vacations and holidays, product discounts and entertainment facilities. During the process of enjoy all the reward and care brought by Apple, employees will truly feel themselves as part of the organization, which in turn will greatly improve their job performance, while Nokia’s employees will be surprised if they are not fired for another year. So is there any practical measure can be used for Nokia? First, Nokia needs to completely move off from old fashioned design and platform, keep invest in research and development, Meanwhile develop new products that catch the latest trend and satisfy consumers’ needs. Secondly, offer professional training and reward to raise the creativity and work efficacy of its employees. At last, rebuild the image of company; foster a new organizational culture to achieve employees’ recognition.


This research has proved that motivational theories and empowerment management strategies play a key role in Pixar’s great success. Pixar’s strategy of recognition lets employees feel valued and appreciated. Job design approach make employees armed with knowledge, confidence and enough creativity. Thus improve jobholders’ ability of decision-making, planning and controlling powers. And we can divide empowerment management strategies into two aspects: Individually, employees in Pixar can make full use of the progressive working environment and working conditions developed by Pixar and possess required competencies and realize self-efficacy. Organizationally, Pixar has spent every effort to foster a perfect organizational culture which based on trust, collaboration and care. Finally, Pixar’s success has given hope to Nokia’s survival.


Steven Mcshane, Mara Olekalns and Tony Travaglione 2011,organizational behaviour on the pacific rim 3rd edition, the MCGraw.Hill companies,Sydney

Catmull, Ed 2008, “how Pixar fosters collective creativity”,Harvard Business Review; Sep2008, Vol. 86 Issue 9, p64-72, 9p

Charles D. Spielberger and Laura M.Starr 1995. “curiosity and exploratory behavior”, Motivation theory and research, chapter12

Stein Joel 2012, “PIXAR'S GIRL STORY”,Time; 3/5/2012, Vol. 179 Issue 9, p36-41, 6p

Loh, Dawn 2000, The Maslow revival : Maslow's hierarchy of needs as a motivational theory,Monash University, Faculty of Business and Economics, Department of Management, 2000

Vroom, V. H. (1964). Work and Motivation, John Wiley, New York.

Porter, L. W. and Lawler, E. E. (1968). What Job Attitudes Can Tell Us About Employee Motivation, Harvard Business Review, 46(1), 118-126

De Liu 2013, “DIGITAL GAMES AND BEYOND: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PLAYERS COMPETE”MIS Quarterly; Mar2013, Vol. 37 Issue 1, p111-124, 18p

Shalley, C. E., Gilson, L. L., & Blum, T. C. (2000). Matching creativity requirements and the work environment: Effects on satisfaction and intent to turnover. Academy of Management Journal, 43, 215–224

Kirkman, B. L., & Rosen, B. (1999). Beyond self-management: Antecedents and consequences of team empowerment. Academy of Management Journal, 42, 58–74

Spreitzer, G. M. (1995). Psychological empowerment in the workplace: Dimensions, measurements and validation. Academy of Management Journal, 3,

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