Intersection: Innovation for Social Change at Pixar

Last week I had a wonderful opportunity to head to the Intersection Event being hosted at Pixar Studios (such a cool location oozing with creativity!). I met some passionate and brilliant people, all working to innovate for social change. I heard from some inspiring and creative speakers. I saw some unique businesses models. I was reminded of the tremendous need in the world for people to use their passion, skills and influence to help others.

And I realized that Erase Poverty was born out of the intersections of my life – my experience as a small business owner, marketing specialist, microfinance executive, global traveler, non-profit leader.

As a movement of small businesses seeking to erase poverty, we are modeling the concepts put forth at this conference. Erase Poverty is a catalyst for innovation and creativity among small business owners that makes a difference.


We provide the platform, but our members are creating innovative, unique ways of using their business to help fund microloans. For example:

  • Fashion designers are dedicating part of a product line to fund microloans, and using the opportunity publicity brings to mention Erase Poverty
  • Authors are using their influence to share about Erase Poverty through their bylines and when giving speeches
  • PR and Marketing agencies are building Erase Poverty into their proposals and recommendations for their clients
  • Vacation home owners are funding microloans through nightly rentals of their properties


Our time is now. We are committed to the outcome of erasing extreme poverty through the power of small business. And we are committed to continual innovation and partnering to make this happen.


I’ve included my notes from some of the speakers. I hope you enjoy them and take away something that will help you in your efforts to make the world a better place!





Some of the Trends to Watch For:

  • Crowdsourcing will grow
  • Things that help individuals feel connected to the people they are helping
  • Collaboration and partnership, convergence is happening on all fronts but need to direct attention to the top 10 issues of the world and make real traction in solving them.
  • People are turning to trusted sources to help them engage in philanthropy
  • New initiatives that help the average individual feel like a philanthropist

Speakers I was inspired by:
Frans Johanssen (                                                           

  • Intersection and innovation happen when you combine the things you’ve been exposed to in order to create something new. All new ideas are combinations of existing ideas
  • Find ways to break down the barriers between disciplines and cultures in order to innovate (move desks so that people from various departments/disciplines sit together and have exposure to each other). Diverse teams can unleash an explosion of new ideas.
  • People that change the world try far more ideas than others. Picasso painted 50,000 art projects, most of which were not masterpieces. Try more stuff, because humans are terrible at predicting what will actually stick and take off.
  • Driving Question to innovate: What is the smallest executable step I could take today?


Ed Catmull (CEO of Pixar –                                                 

  • Good ideas don't happen in our heads, they come from getting out into the world and making observations and connections. Go outside our normal spheres and see something different
  • Think about things in phases. Expect that the original idea and execution will morph significantly before it is ready to be released.
  • Find unusual people to work with, they make unusual things happen. At the end of a movie project, we throw most jobs up in the air and ask staff if they want to move and grow in a different role.
  • Create an environment where it is always safe to try things that might not work. Perfectionism and certainty are the antithesis of innovation. The things that don’t work are just that, things that didn’t work that we tried and learned from. Not failures.
  • Most people simply aren’t skilled or equipped to hear new ideas. Protect unformed ideas until they are refined and fleshed out enough to be shared.
  • Life, work, innovation, creativity are messy. Create an environment where that is understood and embraced because that’s where the brilliance is.


Tim Brown (CEO of IDEO -

  • While you ultimately want to create something that appeals to the majority, you need to study the extremes of the bell curve first in order to create something truly innovative (kitchen tool that helps in the average household kitchen: study children in the kitchen because they have the same struggles as adults but can’t cover it up, study professional chefs because they’ve found a way to overcome the challenge)
  • Every prototype or model is a learning step. I want to see a prototype within a week of launching a project. We need to learn quickly. We made 60 versions of the Palm Pilot before we created the one that took off.
  • Getting the process right is not the goal. Creating innovative ideas that change the world is.
  • We look for people who are ambidextrous – they use both the left and right sides of their brain


Jaqueline Fuller (Google)

  • Launch early and often. Iterate over and over and over.
  • Build a body of evidence to see if your hunches, ideas will work
  • Not just passion. Not just evidence. Needs to be both to really succeed.
  • Google backs the leader, not just the project. Vision is important.
  • Don’t be too attached to the model, attach to the outcome and find a way to make it happen


Payema (Founder of

  • Innovation is not innovation without execution. Don’t just talk, act.


Greg Brandeau and John Hagel

  • Change is a political process that needs to be managed to succeed.
  • Success only happens through relationships. Build long-term relationships through authenticity and stories.
  • Don’t go for the majority and try to gain converts to your idea. Find the scaleable edge of people interested in your idea, win there and then draw the core out to support your concept.
  • Creative constraints lead to better results. Create loose boundaries that are attached to the outcome you desire.


Susan Sarandon

  • Stories move hearts. Put a face on a challenge, and people open their hearts.
  • You create who you are by what you choose to spend your energy on.
  • Talk in sound bytes and keep things simple
  • If you’re separated from your tribe, that’s a very lonely place. Often asking unpopular questions can cause separation. Find a new tribe that supports you as you ask the tough questions.