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The rules of designing a graduate programme based on PIXAR's 22 rules of storytelling

A few months ago Emma Coates of Pixar published a list of rules for telling great stories.

As creating great graduate schemes is a way of helping people tell the first chapter of their work story, here is my attempt at adapting those rules for the people designing those stories

  • You admire a graduate for trying hard as much as for their success. Make sure you give them the opportunity and make sure you notice when they take it.
  • You gotta keep in mind what’s interesting to you as a business, not what’s fun to do as a graduate. They can be very different.
  • Once upon a time there was a graduate Every day, they did X, One day they learnt Y, Because of that, they delivered Z, Because of that, they learned ZZ Until finally they made it.
  • Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings and the first permanent job are hard, get yours designed up front.
  • Finish your experience, let go even if it’s not perfect. In an ideal world you have both, but move on. Do better next time and make sure you learn.
  • Simplify. Focus. Combine experiences. Hop over detours. You’ll feel like you’re losing valuable stuff but it sets you free.
  • When you’re stuck, make a list of what you don’t want to happen next. Lots of times the ideas to get you unstuck will show up.
  • Putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone.
  • Discount the 1st thing that comes to mind. And the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th—get the obvious out of the way. Surprise yourself.
  • Let your graduates have opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable, but it’s poison to the business.
  • If you were your graduate, in this situation, how would you feel? Honesty lends credibility to new work situations.
  • What’s the essence of your grad programme? The minimum you have to do? If you know that, you can build out from there.
  • Why must you have THIS scheme? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.
  • Exercise: take the building blocks of a graduate scheme you dislike. How do you rearrange them into what you DO like?

Happy story telling.