We know Pixar as the company behind Toy Story, but Toy Story wasn’t Pixar’s first film. Toy Story is perhaps its most memorable first feature film, but it wasn’t its first film. Pixar had five short films before releasing Toy Story in 1995. These shorts, although not revenue grossing themselves, were used to show off the technology behind Pixar, demonstrate their director’s ability to tell stories visually, and garnered experience for the Pixar team.
One of the continual Pixar traditions is to have up-and-coming directors to create a short film first and demonstrate that they can tell a story visually, and they still use Short films to show off new technology.
We tend to do things differently in software. It’s hard to get stakeholder buy-in for a small pilot first — something that ultimately may not even be folded into the project or product, but something that demonstrates either the technology, or the problem domain, or the team’s ability to build software together.
That learning and melding of a new team is critical to success. It’s not a stretch to say that without those five shorts, Toy Story wouldn’t have happened. If it took Pixar five short films to get their hit, what would it take for your team to hit a home run for your business?
You have a big idea and your team is working towards launching that big idea. Instead of trying to tackle the big hairy problems in that big idea, focus first on one of the smaller ancillary pieces. Your build pipeline, or a small web application that exposes a piece of it — whatever it takes to prove that your team can successfully launch the solution to that big and hairy problem.