Never before in my history of reading have I highlighted a book as much as I did when reading Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull.
Here’s some of what the book is about:
Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”
Now don’t let the sentence, “this is a book for managers” deter you from picking up this extraordinary book, because it’s for anyone who wants to showcase their creativity in the workplace. It’s for anyone who’s part of a creative team who are keen to contribute ideas (good and sometimes bad) with the understanding that their hands have a part in the final product. Ed Catmull is the co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, so he knows a thing or two about what it means to be creative, but he also knows the importance of relying on his team to create ideas and garner creativity.
The first couple of chapters are about Ed Catmull’s goal of wanting to be the first person to make a computer-antimated movie and his path to achieving that dream; education, working with Lucasfilm (George Lucas’ company) and meeting Steve Jobs.
The reader will then dive into the nitty gritty with chapters and sections of the book titled,
- Honesty and Candor
- Hungry Beast and the Ugly Baby
- Broadening Our View
- Notes Day
These sections of the book are where you’re going to become inspired, so make sure you have that highlighter handy. Now if you’re thinking to yourself, well, one of the reasons I picked up this book is because I want a behind the scenes look at Pixar, don’t worry, you’ll get that too! Each of these sections and chapters are based around the framework of what he’s learned at Pixar Animation Studios. You’ll get a look at what movies were scrapped, which were tweaked and how the team came together to create a fabulous final product. You’ll also discover how and why the company has become so admired and profitable over the years.
One of the recurring themes throughout the book is Ed Catmull’s humble approach to operating a multi-billion dollar empire. Knowing that you don’t have all the answers, knowing when you’re wrong and knowing that it takes many hands to create something great is the key to success. He often refers to the process of creating Toy Story 2. Of course, we (the public) remember it being such a fabulous movie, but behind the scenes of creating that movie, the team at Pixar were making a lot of internal mistakes; families were neglected and sleep was not a part of their routine. It was after the movie was finished, that Ed took a step back to look at where they went wrong. He vowed never to have the Pixar team operate under those conditions again. Knowing that you’ve made a mistake and working to change it, is the strength of an effective leader.
The best part of reading Creativity, Inc is that you know that Ed Catmull isn’t just talking the talk, he’s walking the walk. Anyone can see that by watching the beautiful films they create, but it’s also evident if you type the words Pixar Animation into your Google browser.
I thought it would be helpful if I shared snippets of insight from this brilliant and inspiring book, so here are some of my favourite quotes:
- “Creativity has to start somewhere, and we are true believers int he power of bracing, candid feedback and the iterative process – reworking, reworking, and reworking again, until a flawed story finds its through line or a hollower character finds its soul.”
- ” When experimentation is seen as necessary and productive, not as a frustrating waste of time, people will enjoy their work – even when it is confounding them.”
- “Rather than trying to prevent all errors, we should assume, as is almost always the case, that our people’s intentions are good and that they want to solve problems. Give them responsibility, let the mistakes happen, and let people fix them.”
- “I call the early mock-ups of our films “ugly babies.” They are not beautiful, miniature versions of the adults they will grow up to be. They are truly ugly: awkward and unformed, vulnerable and incomplete. They need nurturing – in the form of time and patience – in order to grow.”
- “A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody”
I could continue to share lots of inspirational quotes, or I could encourage you to purchase a copy of Creativity, Inc. to become inspired all on your own. There is something in this book for everyone and you’ll have a different outlook of how you walk into the doors to your job every morning, I know I did.