Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace

creativity inc

I love Pixar films and knew a bit of the background but not the full story. This book fills in the all the gaps back to Ed’s pioneering work with computer graphics, early work with Lucasfilm, then Pixar & Disney. It’s also peppered with interesting stories about Steve Jobs, John Lasseter and more.

The book is full of interesting takeaways. Ed’s insight into management, how to unlock creativity and how to get the most out of teams is excellent.

Here’s a few:

  • There are parallels between Ed’s insights to building high performing teams and the Agile movement. Team is greater than individuals.
  • Importance of candor or honesty - “Believe me, you don’t want to be at a company where there is more candor in the hallways than in the rooms where fundamental ideas or matters of policy are being hashed out.”
  • If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it.
  • In a fear-based, failure-averse culture, people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk. They will seek instead to repeat something safe that’s been good enough in the past. Their work will be derivative, not innovative.
  • Be patient. Be authentic. And be consistent. The trust will come.
  • Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on—but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal.
  • People want to hang on to things that work—stories that work, methods that work, strategies that work. You figure something out, it works, so you keep doing it—this is what an organization that is committed to learning does. And as we become successful, our approaches are reinforced, and we become even more resistant to change.
  • When companies are successful, it is natural to assume that this is a result of leaders making shrewd decisions. Those leaders go forward believing that they have figured out the key to building a thriving company. In fact, randomness and luck played a key role in that success.
  • As more people are added to any group, there is an inexorable drift toward inflexibility.

“Which brings us to one of my core management beliefs: If you don’t try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.”

Recommended reading for anyone in a technical or creative career.