Title: Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
Author: Ed Catmull
Genre: Work and Business
Trigger Warnings: None
What does it mean to manage well?
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. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable—based on philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention, such as:
- Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.
- If you don’t strive to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.
- It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.
- The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.
- A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.
- Do not assume that general agreement will lead to change—it takes substantial energy to move a group, even when all are on board.
Apparently I only pick up books in the “Work and Business” category by accident.
Well, I didn’t pick up this book on accident. I heard Ed Catmull speak on creativity at the Global Leadership Summit in 2016, which (though it took a back seat to Brené Brown‘s) I thoroughly enjoyed. So when I found this book among the library’s slim audiobook selection, I picked it up without really reading the back cover.
To be clear, this wasn’t a bad book. Not at all. But it wasn’t what I expected.
I was expecting something about personal creativity, maybe about how to get inspired or how to solve problems creativity or just about how to be creative in general. What I would have realized if I’d read the back cover was that it was more about how to manage in a way that inspires creativity in your employees.
Interestingly enough, that management aspect was only about 30% of the book, though. The other 70% was a history of Pixar and how it came to exist and later to become a pioneering animation company. Which, again, was very interesting – I didn’t know really anything about Pixar before, and it was so full of ups and downs that it made for a great story in itself.
The downside of this book is personal – I’m not a manager or in charge of any employees. And that means there isn’t a lot in Creativity, Inc. that applies to me. The applicable part of this book is focused on employees and managers, corporate dynamics, and working teams. I’m sure if I looked really hard, I could find ways to apply some of the principles to me as an individual, but with just an initial read (well, listen), I didn’t see anything.
Like I said earlier, this is actually a good book, and it’s very interesting. It just wasn’t super applicable to me (and you know I’m all about the practical application). If you want to know about the history of Pixar, you’ll get a lot out of this book. If you’re a manager or business leader looking to inspire your employees, this will be helpful. But I’m not really the target market for this book.