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REVIEW Creativity Inc Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

“What does it mean to manage well” From Ed Catmull co founder with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter of Pixar Animation Studios comes an incisive book about creativity in business sure to appeal to readers of Daniel Pink Tom Peters and Chip and Dan Heath 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”   For nearly twenty years Pixar has dominated the world of animation producing such beloved films as the Toy Story tr For those unfamiliar with Ed Catmull he is best known as the president of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios Full disclosure I work for the latter Before I came to work at Disney I knew of Ed Catmull as a technological innovator in the field of computer graphics and animation He was essential in the development of the alpha channel z buffer texture mapping and a number of other technologies that make digital animation possible After years of problem solving in the technical space he found himself in charge of a thriving company Pixar and devoted his problem solving acumen to management and the problem of keeping creativity alive This book is a record of that effort his successes his failures and the lessons he learned along the wayI haven t read much in the way of management books so it s hard for me to compare Creativity Inc with others in that field but Catmull has a particular advantage when it comes to credentials and credibility Pixar has released 14 animated features every single one of them a box office phenomenon and Pixar enjoys the most consistent critical success of any studio Similarly Disney Animation has seen a resurgence under Ed s and John Lasseter s leadership with an ever improving slate of hitsWhat makes those statistics so impressive is that creativity is a legendarily fickle beast success often leads to complacency what worked before is encoded as rule and takes away the flexibility to innovate population and budgets get blown out of proportion until the constraints that provided inspiration disappear and as a result creative streaks tend to be frustratingly unsustainableEd Catmull shares the story of his early days in computer graphics and his uncertain transition into management giving specific examples of things that worked and did not work There are numerous anecdotes about his interactions with Steve Jobs and the various directors at Pixar and deep reflection on the roles of personality pride bias objectivity failure success teamwork and the various permutations thereof Eventually Pixar is acuired by Disney with the unusual result of Ed and John being placed in charge of Disney Animation This provides a test bed to try Pixar s management philosophy out on a new population of talented but struggling filmmakersThe conclusion is that there are no easy answers or set rules for keeping creativity alive Anything that can be stated as a maxim is already half way obsolete as the repeated words become divorced from the reality of the situation Instead creativity reuires constant vigilance searching oneself for biases trying things in new ways picking talented people and allowing them to have a voice keeping your communications open and independent of your organizational structure knowing when to cut your losses in the interest of pursuing excellence failing often and not seeing failure as something to be protected against and so on I can t summarize all the insights and their explanations are helpful so read the bookI ll sum up by saying Creativity Inc should be of interest to managers of all stripes even in businesses that aren t traditionally seen as creative as well as to anyone who follows the history of technology or animation Ed Catmull is an extremely smart person and it s nice to see someone with his perspicacity and concern for others in such a prominent position The book won t win any awards for flowery prose but it was a uick read and Ed Catmull has a very pragmatic introspective and unclouded approach to problem solving that will benefit everyone

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Creativity Inc Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Ilogy Monsters Inc Finding Nemo The Incredibles Up and WALL E which have gone on to set box office records and garner thirty Academy Awards 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 techniues that have made Pixar so widely admired and so profitable   As a young man Ed Catmull had a dream to make the first computer animated movie He nurtured that dream as a PhD student at the University of Utah where many computer science pioneers got their start and then forged a partnership with George Lucas that led indirectly to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986 Nine years later Toy Story was released changing animation forever The essential ingredient in that movie’s success and in the thirteen movies that followed I read this because I m an artist but I loved it because I m a manager Whether you re a computer science history buff a fan of Pixar or Disney an aspiring animator an entrepreneur an artist or manager you ll get something great out of this book One of the best business books I ve read in a long time

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Was the uniue environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar 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 I was reading this for the creativity angle than the story of a company angle so I definitely skimmed some of the Pixar story I read bits of this to the group of library faculty and staff that I supervise and we had a great conversation about our current and upcoming ugly babies Originality is fragile And in its first moments it s often far from pretty This is why I call 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 Our job is to protect our babies from being judged too uickly Our job is to protect the newManagers of creative enterprises must hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentionsThe goal is to place one foot on either side of the door one grounded in what we know what wer are confident about our areas of expertise the people and processes we can count on and the other in the unknown where things are murky unseen or uncreatedGive a good idea to a mediocre team and they will screw it up Give a mediocre idea to a great team and they will either fix it or come up with something better If you get the team right chances are that they ll get the ideas rightIf there are people in your organization who feel they are not free to suggest ideas you lose Do not discount ideas from unexpected sources Inspiration can and does come from anywhereIt isn t enough merely to be open to ideas from others Engaging the collective brainpower of the people you work with is an active ongoing processIt is not the manager s job to prevent risks It is the manager s job to make it safe to take them


10 thoughts on “Creativity Inc Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

  1. says:

    For those unfamiliar with Ed Catmull he is best known as the president of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios Full disclosure I work for the latter Before I came to work at Disney I knew of Ed Catmull as a technologica

  2. says:

    This book is so disappointing I had hoped it would take one behind the scenes of such storytelling genius as UP and TOY STORY Instead it's a bunch of platitudes which could be bullet pointed in a few pages which indeed they are at the end Most of it is common sense rigid pyramid structures in organisations are

  3. says:

    People first story second great advice for managing a business Interesting to hear Pixar's history told first hand as was Catmull's interactions with Steve Jobs Audiobook narrator is super good

  4. says:

    Recommend this highly for anyone who works in a technology or creative field Pixars track records is unparalleled 14 movies and all of them have been massive hits I had two important takeaways from this book how to build a great lasting culture and how to build a creative companyCatmull's philosophy both around

  5. says:

    Creativity Inc Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is by Ed Catmull the founder of Pixar As his career progressed and Pixar continued to grow Ed learned the type of leader he wanted to be and how to foster a culture that perpetually promotes and encourages creativity He shares many characteristics of such a culture in this book Ed knew early on he wanted to work in computer animation and make a movie by d

  6. says:

    I read this because I'm an artist but I loved it because I'm a manager Whether you're a computer science history buff a fan of Pixar or Disney an aspiring animator an entrepreneur an artist or manager you'll get something great out of this book One of the best business books I've read in a long time

  7. says:

    Pixar Creativity is the story of Pixar and its founders Steve Jobs John Lasseter and Ed Catmull and how they man

  8. says:

    I was reading this for the creativity angle than the story of a company angle so I definitely skimmed some of the Pixar story I read bits of this to the group of library faculty and staff that I supervise and we had a great conversation about our current and upcoming ugly babies Originality is fragile And in its first moments it's often far

  9. says:

    What this book is a managerial how to on fostering creativity productivity and work life balance in the officeWhat this book is not a guidebook of creative inspiration for regular everyday DIYers who work alone The ideas are cut and dry and pre

  10. says:

    This book was eual parts Management Theory Text and Memoirs of an Unconventional CEO with a healthy dose of My Business Relationship with Steve Jobs and while that may sound a bit scattered or even dry this work is neither Catmull manages to sprinkle the above seasonings into the broth in precisely the correct m