Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace (Book Review)

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration Book Cover Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
Ed Catmull
Random House

Brian's Review:

I sincerely enjoyed Creativity, Inc., the powerful story of Pixar Animation Studios, through the eyes of Ed Catmull. This book is certainly NOT what I expected but by no means was I disappointed. Whether I will be more creative from the read, I have no idea but I do, at the very least, have a better understanding and appreciation for the creative process.

Creativity, Inc., at first seemed more like an autobiography of the author, Ed Catmull, than a book on creativity and inspiration. It was two hours into the book (Audible) before Pixar was even born. Don’t let that little point deter you; Ed Catmull and Amy Wallace kept me glued to my chair wanting more.

And more I got, in spades. Ed Catmull’s grandfatherly storytelling talent teaches us without the traditional ‘classroom environment’ feel. Without even realizing it, you will not only learn about the power of creativity, you’ll experience vision, unwavering passion, failures, triumphant successes, and all through the eyes of Pixar Animation Studios’ co-founder and president, Ed Catmull.

‘You can’t manage what you can’t measure’ is a maxim that is taught and believed by many in both the business and education sectors. But in fact, the phrase is ridiculous; something said by people who are unaware of how much is hidden. A large portion of what we manage can’t be measured, and not realizing this has unintended consequences.

You’ll rub shoulders, through the story of Creativity, Inc., with powerful thought leaders such as George Lucas, Steve Jobs, and Francis Ford Coppola.

You will witness the birth, stagnation, expansion, re-imagination, and amazing success of the American Dream, all with the delight of experiencing a fantastic novel of imagination. Few true stories have so much to offer.

Lessons Learned from Creativity, Inc.

I don’t know if it’s more important to have the ability to recognize problems or to have the desire to understand, completely, what went wrong. One thing I am certain of, however, those are two traits of Ed Catmull that separate Pixar Animation Studios from their competition. Mr. Catmull didn’t only see a problem and fix it, he sought out the reasons behind the failures in order to prevent them from reoccurring. This was not only Pixar’s problems he worked to understand; it was other company’s failures as well. This may seem like common sense but most executives are blind to many of the underlying problems not in their direct line of sight.

Some of the lessons I learned from Creativity, Inc. include:

  • The importance of recognizing problems and challenges.
  • The art of negotiation.
  • The rewards of following your passion.
  • The dangers of outside influences.
  • The true value of not only allowing creativity at every level but insisting on it.
  • The tendency of internal conflict.
  • How upsides override downsides and create unforeseen tension.
  • Communication should never be impeded by position, station, or hierarchy.
  • How to build and sustain a creative culture.
  • Finding the best people is only as effective as their ability to work as a team.
  • The importance of developing a properly structured Braintrust.
  • Looking at failure improperly impedes progress.
  • How postmortem sessions take an honest look at what worked and what didn’t so the next project can benefit from an honest and in-depth review and analysis.

There are so many more lessons to list but it would require a book in itself to post here.

I really enjoyed Creativity, Inc., not only for the education on creativity, but in business building as well. I can’t imagine anyone that has ever held a “job” not wishing at least one of their bosses would have read this book. Creativity, Inc. made me want to work for Pixar  and Ed Catmull myself, and I hate the idea of another job.

Creativity, Inc. Chapters:

Part I: Lost and Found
Chapter 1: Animated
Chapter 2: Pixar Is Born
Chapter 3: A Defining Goal
Chapter 4: Establishing Pixar’s Identity
Part II: Protecting The New
Chapter 5: Honesty and Candor
Chapter 6: Fear and Failure
Chapter 7: The Hungry Beast and The Ugly Baby
Chapter 8: Change and Randomness
Chapter 9: The Hidden
Part III: Building And Sustaining
Chapter 10: Broadening Our View
Chapter 11: The Unmade Future
Part IV: Testing What We Know
Chapter 12: A New Challenge
Chapter 13: Notes Day
Afterword: The Steve We Knew
Starting Points: Thoughts for Managing a Creative Culture

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