- Hardcover: 368 pages
- Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (April 8, 2014)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812993012
- ISBN-13: 978-0812993011
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,143 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,091 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration Hardcover – April 8, 2014
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"Maybe You Should Talk to Someone" by Lori Gottlieb
"This is a daring, delightful, and transformative book." ―Arianna Huffington, Founder, Huffington Post Learn more
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“Just might be the best business book ever written.”—Forbes
“Achieving enormous success while holding fast to the highest artistic standards is a nice trick—and Pixar, with its creative leadership and persistent commitment to innovation, has pulled it off. This book should be required reading for any manager.”—Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
“Steve Jobs—not a man inclined to hyperbole when asked about the qualities of others—once described Ed Catmull as ‘very wise,’ ‘very self-aware,’ ‘really thoughtful,’ ‘really, really smart,’ and possessing ‘quiet strength,’ all in a single interview. Any reader of Creativity, Inc., Catmull’s new book on the art of running creative companies, will have to agree. Catmull, president of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation, has written what just might be the most thoughtful management book ever.”—Fast Company
“It’s one thing to be creative; it’s entirely another—and much more rare—to build a great and creative culture. Over more than thirty years, Ed Catmull has developed methods to root out and destroy the barriers to creativity, to marry creativity to the pursuit of excellence, and, most impressive, to sustain a culture of disciplined creativity during setbacks and success. Pixar’s unrivaled record, and the joy its films have added to our lives, gives his method the most important validation: It works.”—Jim Collins, co-author of Built to Last and author of Good to Great
“Too often, we seek to keep the status quo working. This is a book about breaking it.”—Seth Godin
“What is the secret to making more of the good stuff? Every so often Hollywood embraces a book that it senses might provide the answer. . . . Catmull’s book is quickly becoming the latest bible for the show business crowd.”—The New York Times
“The most practical and deep book ever written by a practitioner on the topic of innovation.”—Prof. Gary P. Pisano, Harvard Business School
“Business gurus love to tell stories about Pixar, but this is our first chance to hear the real story from someone who lived it and led it. Everyone interested in managing innovation—or just good managing—needs to read this book.”—Chip Heath, co-author of Switch and Decisive
“A fascinating story about how some very smart people built something that profoundly changed the animation business and, along the way, popular culture . . . [Creativity, Inc.] is a well-told tale, full of detail about an interesting, intricate business. For fans of Pixar films, it’s a must-read. For fans of management books, it belongs on the ‘value added’ shelf.”—The Wall Street Journal
“Pixar uses technology only as a means to an end; its films are rooted in human concerns, not computer wizardry. The same can be said of Creativity Inc., Ed Catmull’s endearingly thoughtful explanation of how the studio he co-founded generated hits such as the Toy Story trilogy, Up and Wall-E. . . . [Catmull] uses Pixar’s triumphs and near-disasters to outline a system for managing people in creative businesses—one in which candid criticism is delivered sensitively, while individuality and autonomy are not strangled by a robotic corporate culture.”—Financial Times
“A wonderful new book . . . Unlike most books written by founders, this isn’t some myth-heavy legacy project—it’s far closer to a blueprint. Catmull takes us inside the Pixar ecosystem and shows how they build and refine excellence, in revelatory detail. . . . If you do creative work, you should read it, now.”—Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code
“A superb debut intended for managers in all fields of endeavor . . . He takes readers inside candid discussions and retreats at which participants, assuming the early versions of movies are bad, explore ways to improve them. Unusually rich in ideas, insights and experiences, the book celebrates the benefits of an open, nurturing work environment. An immensely readable and rewarding book that will challenge and inspire readers to make their workplaces hotbeds of creativity.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Punctuated with surprising tales of how the company’s films were developed and the company’s financial struggles, Catmull shares insights about harnessing talent, creating teams, protecting the creative process, candid communications, organizational structures, alignment, and the importance of storytelling. . . . [Creativity, Inc.] will delight and inspire creative individuals and their managers, as well as anyone who wants to work ‘in an environment that fosters creativity and problem solving.’”—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“For anyone managing anything, and particularly those trying to manage creative teams, Catmull is like a kind, smart godfather guiding us toward managing wisely, without losing our souls, and in a way that works toward greatness. Perhaps it’s all Up from there.”—The Christian Science Monitor
“Many have attempted to formulate and categorize inspiration and creativity. What Ed Catmull shares instead is his astute experience that creativity isn’t strictly a well of ideas, but an alchemy of people. In Creativity, Inc. Ed reveals, with commonsense specificity and honesty, examples of how not to get in your own way and how to realize a creative coalescence of art, business, and innovation.”—George Lucas
“This is the best book ever written on what it takes to build a creative organization. It is the best because Catmull’s wisdom, modesty, and self-awareness fill every page. He shows how Pixar’s greatness results from connecting the specific little things they do (mostly things that anyone can do in any organization) to the big goal that drives everyone in the company: making films that make them feel proud of one another.”—Robert I. Sutton, Stanford professor and author of The No A**hole Rule and co-author of Scaling Up Excellence
About the Author
Ed Catmull is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. He has been honored with five Academy Awards, including the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for lifetime achievement in the field of computer graphics. He received his Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Utah. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and children.
Amy Wallace is a journalist whose work has appeared in GQ, The New Yorker, Wired, Los Angeles Times, and The New York Times Magazine. She currently serves as editor-at-large at Los Angeles Times magazine. Previously, she worked as a reporter and editor at the Los Angeles Times and wrote a monthly column for The New York Times Sunday Business section. She lives in Los Angeles.
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There is a vast literature out there about how individual people can tap into their natural, God-given creativity. There’s no one best book in this crop, but if you find one that works for you, that one’s the best as far as you’re concerned.
There’s not a lot about how organizations and leaders can unleash creativity and most of it is platitudes on parade. We’re told to “fail fast and fail often” as if failing was the point. It’s not. Learning is the point. We’re told to tell people they should not be afraid to fail. What nonsense. Nobody likes to fail, and if they’re afraid to fail, it’s not their fault. It’s yours. We’re also given that advice as if there is an alternative to doing creative cutting-edge work without getting it wrong, mostly at the beginning. There isn’t. That’s the way the world works.
Some writers do a better job on this by talking about ways you can structure things so that a failure is more likely to be seen as a learning experience and where criticism and bad news can be received as gifts rather than attacks. But there’s precious little in those books about how you actually make it work and then keep it working over time.
Creativity Inc is different. The primary reason is Ed Catmull and his willingness to talk about the details of both his and Pixar’s journeys. Here’s what I consider the key quote from very early in the book.
“What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; but we work hard to uncover those problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that when we come across a problem, we marshal all of our energies to solve it.”
Early in the book, Catmull tells the story of a table in a meeting room at Pixar. The table, evidently, looks like most of the tables in most meeting rooms that I’ve been in. It was rectangular. Most of us have heard that tables with that shape aren’t exactly symbols of an egalitarian culture and that they stifle open discussion. But we keep meeting around those tables. So did Pixar.
“Over the course of a decade, we held countless meetings around this table in this way – completely unaware of how doing so undermined our own core principles.”
When Catmull and his crew become aware of the effect of the table, they change it. Good for them. Then they discover that there are other behaviors that may have been linked to the table originally but continue after the table is changed. For example, on the old table there were place cards indicating where people sat. Powerful people at the ends, junior people toward the middle. The new square table removed the power of shape but the place cards had become common practice, too. So, when Catmull came into the room for a meeting around the new table, he found place cards indicating where everyone should sit.
That is the book in a nutshell. Catmull covers a lot of ground and many topics, but the core book is about how he, John Lasseter, and other people at Pixar, uncovered problems and worked to solve them, nurtured creative energy, and dealt with the inevitable conflicts and surprises. Every organization that I’ve ever worked with or visited has had similar issues.
One problem putting together the review for this book is that it is simply riddled with wisdom. So, rather than give you the standard chapter summaries that I put in most reviews, I’m going to list each of the four sections and name the chapters that are in it, then share some quotes from that section. I’m sure that when you read the book, you will find your own insightful bits that are different from mine.
Part 1 is called Getting Started. The four chapters, Animated, Pixar Is Born, A Defining Goal, and Establishing Pixar’s Identity, tell the story of Ed Catmull and Pixar up until the success of “Toy Story.”
"I also didn’t yet know that my self-assigned mission was about much more than technology. To pull it off, we’d have to be creative not only technically but also in the ways that we worked together."
"What had drawn me to science, all those years ago, was the search for understanding. Human interaction is far more complex than relativity or string theory, of course, but that only made it more interesting and important; it constantly challenged my presumptions. As we made more movies, I would learn that some of my beliefs about why and how Pixar had been successful were wrong. But one thing could not have been more plain: Figuring out how to build a sustainable creative culture—one that didn’t just pay lip service to the importance of things like honesty, excellence, communication, originality, and self-assessment but really committed to them, no matter how uncomfortable that became—wasn’t a singular assignment. It was a day-in-day-out, full-time job. And one that I wanted to do."
Part 2 is titled Protecting the New. That’s a theme that will run through the book from here on. The chapters are: Honesty and Candor, Fear and Failure, The Hungry Beast and The Ugly Baby, Change and Randomness, and The Hidden.
“Because early on, all of our movies suck. That’s a blunt assessment, I know, but I make a point of repeating it often, and I choose that phrasing because saying it in a softer way fails to convey how bad the first versions of our films really are. I’m not trying to be modest or self-effacing by saying this. Pixar films are not good at first, and our job is to make them so—to go, as I say, ‘from suck to not-suck.’ This idea—that all the movies we now think of as brilliant were, at one time, terrible—is a hard concept for many to grasp”
“So if your primary goal is to have a fully worked out, set-in-stone plan, you are only upping your chances of being unoriginal.”
"One of the biggest barriers is fear, and while failure comes with the territory, fear shouldn’t have to. The goal, then, is to uncouple fear and failure—to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts."
"If you don’t try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead."
Part 3 is titled Building and Sustaining. There are only two chapters: Broadening Our View and The Unmade Future.
"This third section of the book is devoted to some of the specific methods we have employed at Pixar to prevent our disparate views from hindering our collaboration. In each case, we are trying to force ourselves—individually and as a company—to challenge our preconceptions."
"Companies, like individuals, do not become exceptional by believing they are exceptional but by understanding the ways in which they aren’t exceptional. Postmortems are one route into that understanding.”
Part 4, titled Testing What We Know, also has just two chapters. They are A New Challenge and Notes Day.
"The future is not a destination—it is a direction."
One more thing. Steve Jobs played a critical role in Pixar’s success and Ed Catmull has included an afterword called The Steve Jobs We Knew. My friend, Bob Sutton, has said that Steve Jobs is something of a Rorschach test for people. You see what you think you see, and other people see the same thing and interpret it differently. My problem has always been that most of the views of Jobs freeze him in time and they don’t indicate any growth or maturity. No one as intelligent or introspective as Steve Jobs would have stayed the same for his entire life. What I loved about the afterword is that it not only gave a unique view of Jobs as both a business partner and a friend, but also talked about his growth during his life.
Creativity Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in The Way of True Inspiration is a great book about creativity and about how to lead an organization. More importantly it is the very best book I’ve ever read about unleashing the initiative and creativity of people in an organization.
Catmull's book really is a must read for any business manager. Catmull realized that after his 20 year journey to make a fully computer generated movie was over, that he really needed a new challenge. He came to realize that this challenge was to figure out how to prevent Pixar from doing that one big fatal mistake that just about every truly innovative company eventually makes - the kind of mistake that is usually incredibly obvious in hindsight. So he went about trying to figure out just what it takes to keep a company fresh, creative, and innovative, and this book is the culmination of those findings and explorations. Here are a few good tidbits from the Amazon blurb above:
• 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.
As you can tell, this book gets a huge thumbs up from me. It's not a blueprint per se of how to keep that innovative and creative spark, but it does clearly show the kind of path one needs to take to remain successful and relevant in today's fast moving world. I did find it funny that the NY Times said this book was quickly becoming the bible for the show business crowd. I think they missed the mark on that one. It's really the bible for just about any company that relies on having an innovative and creative culture, and these days, that's just about every company on the face of this planet.