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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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“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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Catmull is not your typical Silicon Valley executive. He has a PhD in Physics, is curious and open minded, and above all, comes across as a man more interested in creative challenges than the promises of safe harbor. He began his journey with one dream—to follow in the pioneering footsteps of Walt Disney and make the first computer animated feature film.
Catmull’s engaging storytelling style brings us into the actual questions and crises he personally experienced while growing into his leadership role. He does a masterful job of brining the reader into the mind of the matter and almost invites participation. Once he achieved the dream of creating the first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, he noticed a sense of inner emptiness. Having witnessed the fruition of a life-long dream, he determined to develop as a leader who would dedicate all his energy and time to create a culture that would sustain the “magic” behind Pixar’s initial success. After Toy Story, Pixar would go on to produce multiple Oscar winning box office hits. In fact, to this day, there is no film with the Pixar name on it considered a failure either financially or critically.
The company’s unique culture and their unrivaled success, can be attributed to the complimentary effects of Steve Jobs’ business acumen, storytelling genius of former Disney animator, John Lassater, and Ed Catmull’s executive leadership.
Throughout the book, Catmull emphasizes the one guiding principle that shaped every other decision he tried to implement at Pixar and Disney: “Good ideas come from anywhere.” Hence, to create a culture where candor was the norm, he tirelessly labored to remove barriers that instilled fear and short-circuited communication among employees.
Constantly asking questions and probing the way they did business, Catmull is perhaps, borrowing Good to Great language, what I would consider a Level 6 leader. He is humble, caring, trusting, and brutally honest. I classified him as a 6 due to the fact that he seemed to have been successful at reproducing the Pixar culture at a fledgling Disney Animation Studios, which he and John Lassater took over in 2004. They were largely responsible for the sea change at Disney, which had not produced a box office hit in more than fifteen years, until the release of Tangled and Frozen. He took a micromanaged Disney Animation Studio and liberated the talent they had, by changing both the physical and invisible architectures of the workplace. Catmull did for Disney what one of the Pixar directors said Steve Jobs did for them, he was the “creative firewall.” Catmull asserts, “while experimentation is scary to many, I would argue that we should be far more terrified of the opposite approach. Being too risk-averse causes many companies to stop innovating and to reject new ideas, which is the first step on the path to irrelevance.”
Many leaders would agree with this statement but very few would go out of their way to remove what are considered “privileges” that distance leadership from the common workers, such as corner offices, personal parking spots, and so on. When Catmull moved into his Disney office, the first thing he and Lassater did was tear down their very distinguished executive suites and converted them into community rooms in exchange for offices in the center of activity. Catmull’s story is distinct because of his dedication to what is a very common idea. Namely, that inspiration and creativity is cultivated in safe and nonhierarchical collaborative environments where people have a sense of worth and ownership. A principle basic to most, if not all leaders. But his book captures the discipline, resolve and integrity, necessary to apply the idea in a company through its birth pangs and great successes.
The lessons on the leadership and culture at Pixar are even more compelling: ferocious about producing the highest quality product, but not at the expense of belittling people.
It's inspirational and humbling all at the same time. A must read.
My only complain is that the book sometimes repeats some concepts again and again. So, I think it could be shorter. Anyway, it is worth reading, and it deserves 5 stars.
I can't bring myself to give it a full five star rating, however, because the book is not really "by" Ed Catmull, but rather by a journalist, Amy Wallace, in collaboration with him. Although she writes very well, it was continually jarring to read about Pixar in the first person when it's clear that it is not really Catmull's voice. Most readers will probably not be bothered by this, if they notice it at all. For me it was an ongoing distraction.