I’ve been a fan of Pixar from the beginning. Toy Story had me hooked and since then I’ve been a raving fan. Their movies have found a special place in my heart, and their team has crafted some of my favorite stories and characters on film. I’ve learned more about their culture and process through articles, documentaries, and books. I’ve read some about John Lasseter and Steve Jobs but never heard too much about the third member of the Pixar triumvirate: Ed Catmull. That was until I was looking through Amazon and creating a wish list and stumbled upon Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration written by Ed Catmull.
Creativity, Inc. reads partly like the autobiography of Ed Catmull and Pixar and partly as a creative business management challenge. Catmull explains that in order to fully understand his job as President at Pixar and Disney Animation you first have to understand a little bit of the background of how Pixar became Pixar. He shares his story, beginning before Pixar, from college to Industrial Light & Magic at Lucasfilm to Steve Jobs acquisition of Pixar and eventual sale to Disney. Through the years Catmull has realized his job has become increasingly simpler: to create a fertile environment for people to do their best work, keep it healthy, and watch for things that undermine it. With this filter, it is very easy to find the practical application for creative business management throughout the book. Catmull does so by seemingly pulling back the curtain at Pixar by sharing practices and rules that help safeguard the culture they value. He explains the emphasis they put on candor in meetings, the value they place on feedback, the importance of everyone feeling they have the authority to improve their projects, and the trust they have in each member on their team. The countless stories he shares of success and failure at Pixar and Disney Animation are the perfect vehicle to deliver fundamental ideological concepts and practical application in an easily digestible way.
I found myself highlighting more passages than normal in this book. Over 190 passages were highlighted by the time I finished, and these weren’t just sentences but whole paragraphs and sections. Catmull dropped so many nuggets and insights that I eagerly shook my head in agreement with. Because, as someone who is a creative but not an artist, I have had an increasing desire to lead creatives one day. To be able to read the thoughts and lessons from someone who has successfully done that for the better part of three decades really inspired me to lead differently when given the opportunity.
I believe Creativity, Inc. should be required reading for anyone in leadership of a creative organization or team. It will challenge the way you lead your team through failure, encourage you to value candor, and allow you permission to take risks. And if nothing else, you get a glimpse inside the mind of one of the world’s most underrated creative geniuses.