Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

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 striv...

Title:Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
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Edition Language:English

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration Reviews

  • Fred

    This book was equal 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 measurements to create an insightful and enjoyable stew.

    Often mentioned in the text is his continued education, often through trial and error, about effectively managing creative

    This book was equal 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 measurements to create an insightful and enjoyable stew.

    Often mentioned in the text is his continued education, often through trial and error, about effectively managing creative people. Upon reflection, I am given to wonder if, perhaps, his journey was more one of a crystalization of his personal beliefs and style rather than a deepening understanding or discovery. Whatever the case, this book was an enjoyable read and not at all a dry dusty tome. Even so, and for no discernable reason that I can put my finger on, I am hesitant to give this book more than 3 stars. Granted, that may be unfair of me. Give it a read and decide for yourself.

  • Tim Adler

    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 bad; everybody should feel free to contribute; and, get this, if you're planning to write a feature film, it's good to do some research. Like, duh. At one point, Catmull -- who, to h

    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 bad; everybody should feel free to contribute; and, get this, if you're planning to write a feature film, it's good to do some research. Like, duh. At one point, Catmull -- who, to his credit, comes across as a regular, self-deprecatory guy -- even suggests doing Zen-style meditation to contemplate the inner mysteries of management. At this point, I felt like marching round to the back of his head and snipping off his pony tail. Fine if you're a pampered West Coast animator whose facility has a swimming pool, pottery and ballet classes, etc. Try telling that to the average British company, whose idea of a worker's perk is a new beige computer every four years and grudgingly providing instant coffee.

  • Ross Blocher

    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,

    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 way.

    I 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 hits.

    What 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 unsustainable.

    Ed 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 acquired 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 filmmakers.

    The 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 requires 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 book!

    I'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 quick read, and Ed Catmull has a very pragmatic, introspective, and unclouded approach to problem solving that will benefit everyone.

  • Otis Chandler

    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 company.

    Catmull's philosophy both around creating movies and managing his company, is to be relentless about remembering that he doesn't know what he doesn't know. In creating a movie, you don't know what it will be when

    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 company.

    Catmull's philosophy both around creating movies and managing his company, is to be relentless about remembering that he doesn't know what he doesn't know. In creating a movie, you don't know what it will be when you start. In creating a company, you similarly don't know what it will be, especially at first. But equally importantly when you are scaling it, you don't know the dynamics of what is happening throughout the company - you will have a filtered view based on the (always) incomplete picture you can see. So you have to relentlessly have the mindset to remember that there are dynamics at play that you don't know, and look for them.

    So how did Pixar build 14 hits in a row? They created a highly leveraged feedback loop. They created a culture of open feedback, and encourage anyone in the room - regardless of rank - to have an equal voice. They have lots of ways to get feedback on the film and iterate on it: from daily standup every morning to review scenes, up to braintrust meetings with all the best directors and creative minds to review the story. They spend a lot of time - years - iterating on and nailing the story before putting it into production - and even then they keep iterating. Nothing trumps good story.

    I loved the concept of "the beast" - which is the trap of needing to continue to succeed a higher and higher levels.

    An important point to this was that feeding the beast means bigger and better, and taking less risks. To create something new, you have to have the right leadership to shelter the seed and let it grow.

    The stories about Steve Jobs were great. Made you respect him even more. For taking a huge financial risk to spin Pixar out of Lucasfilms and then personally float it for a long time, taking even more risk. I loved hearing about how much foresight he had with regards to Disney and negotiating that deal. I also loved the story about the wide screen - basically how Steve responds to passion, and pushes people until he finds where it is. This quote explains it well:

  • Po Po

    a managerial how-to on fostering creativity, productivity and work/ life balance in the office.

    a guidebook of creative inspiration for regular everyday DIYers who work alone.

    * * *

    The ideas are cut and dry and pretty simplistic for being, ostensibly, a manager's book on creativity.

    Although this book isn't a memoir, there is a very brief gloss-over on Ed Catmull's family, childhood and education.

    There are interesting details on Pixar's promising yet rocky

    a managerial how-to on fostering creativity, productivity and work/ life balance in the office.

    a guidebook of creative inspiration for regular everyday DIYers who work alone.

    * * *

    The ideas are cut and dry and pretty simplistic for being, ostensibly, a manager's book on creativity.

    Although this book isn't a memoir, there is a very brief gloss-over on Ed Catmull's family, childhood and education.

    There are interesting details on Pixar's promising yet rocky start, Steve Jobs and his explosive personality, the financial difficulties Pixar endured in its beginning years, and the Disney takeover.

    * * *

    -- Change and uncertainty are part of life. Don't resist change; build the capability to recover when unexpected events occur.

    -- Failure is a necessary consequence of doing something new.

    -- Don't fall for the illusion that by preventing errors, you won't have errors to fix. The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.

    -- The creative process is messy. You will have an "ugly baby" initially; the beautiful end product doesn't arrive spontaneously but through many incarnations of ugly.

  • Gergana

    A wonderful and insightful story, loved everything about this book and I am definitely buying a hard back copy so I can underline some of the lessons. Ed is a great story teller and a pretty good psychologist. Many business books are straight to the point :"Take risks!" "Believe in yourself" etc., but Creative, Inc. dives even deeper into the true meaning of "leadership".

  • Amanda

    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.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I was reading this more 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 g

    I was reading this more 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 quickly. Our job is to protect the new."

    "Managers of creative enterprises must hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentions."

    "The 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 uncreated."

    "Give 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 right."

    "If 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 anywhere."

    "It 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 process."

  • Raquel Bookish

    Es un libro mucho más técnico de lo que estoy acostumbrada, pero aún así sigue siendo una lectura que habría acabado en mi mesilla por placer. Ed Catmull convierte la historia de Pixar y cuanto ha aprendido al frente de la empresa sobre la creatividad y el trabajo en equipo en un relato apasionante y en ocasiones incluso poético. He aprendido y he disfrutado cada página. No se puede pedir menos de Pixar.

  • Heino Colyn

    I’ve always liked Pixar, what they do and how they go about doing it, so I was pretty excited to read this book. It contains a lot of valuable information, but I think the best thing about it is the way that it conveys this information. The majority of the things I keep thinking about after finishing the book were actually just casually mentioned as part of an interaction. Love that. Also, the sections on the Braintrust and Notes Day were especially interesting, not to mention Ed showing a diffe

    I’ve always liked Pixar, what they do and how they go about doing it, so I was pretty excited to read this book. It contains a lot of valuable information, but I think the best thing about it is the way that it conveys this information. The majority of the things I keep thinking about after finishing the book were actually just casually mentioned as part of an interaction. Love that. Also, the sections on the Braintrust and Notes Day were especially interesting, not to mention Ed showing a different side of Steve Jobs that was really refreshing. And just BTW, Ed sounds like a nice guy to have over for a game of Exploding Kittens or something.


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