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Creativity, Inc.
Cover of Creativity, Inc.
Creativity, Inc.
Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
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From a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios—the Academy Award–winning studio behind Coco, Inside Out, and Toy Story—comes an incisive book about creativity in business...
From a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios—the Academy Award–winning studio behind Coco, Inside Out, and Toy Story—comes an incisive book about creativity in business...
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  • From a co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios—the Academy Award–winning studio behind Coco, Inside Out, and Toy Story—comes an incisive book about creativity in business and leadership for readers of Daniel Pink, Tom Peters, and Chip and Dan Heath.
    NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER | NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY The Huffington PostFinancial TimesSuccessInc.Library Journal
    Creativity, Inc. is a manual for anyone who strives for originality and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about creativity—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”
    For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Story trilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, WALL-E, and Inside Out, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner thirty Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable.
    As a young man, Ed Catmull had a dream: to make the first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged a partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his co-founding Pixar in 1986. Nine years later, Toy Story was released, changing animation forever. The essential ingredient in that movie’s success—and in the thirteen movies that followed—was the unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar, based on leadership and management philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention, such as:
    • 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.
 

Awards-

Excerpts-

  • Chapter 1 Chapter 1

    Animated

    For thirteen years we had a table in the large conference room at Pixar that we call West One. Though it was beautiful, I grew to hate this table. It was long and skinny, like one of those things you’d see in a comedy sketch about an old wealthy couple that sits down for dinner—­one person at either end, a candelabra in the middle—­and has to shout to make conversation. The table had been chosen by a designer Steve Jobs liked, and it was elegant, all right—­but it impeded our work.

    We’d hold regular meetings about our movies around that table—­thirty of us facing off in two long lines, often with more people seated along the walls—­and everyone was so spread out that it was difficult to communicate. For those unlucky enough to be seated at the far ends, ideas didn’t flow because it was nearly impossible to make eye contact without craning your neck. Moreover, because it was important that the director and producer of the film in question be able to hear what everyone was saying, they had to be placed at the center of the table. So did Pixar’s creative leaders: John Lasseter, Pixar’s creative officer, and me, and a handful of our most experienced directors, producers, and writers. To ensure that these people were always seated together, someone began making place cards. We might as well have been at a formal dinner party.

    When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless. That’s what I believe. But unwittingly, we were allowing this table—­and the resulting place card ritual—­to send a different message. The closer you were seated to the middle of the table, it implied, the more important—­the more central—­you must be. And the farther away, the less likely you were to speak up—­your distance from the heart of the conversation made participating feel intrusive. If the table was crowded, as it often was, still more people would sit in chairs around the edges of the room, creating yet a third tier of participants (those at the center of the table, those at the ends, and those not at the table at all). Without intending to, we’d created an obstacle that discouraged people from jumping in.

    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. Why were we blind to this? Because the seating arrangements and place cards were designed for the convenience of the leaders, including me. Sincerely believing that we were in an inclusive meeting, we saw nothing amiss because we didn’t feel excluded. Those not sitting at the center of the table, meanwhile, saw quite clearly how it established a pecking order but presumed that we—­the leaders—­had intended that outcome. Who were they, then, to complain?

    It wasn’t until we happened to have a meeting in a smaller room with a square table that John and I realized what was wrong. Sitting around that table, the interplay was better, the exchange of ideas more free-­flowing, the eye contact automatic. Every person there, no matter their job title, felt free to speak up. This was not only what we wanted, it was a fundamental Pixar belief: Unhindered communication was key, no matter what your position. At our long, skinny table, comfortable in our middle seats, we had utterly failed to recognize that we were behaving contrary to that basic tenet. Over time, we’d fallen into a trap. Even though we were conscious that a room’s dynamics are critical to any good...

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, and the ACM A.M. Turing Award for major contributions of lasting importance to computing. 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.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from January 27, 2014
    Finding Nemo. Toy Story. The Incredibles. These wildly successful, award-winning films are all part of the outstanding canon Pixar Animation Studios has produced since its inception in 1986. Pixar co-founder and president Catmull takes us inside the company and its evolution from unprofitable hardware company to creative powerhouse. Along the way, he addresses the challenge of building an effective and enduring creative culture. 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. His own storytelling power is evident as he narrates the company’s precarious journey to profitability. Written in an earnest and introspective tone, with the help of Wallace, the book 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.” Catmull’s voice and choice of topics reveals him to be a caring, committed, philosophical leader who loves his work, respects his creative colleagues, and remains committed to the advancement of computer animation and great filmmaking. Agent: Christy Fletcher, Fletcher and Company.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from April 15, 2014
    The president of Pixar Animation Studios describes the making of the creative culture that has produced Toy Story, Finding Nemo and other award-winning movies. "Unleashing creativity requires that we loosen the controls, accept risk, trust our colleagues, work to clear the path for them, and pay attention to anything that creates fear," writes Catmull--with the assistance of Los Angeles Magazine editor at large Wallace--in a superb debut intended for managers in all fields of endeavor. The author grew up idolizing Walt Disney and earned degrees in physics and computer science at the University of Utah, where he encountered the collegial, collaborative approach of interactive computer graphics pioneer Ivan Sutherland. This inspired the community Catmull would build to help create Pixar's iconic films. While his book recounts Pixar's rise and his long working relationship with Steve Jobs, it does so in service to the author's overriding goal of explaining principles he put into place to protect Pixar from forces that ruin many businesses after enormous successes like Toy Story (1995), the first computer-animated feature film. Catmull's challenge was to develop a sustainable culture that allowed people to do their best work and removed impediments to creativity--"uncertainty, instability, lack of candor, and the things we cannot see." In time, he learned the importance of putting people first, and getting the team right, in order to get the idea right; and of asking tough questions: Where are we still deluded? How do we think about failures and fears? "We believe ideas--and thus, films--only become great when they are challenged and tested," he writes. 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.

    COPYRIGHT(2014) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Forbes "Just might be the best business book ever written."
  • Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit "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."
  • Fast Company "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."
  • Jim Collins, co-author of Built to Last and author of Good to Great "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."
  • Seth Godin "Too often, we seek to keep the status quo working. This is a book about breaking it."
  • The New York Times "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."
  • Prof. Gary P. Pisano, Harvard Business School "The most practical and deep book ever written by a practitioner on the topic of innovation."
  • Chip Heath, co-author of Switch and Decisive "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."
  • The Wall Street Journal "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."
  • Daniel Coyle, author of The Talent Code "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."
  • Kirkus Reviews (starred review) "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."

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