Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
“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 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 how to build a creative culture—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, and WALL-E, 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.1
I am a big fan of Disney, Pixar and creativity. The cover with Buzz Lightyear has a serious tone to it, but still holds a magical feel. It was enough to place this book on my to-read list without taking a second glance at the book summary. The only thing I really knew going into the book was that it was a non-fiction. Now if you check out any of my reviews it is pretty obvious that non-fiction isn’t common in my realm of things. Despite having an interesting topic, they usually become very text book bland. These tend to make my mind wander and before I know it I am suddenly gone on a tangent in my mind and researching projects I would like to do. My personality and my creative side were able to connect with many points within Creativity Inc, but as I dove into the story, it wasn’t quite as I was expecting.
Creativity Inc is written by Ed Catmull and follows his experiences from his early career, his ambitions and achievements and the creation of Pixar over a 30 year period. While following his journey, Catmull takes the time to reference different scenarios and how they can be used as examples on how to effectively manage in a creative environment.
There are many great stories of the ups and downs in the creation of Pixar; however, the text book style still pops up throughout. I’m not one to give up on books, but my attention was waning in a few sections. Sadly this turned into a few pages being skipped or the famous first line skimming. First line skimming involves reading the first line of each paragraph. You basically get the desired point, without the rambling that tends to follow.
Despite my love for Disney and Pixar, I’m not the type to research the goings on deep down of a company and that is one thing that I enjoyed about the book. There are many references to well known films, others that did not make it off the ground and how many started off quite different from the films we know and love.
The vast number of famous names that floods the book is something to point out as well. All these people and companies that seem so separate all come from the same playground, or even the same company. The creators of Pixar have origins in Lucas films, backing and support of Steve Jobs (who at the time was ousted from Apple), and childhood inspiration from Disney which ultimately lead to the joining of Disney and Pixar and saving Dismey animation.
It all seems rather exciting and interesting when giving the summary, but in the end it was not a book that I would be recommending to others. It’s a well written book on a great topic with well intensions. I feel like I am berating a friend, but it can’t be helped. The interesting points on Disney and Pixar could be researched easily in bulk listings online. The other side of the book covers creative management points which conveniently enough have been summarized for you at the end of the book, which means you really don’t need to take the time to read the whole thing.
1. Book summary courtesy of Goodreads book page.