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Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen…

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of…

by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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Recently added bydirac, pakurilecz, BookPodder, ivan.frade, mikeyp, private library, myn91, PencilStubs, lwcarson



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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Surprisingly human and honest book about managing a creative company. It opens as a Pixar history and then it gets really into management matters explaining the work style in the company. The third act tells about the Disney acquisition and how their management ideas were applied there.

The proposed management style is in the line of "manage less" exposed in other books, but this one shines because of his truly personal approach: It is not based in abstract reasoning or second hand study cases but in the author's hands-on experience leading the companies.

I found the book interesting in different fronts. It talks about management, entrepreneurs-ship, following a personal passion, keep the mind open and handle success (which is not so common in these kind of books), all in an honest "this is how i learn it" tone that makes it an enjoyable reading. ( )
  ivan.frade | Apr 11, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I am an architect and been working in the creative industry for 20 years and am currently working at a large firm (140 staff). I read the book with a keen interest in developing and maintaining the creative culture. Although the size of project teams (300+) for the films discussed in the book are much larger than the project teams i work with (2-30), the concepts still apply.

I found the book valuable for a couple reasons - it tells the history and development of a computer animated films which i found very interesting, it gives strategies - what worked and what did not (lessons learned) for management, production, brainstorming, structure, inspiration and commitment in a forthright candid manor while not falling into the how-to methodology.

I highly recommend this book for anyone in the creative field - whether you are a designer or manager - this book will inspire and motivate you! ( )
  dimwizard | Apr 9, 2014 |
I kept a pad of Post-Its nearby while reading “Creativity Inc.” so I could mark particularly enlightening passages to refer back to later. Now that I’m done, the top, bottom and side of the text block is cluttered with protruding, canary-yellow paper edges because the book was packed with so many brilliant insights.* While the book focuses specifically on the principles of fostering excellence while managing people in a creative business, many of Catmull’s ideas for how to be the best and how to continually improve can be applied in general creative, management, and even life contexts too.

Something I loved about “Creativity Inc.” was that it was set up like a journey/history with lessons learned rather than a straight out how-to book. Pixar stories—from the background of Pixar’s rocky inception to specifics on how its widely loved movies evolved into masterpieces—are used to illustrate Catmull’s guiding principles, which were developed from identifying failures and weaknesses, striving to dissect and understand them, and then adjusting Pixar’s culture to overcome them. This narrative arrangement makes the book fun and fascinating for a general audience, while also being a compelling way to show managers and creative people how effective and logical the guiding principles are in real world situations.

Steve Job’s involvement in Pixar was news to me, so I found mentions of him particularly interesting, and the final chapter about him was heartwarming and poignant. Overall, the book’s tone was honest, upbeat, entertaining and inspiring. “Creativity Inc.” is a must read for any Pixar fans, people working in management, or anyone interested in the creative process.

*I can’t think of a way to adequately summarize all the fantastic principles in this book, so I’ll just share my top ten favorites and urge you to pick up the book to read about them and many others in depth: For greatness to emerge, there must be phases of not-so-greatness. Individual creativity is magnified by other people. Differing viewpoints are additive not competitive. Trust in people, not processes. Learning art isn’t about learning how to draw, but learning how to see. Procedures should help people solve problems, not prevent people from screwing up. Candor vs. honesty. Hold lightly to goals and tightly to intentions. Hindsight isn’t 20/20 because of selective memory. The future is a direction, not a destination.

Note: I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  PencilStubs | Apr 8, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
If you are reading this book strictly from the aspect of how to build a creative culture – that is, if you go into reading this book wearing blinders that only allow you to look for specific tips about creativity – then you may be in for a disappointment. (Then again, if you go into anything about creativity with blinders on then you will be disappointed. Creativity is about throwing the blinders off. But I digress.) Take the blinders off and revel in the joy and creativity that is Pixar.

Of course this book delivers on the promise to talk about how Pixar built and maintained a creative culture. And there is information here that can get anyone started in that direction. But to focus on that aspect of the book is to do it a disservice – there is a whole lot more here.

First, for the animation freak/Pixar fan/Disney nerd (that last one is me) there are fascinating stories about the development of the movies that have become classics. There are stories of the false starts and misdirections and twists and turns that led to development of some of the most famous Pixar movies. We are allowed access into the meetings where these battles are hashed out. We learn about the movies that might have been, and why those movies would have been so much worse than the ones we experienced.

Want to know how Toy Story 2 got the tension it needed to escape reaching a far too predictable end? Want to know what stayed and what was ejected from the first (unworkable) versions of Up? Want to know how a pivotal scene was changed in a way that kept Mr. Incredible from becoming a dislikable, dominating thug of a husband - all without changing a single line of dialogue? All these stories and many more (sorry about the cliché) are included, all providing insights into the movies and insights into the way teams work when they are at their best.

Second, for the individual who wants to learn about leadership there are invaluable lessons. They are not explicitly brought forward; after all, this is a book that focuses on creativity. But within you see how Ed and the team work as leaders. In fact, the lessons about leadership may be more valuable than those about creativity. (And it is worth noting that Ed actually sells himself and executive leaders short. He constantly gives the credit to the creative environment and the people. But the leadership underpinning these is the real reason for Pixar's success. But then, a true leader does point somewhere else rather than at him or herself.)

One great example of how leadership is shown happens near the end of the book when executives realize that the creative, sharing atmosphere they have built may be coming apart under the pressures of size and speed. The actions taken by the leadership team show better than words how they believe the principles they are preaching. And the ability to listen and act (and take on the barbs that are part of the realization) perfectly exemplified the traits any leader should show.

Third, for anyone looking for insights regarding the broad aspects of business – teamwork, motivation, any of the areas people tend to identify as necessary for things to work well – the book is rife with them. I cannot count the number of dog-eared pages I put on this book. Here are a few quotes. "[You have] to be able to engender support for those ideas among the people who'd be charged with employing them." "Making something great is the goal." "Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft." "...failure is a manifestation of learning and exploration." Small snippets of important insights, they are only a taste of the ideas brought forward in the book.

And, finally, the book, as promised, is for the creative person. It talks about creativity, it talks about how to build a creative environment, it talks about how to celebrate creativity, it talks about how to embrace creativity. Others may quibble that there is not the focus on creativity that is promised. But I say that creativity is so riddled throughout the book you cannot walk away without having learned something about that intangible skill.

This is just a flat out entertaining book. It is written in a style that is easygoing, but never pedestrian. And I am hard pressed to believe you can't find something of value for yourself after you've read it. Because it covered so much territory, because it was so well written, and because I found myself consistently gobsmacked by the content within the book, I would say it is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I am quite convinced it will remain so well into the future. ( )
  figre | Apr 8, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
A lot of CEOs are writing books these days. They usually proclaim their brilliance at seizing opportunity, but don't convey much useful information in their books. This one is different.

From the beginning, we can see Ed Catmull as a different person. With a Ph.D. in computer science, he has been a pioneer in computer graphics. Having a personal goal of creating a full-length animated movie, he founded Pixar. Although the book details the events of Pixar, Disney, and Ed's interactions with Jobs, the book is really about how the successes occurred.

The authors focus on how the maintained a creative environment and even enhanced it. This is repeated throughout the book. When they arrived at Disney, they managed to enhance a team that had lost its creative abilities, this without throwing the group in turmoil and while maintaining morale.

The book includes a short synopsis of Steve Jobs and known by the workers in Pixar, then concludes with an afterword that includes ideas on managing creative teams. ( )
  Nodosaurus | Apr 5, 2014 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Catmull, Edprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wallace, Amymain authorall editionsconfirmed
Altschuler, PeterNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0812993012, Hardcover)

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.
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 founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter 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 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.
• Do not assume that general agreement will lead to change—it takes substantial energy to move a group, even when all are on board.
Advance praise for Creativity, Inc.
“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
“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

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 04 Feb 2014 09:20:47 -0500)

"In 1986, Ed Catmull co-founded Pixar, a modest start-up with an immodest goal: to make the first-ever computer animated movie. Nine years later, Pixar released Toy Story, which went on to revolutionize the industry, gross $360 million, and establish Pixar as one of the most successful, innovative, and emulated companies on earth. This book details how Catmull built an enduring creative culture -- one that doesn't just pay lip service to the importance of things like honesty, communication, and originality, but committed to them, no matter how difficult that often proved to be. As he discovered, pursuing excellence isn't a one-off assignment. It's an ongoing, day-in, day-out, full-time job. And one he was born to do"--… (more)

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