Overview (Spoilers Abound):
When looking for my next nonfiction read, I stumbled across Creativity, Inc., on a list of top management books. Written by Ed Catmull, who, if I’m honest, had no clue who he was despite the fact that he was the President of Pixar and Disney. So knowing very little about either company or one of Pixar’s founders, I dove into this read and left equal parts inspired and impressed. Not to mention refreshed appreciation for the work that went in behind the scenes to many of my favorite animated movies.
Despite running two very successful businesses, Catmull had his beginnings as a computer engineering and graduate student at the University of Utah where he studied under the pioneering, Robert E. Stephenson. I had the distinct impression that his scientific background significantly impacted his career and managing style, especially how he approached problems of any magnitude. While I found his management advice to be thought-provoking, my favorite aspects of Creativity, Inc. was the background behind Pixar, along with how computer animation has evolved over decades to be able to bring us the wonders of children’s movies today. For example, have you seen Mirabel’s hair in Encanto, or Louisa’s eyelashes. It is remarkable the detail that animated movies can achieve today.
Catmull detailed the difficulties he had getting Pixar off the ground when at Lucasfilms, before finally finding a buyer in Steve Jobs. With all the hardships, uncertainty, and doubt he faced, it is amazing PIxar even survived. With regard the the larger than life Apple founder, Catmull humanizes Jobs who seems to be defined by his his eccentricities following his death.
Catmull’s account of the behind-the-scenes problems of beloved movies has sent me down a nostalgia streak watching movies such as UP that I hadn’t seen in years. And yes, UP still made me cry copious amounts very shortly into the movie starting. Interesting, Catmull’s stories about the various emergencies faced during the development of famous movies cast those stories in new night and lent appreciation to the final product that emerged as a result of those the debates. This ties into Catmull’s management advice to embrace failure because through failing is how we learn and move toward a better project.
Other key takeaways that resonated center around the often overlooked fact that people are more important than ideas due to people coming up with said ideas. Additionally, never protect the status quo, but instead make a harbor for new ideas. As a goal-oriented individual, I’m now being mindful that I should embrace the intention and not hold tightly to goals, as the former will help protect the values that are truly crucial. Try to really understand why someone is disagreeing with you, as the change in perspective might yield a road to compromise or solution. Furthermore, candor and transparency are important for open feedback and communication lines that move projects forward and establishs trust and buy-in by all. Overall, Creativity, Inc. was a genuinely inspiring feel good read that challenges traditional management styles and workplace environments.