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

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“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.
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.

368 pages, Hardcover

First published September 1, 2014

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About the author

Ed Catmull

1 book533 followers
Edwin Earl "Ed" Catmull, PhD is a computer scientist and current president of Walt Disney Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios, and Pixar Animation Studios. As a computer scientist, Catmull has contributed to many important developments in computer graphics.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 5,413 reviews
Profile Image for Ross Blocher.
432 reviews1,390 followers
February 28, 2016
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.
Profile Image for Tim Adler.
Author 13 books42 followers
April 16, 2014
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.
Profile Image for da AL.
371 reviews374 followers
August 29, 2018
People first, story second: great advice for managing a business. Interesting to hear Pixar's history told first-hand, as was Catmull's interactions with Steve Jobs. Audiobook narrator is super good!
Profile Image for Otis Chandler.
392 reviews114k followers
November 18, 2014
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.

“From that day on, I resolved to bring as many hidden problems as possible to light, a process that would require what might seem like an uncommon commitment to self-assessment.”

"I believe the best managers acknowledge and make room for what they do not know—not just because humility is a virtue but because until one adopts that mindset, the most striking breakthroughs cannot occur."

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.

“Braintrust meetings require giving candid notes, but they do a great deal more than that. The most productive creative sessions allow for the exploration of myriad trains of thought.”

"The first step is to teach them that everyone at Pixar shows incomplete work, and everyone is free to make suggestions. When they realize this, the embarrassment goes away—and when the embarrassment goes away, people become more creative."

"in Japanese Zen, that idea of not being constrained by what we already know is called “beginner’s mind.” And people practice for years to recapture and keep ahold of it."

I loved the concept of "the beast" - which is the trap of needing to continue to succeed a higher and higher levels. “It is one of life’s cruel ironies that when it comes to feeding the Beast, success only creates more pressure to hurry up and succeed again.” 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:

His method for taking the measure of a room was saying something definitive and outrageous—“These charts are bullshit!” or “This deal is crap!”—and watching people react. If you were brave enough to come back at him, he often respected it—poking at you, then registering your response, was his way of deducing what you thought and whether you had the guts to champion it."
Profile Image for Brandice.
914 reviews
January 18, 2019
Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is by Ed Catmull, the founder of Pixar. As his career progressed and Pixar continued to grow, Ed learned the type of leader he wanted to be and how to foster a culture that perpetually promotes and encourages creativity. He shares many characteristics of such a culture in this book.

Ed knew early on he wanted to work in computer animation and make a movie by doing so. He was enthralled with Walt Disney as a kid. In college he was tasked with pitching a type of employee exchange program to Disney, with the University of Utah. Disney wasn’t interested but attempted to hire Catmull to be part of Disney Imagineering, the division that builds Disney’s theme parks. Ed refused the offer immediately as this wasn’t what he wanted to do. While Disney Imagineering sounds cool in theory, this story, shared very early on in Creativity, Inc. resonated with me, and only enhanced my respect for Ed. So many times when I was finishing up grad school or a new grad shortly after, looking for a job, people would say “Just take whatever they give you; it’s good to just get in the door., etc.” and while sometimes this may be true for people, I resisted - hard. I knew what I wanted to do. There was no indecisiveness or uncertainty. Ed appears to have felt the same way and I admire people who stick to their vision.

Ed worked for George Lucas at Lucasfilm before going on to create Pixar, which struggled initially, and was saved by Steve Jobs purchasing it and pumping in tons of money to keep it afloat. Ed and Steve’s mutual respect for each other is apparent throughout the book. Pixar’s first movie, a total hit, was Toy Story - One of my personal favorite movies from childhood. I really enjoyed reading about the creation and development of many wonderful movies Pixar has created, as well as the lessons learned along the way. In addition to Toy Story, other personal favorites are Up and Inside Out.

There are lots of great takeaways from the book, and a few that I appreciated in particular include:

- ”We must acknowledge the random events that went our way, because acknowledging our good fortune — and not telling ourselves that everything we did was some stroke of genius — let’s us make more realistic assessments and decisions. The existence of luck also reminds us that our activities are less repeatable. Since change is inevitable, the question is: Do you act to stop it and try to protect yourself from it, or do you become the master of change by accepting it and being open to it? My view, of course, is that working with change is what creativity is all about.”

- Artists are often taught ways to see more by training their minds’ to turn off the tendency to jump to conclusions. For example, instead of getting frustrated by perfecting the task of drawing a chair, the artist may be asked to draw the negative space(s) surrounding the chair. You can teach your brain to observe other things without letting preconceptions interfere.

- Look at various viewpoints being offered as additive, rather than competitive. A competitive approach measures other ideas against your own, creating a debate to be won or lost. An additive approach starts with acknowledging that each participant contributes something, even if it’s an idea that ultimately doesn’t work, but fuels the discussion.

- Failure is often used as a weapon instead of an agent of learning. The politics surrounding failure can frequently impede progress. ”Being open about problems is the first step toward learning from them.” Fear can’t be completely driven out in a high stakes game, but we should loosen its grip.

You do not need to work in animation, design, or a traditionally creative industry to grasp the concepts and takeaways Ed describes in Creativity, Inc.. There is something to be gained for everyone from this book, which is a great source on how to reframe an idea, consider alternate perspectives and think differently about a concept, and embrace change. I enjoyed the book and it’s likely one I’ll come back to from time to time as a refresher on some of the key points it made.
Profile Image for Amanda.
271 reviews240 followers
December 31, 2018
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.
Profile Image for Fred.
274 reviews27 followers
March 13, 2014
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.
Profile Image for Peter.
472 reviews2,558 followers
May 14, 2019
Creativity is the story of Pixar and its founders Steve Jobs, John Lasseter and Ed Catmull and how they managed to establish Pixar as a thriving business. The road to business success is never straightforward, with twists, turns and mountains to climb. The fate of Pixar and their first film Toy Story, are inseparable. The story tracks the creation of Toy Story - the world's first computer-generated animation film. Following the first showing, their hearts dropped. They had achieved a wonderful feat of technical advances and graphical breakthroughs but there was one vital piece missing. There was no story! There were no characters that viewers could empathise with, laugh with, cry with or root for. They recognised their failing - they needed a storyteller!

The pressure and financial needs to finish the project must have been immense. Toy Story, however, became a huge success and then the next era begins!!!

How do we do it again?

It's always interesting to appreciate the challenges and highlights entrepreneurs face in establishing new companies. What is insightful in this book is to explore what happens after success, in terms of motivation, pressures to deliver again and renewed creativity challenges. How teams react to stepping up into the fray again. Are you a one trick pony?

This book looks at those often forgotten issues, but they are crucially important. It's very interesting to consider that the people that brought you to the point of initial success - are they the best ones to take you forward? It is also very interesting to explore how technical capability meets the art of story-telling. A very interesting read and a unique perspective from a unique company.

I would recommend reading this book not just from a business story but the trials and tribulations of creating an animated movie that we all know.
Profile Image for Jenny (Reading Envy).
3,876 reviews3,119 followers
February 7, 2016
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."

"It is not the manager's job to prevent risks. It is the manager's job to make it safe to take them."
Profile Image for Po Po.
177 reviews
October 11, 2014
What this book is: a managerial how-to on fostering creativity, productivity and work/ life balance in the office.

What this book is not: 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.

* * *

These are the main points:

-- 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.
Profile Image for Victoria.
412 reviews326 followers
July 17, 2019
Pixar reinvented animation and the workplace.

I’ll admit, I have a soft spot in my heart for Pixar. Not only have I loved their movies beginning with Toy Story, but I was lucky enough to see that movie in its nascent stages when I visited this then unknown company many years ago. Little did I know that they would change animation forever, I just thought it was a neat place with really creative people. Back then, sitting in a meeting room and having a Great Dane and a Dalmatian come in and sit for part of our discussion was the craziest thing I’d ever seen in business, but it was just part of the culture of Pixar.

And this is what Ed Catmull lays out for the reader: the birth, growing pains and maturing of a very different company and culture guided by the belief that the highest standard, artistically or in business, is only achieved through a commitment to innovation through creative problem solving, frank and open communication and harnessing the creative energy of teams.

Through anecdotes, insights and much reflection, Catmull shows us the power of storytelling and imparts more wisdom than most business books I’ve read and goes beyond a management guide, this is about inspiration and celebrating the best in people.

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.

Most of all I enjoyed this book for the author’s thoughtful approach. It is obvious in every word how much he loves the world of animation, the company he helped found and the people with whom he worked for many years, not the least of which was Steve Jobs who was essential to their survival and eventual success. His final chapter, The Steve Jobs We Knew, paints a picture that we don’t often see of the man from someone who respected and loved him in equal measure. I had a lump in my throat and it made me see Jobs in a very different light.

I’m not giving it the full five because it does get a little professorial in the middle and he does beat the occasional subject to death, but overall this was an incredibly rewarding book about creativity and management and I will return to these ideas again and again.
Profile Image for Gergana.
227 reviews401 followers
February 7, 2016
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".
Profile Image for Joy D.
2,073 reviews240 followers
December 15, 2020
Ed Catmull offers insight into Pixar, how it started, and how they keep creativity alive. It examines their acquisition by Disney, and how they ensured this corporate giant did not stifle their inventive methods. One of the primary lessons is that fear is the biggest inhibitor of creativity. It also includes fascinating anecdotes about how some of their movies transformed, often significantly, between concept and release.

It includes a brief history of the quality movement, going back in time to Deming. Some of these ideas will be familiar, especially to management consultants or those involved in change management; however, there is enough unique material to be worth reading. As a side note, Steve Jobs played a key role in initiating Pixar, and Catmull offers a different perspective on Jobs, almost attempting to redeem him as a likeable, or at least more understandable, guy.
Profile Image for Cindy.
407 reviews116k followers
July 23, 2017
Insightful and earnestly written, the book is packed with interesting anecdotes and philosophy with actual substance. It serves as an inspiration that a healthy, thriving work culture is possible and can constantly be improved. His never ending determination to create good work and foster a good company is admirable and should be replicated to any company, but especially those in the creative field.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
222 reviews36.1k followers
December 16, 2014
This is one of this books that you find yourself referencing in conversations on a regular basis. It's a mistake to think of this as a book for managing a workforce that needs to be creative, or a way to make your company more creative. For me, it was more about that messy business of leading and managing people. It's messy due to the different personalities and the mixed perspectives each person has. Add in that there is so much information which is naturally hidden to each person and the situation is always evolving. "Change is going to happen, whether we like it or not." And somehow, we all need to get on the same train and start laying tracks in the same direction, often without a clear idea of the landscape we need to get through.

I loved how Ed wanted to show the warts and all side of Pixar. He shared the challenges and struggles but his clear message is that this is normal. It's how you seek to solve them, the desire to find the inspiration whether to solve a story line that's bombing, a technical challenge that has never been done before or breaking through a "this can't be done in the time you want it" logjam. For Ed, "the unpredictable is the ground on which creativity occurs."

It was really interesting reading the different mental models Pixar people used to deal with those times when everything looks the darkest, as a way to "keep fear in its place." As Ed says "The models in our heads embolden us as we whistle through the dark. Not only that, they enable us to do the exhilarating and difficult work of navigating the unknown."

One small note: the beginning was a bit boring for me. Once I got to Chapter 3, I was hooked!

Profile Image for Heino Colyn.
286 reviews97 followers
June 30, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Chip Huyen.
Author 8 books3,247 followers
June 24, 2020
I knew I’d enjoy the book from the very first few pages. Maybe because Ed comes from the same education background as me (computer science with an interest in storytelling) that I feel like he speaks my language.

The main takeaway from the book for me is that creativity is not an art but an incremental process. Ed believes that anyone can be creative as long they spend time to improve their process and be disciplined enough to follow it.

He stressed the importance of integrity — from his interview with Lucasfilm when his interviewer asked him to recommend other candidates to how he built a culture that encourages people to show their work even when it’s not yet perfect.

I also enjoyed his view on problem solving. Most people treat big problems and small problems differently, and he thinks it’s wrong because both big problems and small problems come from the same distribution — they might even have the same causes. Allowing people to solve small problems might help them solve big problems.

He spent the last chapter talking about Steve Jobs and I find his portrayal of Steve Jobs unconvincing, but it doesn’t influence the main message of the book.
Profile Image for Andrej Karpathy.
110 reviews3,658 followers
December 2, 2015
I appreciate what Ed has tried to do with this book, and I'm a fan of his and Pixar. It was an enjoyable read, but if I was to complain about something it's that I felt the book was trying to be contrarian quite often in a slightly forced way. I ended up noticing a formula repeated many times:

In this situation most people would think X... (I didn't, and I wasn't fully sold that most would),
but I think Y (I agree and I've heard something similar said several times before).

Of course, there was a distribution of reactions to these statements - some I thought were relatively unique and interesting (e.g. negative spaces in art, a well-articulated defense of errors), and some were somewhat forceful (e.g. do not resist change - okay, thanks). I could also notice a persistent undertone of pride for Pixar employees, with statements such as "Do you see now why I love to work here?". Somehow I have slight negative reaction to it. I understand he's very excited and Pixar is his baby, but for me these parts started to feel like PR.

There were a few things like this that slightly rubbed me the wrong way as I read through it, but I don't mean to sound too negative and overall enjoyed several interesting parts, Ed's quite obvious desire to understand these topics as well as he can is fun and contagious. I liked the chapter on the Notes day near the end, that sounds like a quite nice idea that I also see a lot of merit in - the idea of recognizing that your employees have brains, and distributing decision making through the ensemble of smart people throughout the company to some degree, and giving them a sense of ownership. A powerful strategy, and this was well articulated. Also, I liked the reflections on Steve Jobs, and the dispelled myths about his personality. I do notice quite consistently that people who knew him best cringe the most when they are asked about popular media coverage about his life.

Somewhere between 3 (I liked it) and 4 (I really liked it) /5. I'll round up because it's Ed.
Profile Image for MichelleG.
398 reviews97 followers
August 17, 2017
Reading this book was like sitting down and talking with a beloved father/ mentor. I feel like I've been through such an incredible journey. I've learnt so much, not just about Pixar and the ingenious creative process, but also about human dynamics, how to think about and treat people who work with and for you, and also the reasons behind all of those things ... and why they are so important, from a business perspective, but also from the human perspective!

I feel like I have taken away so much from this book, that I feel like I need to personally thanks the author Ed Catmull for such a moving, heartfelt and important book. So here's to you Ed, and this incredible book - thank you!
Profile Image for Tangled in Text.
853 reviews21 followers
September 27, 2018
I want a manager like Ed Catmull. His way of looking at the full picture is mesmerizing. He does not just look at a single problem or a mistake, but all the pieces that lead to it. He'll change an entire process of creating before he blames the one person who made the mistake to guarantee it won't happen again. I loved the simple changes he made of not assigning seats because it made those in the back of a conference room feel less important and therefore were less likely to share their ideas. He did away with the long narrow table and the name plates and continually changed things till he achieved optimal results. He has an open mind and a broad view of things that is inspiring.

I also loved hearing about all the tweaks and changes and story board progressions to some of my favorite movies. I had no idea about the archery lessons while they were creating Brave or the cooking presentations during Ratatouille, and especially that a 30-year-old accountant was the original star in Monsters Inc being haunted by his childhood monsters before it turned into Boo, the little 2-year-old ball of cuteness. Great insight and inspiration. This book makes me want to move to California to work under someone who cares so deeply to individually hand out bonus checks every year and thank each individual person specifically.
Profile Image for Mohammad Kamelan.
65 reviews33 followers
December 29, 2019
کتابی در هم که قسمتی از آن به سرگذشت اد کتمول و شکل‌ گیری پیکسار اشاره دارد و انصافا جذاب است. قسمت دیگری از کتاب به روش های مدیریتی اشاره دارد که بازگو کردن این روش ها در کنار سرگذشت شکل گیری پیکسار، ساختار روایت کتاب را از هم گسسته است.
Profile Image for Jay French.
2,053 reviews77 followers
March 20, 2014
In trying to come up with descriptions of how this book is written, I keep thinking of the word "earnest". Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar and Disney Animation, comes across as an earnest guy trying to do the best job he can. And as part of his earnest approach to running an animation company, he and his team came up with a number of ways to try to ensure his employees didn't lose their mojo, their creativity, their inspiration. This book is a description of the things they tried. What this book isn't is a how-to book. This focuses on giving examples of what Pixar tried, how they approached issues, and how they tried to spread the best of Pixar to Disney Animation. In telling this story, Catmull tells the story of his life in animation and of Pixar. I really enjoyed the story of the company, and in particular how Steve Jobs influenced the company and how he added his touch. Jobs seems to have been a unique personality in business, so I don't find these interactions to be examples of best practices, but they are very interesting. You get a little of the "bad Steve" that felt like the core of Issacson biography, but you also get Catmull's defense of Jobs and his earnest belief that Jobs truly grew in the years he owned Pixar.

This felt like two books. Roughly a third of this book is related to stories about Pixar the company and their movie products, while the remaining two thirds are stories about how creativity is nurtured there. I would gladly read a full book about the companies and movies, and I hope Catmull or someone else writes one. The creativity stories are also of interest, and Catmull earnestly shares details of company meetings, programs, and policies that were tried, as well as his personal thoughts about how things should work. I appreciated the thought process descriptions, although I didn't necessarily find any of the examples earth shatteringly novel. Some examples of topics discussed are research trips for animators, having teams of expert reviewers that provided advice that didn't need to be followed, keeping company culture during a merger, and using a work day for the entire company to investigate issues to growth. Certainly interesting, but not in the "Here's how YOU do it" way.

After reading this, I've added to my todo list that I need to watch the Disney Animation movie "Bolt", which is part of the story in this book and which I had previously missed. I think I've seen the others that are mentioned.

I won a copy of this book in Goodread's First Reads program.
Profile Image for Б. Долгорсүрэн.
144 reviews16 followers
June 16, 2021
Эхлээд уншлаа, 2 дохио сонслоо. Маш их таалагдлаа. Мэргэжилтэй холбоотой олон арван санаа авахаар гоё гоё жишээтэй. Зохиолч Эд Катмулын компьютероор бүтээсэн анхны киног хийх гэсэн мөрөөдөл зорилгодоо 20 жил ажиллаж хүрчихээд өөрийн мэдэрсэн, авч буй мэдрэмжээ лонхонд хийгээд л хадгалчихмаар байсан гэдэг тэр зүйрлэл үү. Тэрээр байгууллагыг бүтээлчээр, сайн удирдах гэдэг дараагийн зорилгодоо хүрэхээр Pixar-ын хамт олонтойгоо ажиллаж байгаа, хүүхэд байхаас мөрөөдсөн Диснейн удирдах албанд хүрч ажиллаж байгаагаа он цагийн дарааллаар нүдэнд харагдтал бичигдсэн үнэхээр гоё ном байлаа. Дахиад ч уншина, бас сонсоно оо.
Profile Image for Jesse C.
10 reviews1 follower
July 14, 2018
Multiple people recommended this book to me, including a professor and a close friend. I was, however, disappointed. The book provides an understanding of how Pixar and Disney are managed - but it is so boring it took me a long time to finish it. The overall feeling was that this book is a marketing device, that keeps telling the reader "Hey, in case you didn't know, Pixar is great!" The "lessons" are mostly common sense and often repetitive. Instead of reading this book about Pixar, I would recommend doing something better with your time, such as watching one of their animations.
Profile Image for Shiva.At.
29 reviews17 followers
March 3, 2020
کاش میشد بعضی کتاب هارو قورت داد :)
همیشه دنیای انیمیشن ها برام جذاب و هیجان انگیز بوده و از طرفی بعد از کتابای روانشناسی و فلسفه خوندن کتابای زندگی نامه حال منو حسابی جا میاره این کتاب تا حدود زیادی جواب سوالای منو داد و در کنارش زندگی کتمول رو هم مثل فیلمی زنده دیدم
بنظرم آمریکا بیشتر از اینکه نخبه پرورش بده مدیر پرورش داده یه مدیر خوب خودش میدونه دیگه چکار کنه......
Profile Image for Shehab Hamad.
23 reviews21 followers
May 3, 2014
Fun (if obvious) insights into the Pixar story including a few entertaining Steve Jobs cameos! Main take-aways for me were the bits on candor and the "brain trust".
Profile Image for Jaclyn.
66 reviews364 followers
May 31, 2018
Look Heino, I finally finished the book!
Profile Image for Narilka.
605 reviews42 followers
August 21, 2020
One part memoir, two parts business management guide, Creativity, Inc. is Ed Catmull's love letter to the computer animation and animated movie industries. Catmull is best known as one of the co-founders of Pixar Studios and is currently the president of both Pixar and Disney Animation. What is less known about Catmull is how many important contributions to the animation technology used today he made as a computer science engineer. Catmull paved the way for computer graphics by creating a lot of the technologies that didn't exist as he pursued his dream to create the first computer-animated movie. After years of problem solving in a technical space, Catmull found himself the head of a thriving company and devoted himself to solving the problem of fostering an environment where creativity can thrive in a modern workplace. This book is Catmull's way of sharing the lessons he learned along the way.

I found this book inspiring in many ways. My bachelors degree is in Computer Animation so a lot of what Catmull had to say about both the technology and industry of creating animated stories spoke to me. For the first time in many years I began to miss the fact that I haven't touched animation in I don't know how long and that I currently work for a less creative company. It also gave me some insights that I can use in my daily job to help foster an environment that promotes innovation and a sense of shared responsibility. Many of Catmull's ideas should work for any in any company whether it's in a traditionally creative industry or not. I highlighted many passages of this book to refer to when I'm in need of something to help offset the day to day at work. For example:

"In an unhealthy culture, each group believes that if their objectives trump the goals of the other groups, the company will be better off. In a healthy culture, all constituencies recognize the importance of balancing competing desires—they want to be heard, but they don’t have to win."

"Rather than trying to prevent all errors, we should assume, as is almost always the case, that our people’s intentions are good and that they want to solve problems. Give them responsibility, let the mistakes happen, and let people fix them. If there is fear, there is a reason—our job is to find the reason and to remedy it. Management’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the ability to recover."

I listened to the audio book narrated by Peter Altschuler. He has an exaggerated, dramatic style of narration. I found that speeding up the narration speed helped smooth things out and made for a better listening experience.
Profile Image for Catherine⁷.
345 reviews704 followers
January 7, 2021
This was a beautifully insightful book. I loved learning about the history of Pixar Studios and how the structure was analyzed to benefit the individuals in the group whilst producing the greatest good.
Here’s some of my favorite quotes (and there’s a lot since this book is that phenomenal):
• “You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.”
• “Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas.”
• “A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candor, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunction.”
• “People need to be wrong as fast as they can.”
• “Overplanners just take longer to fail.”
• “When it comes to creative endeavors, the concept of zero failures is worse than useless. It’s counterproductive.”
• “The key is to view conflict as essential, because that’s how we know the best ideas will be tested and survive.”
• “The unpredictable is the ground on which creativity occurs.”
• “The person who can’t change his or her mind is dangerous.”
• “The past should be our teacher, not our master.”
• “Measure what you can, evaluate what you measure, and appreciate that you cannot measure the vast majority of what you do.”
• “The attempt to avoid failures makes failure more likely.”
• “Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”
• “If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.”
• “You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”
• “Future is not a destination—it is a direction.”
Oh gosh there are so many other quotes I could put here but the conclusion you can get from this is that this is one of my new fav books!! I love Pixar and admire the creativity and structure that it holds closely. This is a new fav.
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