By Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
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:
“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
“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.” —Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit
“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.” —Jim Collins, co-author of Built to Last and author of Good to Great
“This is the best book ever written on what it takes to build a creative organization. It is the best because Catmull’s wisdom, modesty, and self-awareness fill every page. He shows how Pixar’s greatness results from connecting the specific little things they do (mostly things that anyone can do in any organization) to the big goal that drives everyone in the company: making films that make them feel proud of one another.” —Robert I. Sutton, Stanford professor and author of The No A**hole Rule and co-author of Scaling Up Excellence
"[...] 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." Read the full review >
“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. [...]
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." Read the full review >
"Need some advice on how to run your company? Punch "management and leadership" into Amazon's book search and more than 70,000 results pop up. This vast smorgasbord includes many duds but also a few titles worth keeping on hand. Clayton Christensen's "Seeing What's Next" (2004), for example, explains the "jobs-to-be-done" theory, which urges companies to come up with products that make it easier for consumers to do something they were already trying to accomplish—like the low-cost, one-step home pregnancy test. Older chestnuts include Robert Townsend's classic "Up the [...]" Read the full review >
"You are now entering the world of Pixar. Creativity, Inc., by Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull and writer Amy Wallace, is an inside look at the organizational principles behind the animated inspirations. [...]
There is occasional drama in Catmull's accounts, particularly in a later chapter detailing the process of the sale of Pixar to Disney, which offers a startling, brief glimpse of Pixar co-founder Steve Jobs bursting into tears of relief and gratitude. But this book contains little of the endearing quirkiness or surprising poignancy of Pixar stories. The color and quirk of the films are left out, in favor of a focus on the hard work, anxiety and tedium that make up the creative process. "Creativity, Inc." is not a book for film fans.
But, for anyone managing anything, and particularly those trying to manage creative teams, Catmull is like a kind, smart godfather guiding us toward managing wisely, without losing our souls, and in a way that works toward greatness. Perhaps it's all "Up" from there." Read the full review >
It’s easy to talk about breakthrough software, or good timing or even luck (they were a software company that accidentally made a movie that accidentally became a hit that changed the industry).
I don’t think that’s helpful or particularly accurate.
No, what makes Pixar work is that they try.
Most companies are filled with people who try to do the work they are assigned. People show up and sit at their desks and do what they are told.
But when you read page 270 of this engaging corporate history, you’ll encounter “Notes Day.” They shut down an entire company of more than a thousand people and tried… they invested time and passion in telling themselves the truth. They put themselves and their egos at risk and engaged in a higher form of ‘try’.
Too often, we seek to keep the status quo working. This is a book about breaking it.
"[...] Jobs sold Pixar to Disney for $7.4 billion in 2006. The deal left Catmull president of both Disney's animation arm and Pixar, roles that he still holds. John Lasseter, another weighty figure in Pixar's history, became chief creative officer of both entities.
The pair's challenge was to revive the Disney operation without losing the open and collaborative spirit Pixar had developed.
The recent Oscar-winning success of Disney's "Frozen" — and the strong showing of "Wreck-It Ralph" before that — suggests they have made great strides in the first of these tasks.
But Catmull's vivid recounting of the turnaround creates an odd dynamic near the end. The last segment on Pixar's inner workings tracks a mass brainstorming, called Notes Day, at its headquarters. Catmull bills it as a renewal, but it feels a bit leaden on the page. Maybe Disney has the edge right now." Read the full review > (Originally appeared in the Financial Times)
"In a new book, Pixar cofounder Ed Catmull shares a lifetime of lessons on how to create a culture of creativity. You don't need to be a filmmaker to benefit.
If you have ever been to Pixar's corporate campus -- or even seen a Pixar film -- you instinctively know that it is an amazing place to work. Employees decorate their own spaces as Tiki bars or castles, eat at the (subsidized) cafeteria next to huge models of Buzz Lightyear, and work their you-know-whats off for years at a time in the service of the next Finding Nemo. [...]" Read the full review >
"[...] People are inherently creative and able to solve problems," Catmull said in a statement. "Even the best companies, with the best intentions, erect barriers and send messages that inhibit employees and derail creativity, without meaning to -- or even realizing they are doing it. Only by reframing how we think about mistakes and acknowledging how little we see, can we open the door for others to create."
Random House editor Andy Ward added, "Ed has a singular understanding of the unique way Pixar is managed and the ways in which that approach has enabled its continued excellence. All you need to do is look at the movies to know that something different is going on at Pixar." Read the full preview >
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