Review: Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

creativity incI am generally skeptical of business books. That’s because it seems like everyone who has some kind of advanced business degree wants to write a book and spout off these generalisms on management, leadership, etc., and it’s all a bunch of bullshit.

I had some initial skepticism about this book, as well, because I saw Pixar President Ed Catmull speak earlier this year and he was, let me be nice here, horrible. He had zero inflection, and I can’t recall a single thing he said in his speech. I remember coming away thinking, THAT guy is the head of Pixar?

But I heard good things about the book, and for gods sakes it has a freaking Buzz Lightyear silhouette on the cover. It can’t be all bad, right?

So now you get to hear me say that when I look back ten years from now, this book is probably going to be one of the things that has most heavily inspired my management style and career. Yeah. I said it.

I was only a few pages in and I had to go find a highlighter. I don’t always highlight books, but when I do, it’s because there is some goddamn wisdom in there that I want to capture. Well, I highlighted the shit out of this book.

Catmull describes how Pixar came to be the entity that it is today and how he and his colleagues fostered a culture of openness and creativity that makes every employee feel like they have a voice. It made me think a lot about my own employees and my own management style, which I’m still developing. Everything Catmull said in this book, I saw potential to implement with my own people. Maybe not in my organization as a whole, but with a smaller team.

Like, I literally want to give a copy of this book to everyone at my office who doesn’t sit in a cubicle and be like, “THIS.” And drop the mic and walk away.

Just to give you a few examples so you get the gist of what’s going on in this book, here are a few of the nuggets of wisdom from Catmull that he summarizes at the end:

  • Always hire people who are smarter than you. Always take a chance on better, even if it seems like a potential threat.
  • If there is more truth in the hallways than in meetings, then you have a problem.
  • Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.

And so on. Plus, if you are a fan of the Pixar animated movies, there’s plenty of insight in this book about how those movies came to be – even some info on the initial storylines for some of the movies that ended up on the cutting room floor so to speak. He also describes his dealings with Steve Jobs, and how their relationship bloomed over time.

I am glad I decided to overlook Catmull’s public speaking shortcoming (maybe it was just that one time? I plan on finding out) because I think he is one of my new heroes. My new career goal is to find an organization similar to Pixar in which I can thrive – or if one doesn’t exist, make one.

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