Building an organization is messy. Success is hard and, often, a bit of a fluke. Books about management aren’t very helpful. Sometimes you’re wrong. There is no substitute for talent.
These are the types of lessons in Creativity, Inc., the book about Pixar’s emergence as an iconic animation studio.
I loved this book. I’ve read most of the management classics, and I largely dislike them all. The message is usually “become a completely different person, devoid of all flaws, and you’ll be fine.” They perpetuate the myth that success is something you can control, that you can accomplish what you want to accomplish if you just follow the secrets, 10 steps, or routine patented by the author.
Creativity, Inc. is an enormous relief because it throws all of that out the window. As good as those filmmakers are, the studio almost didn’t make it. As good as they are, they struggled to grow and replicate their early success. As good as they are, the work is still hard. Phew.
It falls into the genre of management book, but it works as a corporate biography, an inside look at the filmmaking/ writing process, and really an interesting story for anyone thinking about how to make things with a group of people.
Favourite Quote/ Scene
The dominant question is “how do you create an environment where people feel comfortable taking risks?” How do you make it okay for writers to question ideas flowing from some of the most respected directors of our time? How do you create a culture where ideas can be criticized without feelings being hurt?
“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”
Creating this environment, suggests Catmull, is his only job.
“What interests me is the number of people who believe that they have the ability to drive the train and who think that this is the power position—that driving the train is the way to shape their companies’ futures. The truth is, it’s not. Driving the train doesn’t set its course. The real job is laying the track.”
He stresses the importance of failure, saying it’s the only proof you are trying something new.
"Always take a chance on better,” he writes.
And he shares one of Pixar’s earliest lessons:
"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."
Crossing back over from audiobook to print …