I have always been a big fan of Pixar and their CEO, Ed Catmull. Pixar has built a staff culture that pushes against the status quo and pursues new and innovative ideas. Catmull’s book helps unlock the secret to how they achieve this and how they empower leaders to accomplish it.
Here are a few of my favorite quotes and takeaways from Ed Catmull’s book Creativity, Inc.
1. “What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we have to work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all of our energies to solve it.”
2. One of the most crucial responsibilities of leadership is creating a culture that rewards those who lift not just our stock prices but our aspirations as well.
3. The goal is to uncouple fear and failure—to create an environment in which making mistakes doesn’t strike terror into your employees’ hearts.
4. 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 from it.
5. Braintrust meetings are sessions where directors present to a group of people the latest concept and direction of the movie in process.
6. Candor is required.
7. To understand what the Braintrust does, you have to start with a basic truth: People who take on complicated creative projects become lost at some point in the process. It is the nature of things – in order to create, you must internalize and almost become the project, and that near-fusing with the project is an essential part of the emergence. But it is also confusing. All directors become lost somewhere along the way. That creates a problem for those who seek to give helpful feedback. How do you get a director to see a problem that they cannot see? The key is to help directors see that the film is under the microscope–not the filmmaker. You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you’ll take offense when they are challenged.
8. Research trips challenge our preconceived notions and keep cliches at bay. They fuel inspiration. They are what keeps us creating rather than copying.
9. Get out of the Office!
On the creative process:
10. “If you’re sailing across the ocean and your goal is to avoid weather and waves, then why are you sailing? You have to embrace that sailing means you can’t control the elements and that there will be good days and bad days and that, whatever comes, you will deal with it because your goal is to eventually get to the other side. You will not be able to control exactly how you get across. That’s the game you’ve decided to be in. If your goal is to make it easier and simpler, then don’t get in the boat.”
What books have inspired you to lead and create better? Let me know in the comments!