Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull: A book review

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True InspirationCreativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A tour de force work by creating, living, practicing and improvising a world class creative company culture at Pixar & Disney Animation group.

In particular, the practice has been honed for almost 25 years and additionally tested and successfully deployed inside iconic Disney Animation group. Not many people can claim this impressive repeat creative culture creation.

Any venture wishing to create a lasting creative culture must start with incredible constant self-awareness and absolute candor that begins with top leadership.

Creative culture practice is a marathon and not a sprint!

The most resonant theme expressed is candor at all time and all levels. One of the most misunderstood and ignored concept missing from many prior published works. Candor at all levels is the ability of all people at all levels of the organization having difficult and tough conversations to resolve hidden and unpredictable issues.

One memorable line is: if the hallway knows the truth and conference room does not then it reflects the lack of candor, where people are afraid to speak up without fear of retaliation.

In reading through Pixar quest to live a creative culture, it is very evident that Pixar practices the art of 'Design Thinking' in their particular way for every movie that Pixar has produced. For example, before any movie, the staff went to the actual location to do the 'research' which equates to Design Thinking's observe and empathize techniques.

One example given is, filmmakers of 'Nemo' went and visited dentists offices and then traversed the sewers to find out if fish can escape from dentists office sink to the ocean via sewers. Movies makers also became certified scuba divers to experience what it is like to navigate all the way from sewers to the ocean.

One of the surprises in the book is the last chapter about Steve Job's role at Pixar before its acquisition by Disney. It is the most touching and candid description of Steve Job's transformation to an excellent listener and his knack for giving constructive feedback during Pixar pre-release movie previews.

In fact, Steve's legendary product introductions were stories that people loved to buy iPod, iPhone, and iPad. I am sure he learned the art of storytelling from the master storytellers at Pixar.

This heart touching elucidation runs counter to all what his been written about Steve Jobs after his passing away. Ed Catmull's unique account comes from a close working relationship with Steve Jobs for over 20 years.

Finally, any company trying to navigate through the disruptive digital transformation should make this book a required reading for the entire organization, starting with top leadership.

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