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Reply to: Book review: Creativity, Inc.

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Replying to: Book review: Creativity, Inc.

By Ryan Noik 18 July 2014

It’s not very often that you come across a virtual goldmine of inspiration, but Creativity, Inc. along with being an entertaining read, is also a rich reservoir of business insight.

While Creativity, Inc., written by Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, tells the story of the rise of Pixar in an entertaining and engrossing way, it does much more. The book offers business leaders, managers, and creatives alike valuable insight into what makes and breaks companies, what keeps creativity and inspiration flowing, and most importantly, the principles creative businesses need to be aware of to succeed.  

One business mistake debunked early on is the concept of hierarchies, as Catmull relates how something as simple as the shape of a table, and assigning degrees of importance to employees seated at that table, actually impedes some of the most valuable innovations and ideas coming to the fore. For example, once the company got rid of a long, narrow table around which meetings were held, in favour of a more inclusive square one, this fostered greater inclusiveness – and new ideas were able to emerge.

Truthfully speaking

Another of the key principles touted at Pixar is that of honesty, and even more, candour, with Pixar encouraging the latter in particular. Catmull also noted that “a hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions and criticisms.” What’s more, he also asserted that a lack of openness ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments. This is contrary to many hierarchical organisations, where speaking your mind, especially to someone higher up in the organisation, is a no-no.

In Pixar’s case, it implemented this principle of candour with its Braintrust meetings, a tradition in which it would “put smart, passionate people in a room together and charge them with identifying and solving problems.”

Risk change

As one reads the book, one thing becomes abundantly clear – Pixar had its ups and downs and its fair share of changes and uncertainties. However, and possibly our favourite takeaway given the current economic climate and growth of uncertainty facing all businesses, is Pixar’s approach to risk. Rather than being risk averse, its culture revolved around making it safe to take risks, where even failure was seen and valued as being part of the process.

If you are in business, a manager or just working in a creative industry, get Creativity, Inc. and read it slowly. You won’t be sorry. 

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