Creativity Inc. – Ed Catmull

I’ve recently been in a position where I haven’t had been able to dedicate any significant time to reading, but mainly because I spend a lot of my usual down time driving. As a big fan of radio and podcasts I figured it would be good to listen to some books whilst I travel so the time isn’t entirely wasted.

Ed Catmull’s book covers the long history of Pixar delving into the detail of what was once a division of LucasFilm all the way through to becoming the wonderful studio that many of us know and love today.

The framing of this book is such that it will offer up the lessons that Ed has learned over the years of managing a creative company with case studies from throughout his long a interesting career. I hesitated to use the phrase case studies as it’s almost a boring MBA term to describe a career that is far more interesting than most. Not only had Ed grown up as a fan of Disney Animation but he longed to create the first computer animated film and maintained sight of that dream through many periods of turbulence and instability.

It is yet another book that I’ve read recently that reinforces that any of the successful people in life that you read about have thrown so much at what they do and worked so hard to achieve great things. Ed is keen to point out as well that even with hard work, mistakes will happen and uncertainty will always exist but we should learn to manage ourselves in reacting to such events. He talks calmly about how Pixar was almost out of business as Toy Story 2 was deleted from the linux arrays at one point. He talks about how at Pixar they are constantly reviewing what they do to protect creativity and ensure that people are willing to take risks and not only think about the commercial aspects of a film.

What really appealed to me in this book which I’m not sure Ed is aware of is that in my big corporate job, a lot of what he said about managing creatives can be applied to it. I feel more knowledgeable about enterprise in general having read this book and believe that when faced with difficult circumstances, I’ll be able to face up to it. It’s also inspired me to understand that if I want success at anything, an element of honesty is key, a feedback loop, control of emotions and hard work are the key to success.

Throughout the book we also come to learn from someone who worked with Steve Jobs for 26 years what he was actually like. Mr Catmull notes his frustration that some depiction and records of Steve Jobs following his passing are unfair and focus only on the negative aspects or events in his life forgetting that underneath the man who desired perfection in many ways had been responsible for growing two of Americas greatest enterprises for technology and entertainment in the past few decades. I have been guilty of boarding the “Steve Jobs wasn’t a nice guy” train however it appears to me now that those who knew him best knew not only a visionary but a good person.

Whilst I won’t delve into the individual chapters and the details of the book because I think the best way to understand the inner workings of Pixar is to read the book. I can highly recommend this book and audiobook!

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