Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming The Unseen Forces That Stand In The Way Of True Inspiration, by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace
If you are looking for a book about individual creativity, this book is likely to disappoint you a bit, but as a corporate history of Pixar and as a discussion of how the company, even as a part of Disney and at least somewhat connected to Disney Animation, has been able to maintain its creative juices over the course of decades as a film company, this book does provide a great deal of context in the institutional aspects of creativity that are important when it comes to corporate innovation in the creative arts. To be sure, there are a look at people within that company structure, especially among executives and directors and so on, as well as snippets of more ordinary employees empowered to make suggestions and cross-train, but this book is more about how companies should act in order to develop and maintain a culture of creativity and excellence despite the constant pull of temptations that would thwart such creativity because it is uncomfortable and risky. And viewed as a corporate biography of sorts of Pixar, the book is certainly a very enjoyable one as well.
This book of a bit more than 300 pages is divided into four parts and thirteen chapters along with other material. The introduction discusses the innovation and creativity that was lost and then found within Pixar during its early years that encouraged the writer to make maintaining and building on creativity a high priority for Pixar. The first four chapters make up part I of the book, looking at the corporate history of Pixar starting from the author’s early life and education (1), the birth of Pixar as part of LucasArts (2), the defining goal of the company as it struggled during its early years (3), and the difficult task of establishing Pixar’s identity (4). The next five chapters cover the need to protect the new (II) through developing honesty and candor (5), overcoming fear and failure (6), dealing with the hungry corporate beast and the ugly baby of new creations (7), appreciating change and randomness (8), and paying attention to things that are hidden (9). The third part of the book contains two chapters on building and sustaining creativity (III) through broadening our view (10) and dealing with the unmade future (11). Finally, the fourth part of the book encourages us to test what we know (IV) through dealing with new challenges (12) as well as building corporate structures of communication (13). There is also an afterword where the author reflects on Steve Jobs and an appendix that contains thoughts for managing a creative culture before acknowledgements and an index.
The author, certainly someone who can speak with some degree of expertise on the issue of corporate creativity, views the maintenance of creative organizations as a matter for executive attention. Leaders of companies and institutions have to demonstrate through their actions that they appreciate and reward the creativity of front line employees or creativity will the throttled by the way that people act safe in order to avoid trouble for themselves. More than lip service must be paid to creativity, and it may require the development of active efforts to prevent silos from developing in one’s company and to prevent departments from being hostile to others within the same organization. The corporate history of Pixar, at least so far, is evidence of how a high degree of tolerance for failure as well as a high degree of communication on all levels and in all divisions can help build a corporate culture that has allowed for a high degree of creative and business success for a long period of time. Whether that culture is dependent on the specific people in charge, as it was with, say Walt Disney at the studio he founded, remains to be seen.