Creativity, Inc. Summary

Edwin Catmull and Amy Wallace

Creativity, Inc.

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Creativity, Inc. Summary

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Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration is a memoir and self-help book written by Disney/Pixar Animation President Ed Catmull and self-help writer Amy Wallace. Focusing on themes of managing creativity, fostering a creative culture at work, and the challenges of stepping into a leadership role, Creativity, Inc. combines Catmull’s personal recollections of his childhood and his rise through the ranks of Disney and Pixar with the lessons he’s learned along the way and how he believes they can help the average person achieve their creative goals. It is considered one of the most in-depth looks at the inner workings of Disney/Pixar as well as one of the best self-help guides for those in the creative arts.

Divided into thirteen chapters, Creativity, Inc. frequently shifts between Catmull’s memoirs and the lessons he wants to impart on the reader. Chapter One, “Animated’, begins by introducing us to Ed Catmull and his personal story of how he grew to love animation as a child. This chapter is the establishing character ground for Catmull and leads directly into Chapter Two, “Pixar is Born.” This chapter focuses on Catmull’s college years, as well as the period in the 1970s when he went to work at Lucasfilm to lead their new computer division. This was Catmull’s first time in a leadership role, when he started to rethink how he managed people. This is also when he hired Alex Ray Smith, who epitomizes Catmull’s belief that it’s important to always be willing to hire people smarter and more qualified than you.

In Chapter Three, “A Defining Goal”, Catmull explores Pixar’s beginnings as a hardware company, along with his relationship with the late Steve Jobs. The technology that would become Toy Story began in animated commercials, and Catmull began to put into effect his belief in total quality control, a philosophy he learned from Japanese assembly lines. This reputation for detail and perfectionism became an early part of Pixar’s appeal. Chapter Four, “Establishing Pixar’s Identity”, focuses on the founding of the “Braintrust”, an elite group of Pixar idea people whose ability to analyze the emotional beats of a movie is a huge part of Pixar’s success. Catmull firmly believes that getting the team and chemistry right is even more important than getting the right idea. Chapter Five, “Honesty and Candor”, is where Catmull focuses on the importance of a company culture where people feel free to speak their mind openly and are even willing to contradict the boss without fear of offending someone.

Chapter Six, “Fear and Failure”, focuses on Catmull’s belief in the benefits of failure. He states that failure is the only way to truly grow and learn, but the key is to be able to look past our failures at what can be done through them. Chapter Seven, “The Hungry Beast and the Ugly Baby”, talks about the balance between a large group that needs to be consistently fed new material and resources to function, and a new idea that needs care and refinement to grow. Chapter Eight, “Change and Randomness” focuses on Catmull’s belief that it is always essential to be willing to change and look at how things can be done better. He warns of the perils of becoming too blinded to the flaws in a system. Chapter Nine, “The Hidden”, focuses on how our perspective of past events causes us to only see a limited view and blinds us to potential new opportunities.

Chapter Ten, “Broadening Our View”, focuses on eight different mechanisms that let the Pixar staff find new perspectives. They include daily problem-solving sessions, research trips, setting parameters that keep the focus on what’s important, integrating technology and art, short experiments that allow people to try out a new idea in a small way first, learning to set aside preconceptions, postmortems and self-evaluations that help people see what went right and wrong, and continuing to learn as time goes on. Catmull is a big believer that people should never be done growing, evolving, learning, and trying new things. Chapter Eleven, “The Unmade Future”, focuses on Catmull giving analogies of what it feels like to lead. The final chapter, “A New Challenge”, returns to Catmull’s personal narrative and focuses on Catmull’s decision with John Lasseter to to sell Pixar to Disney, and how they rose to the top of the Disney organization and created a new organizational structure that led to massive new hits for Disney such as Frozen.

Ed Catmull is the current President of Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios, as well as a computer scientist by education. He is the winner of an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences art for technological achievement. Creativity, Inc. was a selection for the Mark Zuckerberg book club in March 2015, and was co-written by Amy Wallace. Before her death in August 2013, she was famous for her popular series The Book of Lists, which had five installments, as well as for the 1990 novel Desire.