14 of my favorite business concepts from the Pixar book, Creativity Inc.

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Creativity Inc. was the first book I finished in 2015 in my attempt to read more books this year (its one of my “resolutions”.) 12 books would be a good number, if I can get there. I just finished my second book, Same Kind of Different As Me (and if you happen to be like me and have a passion to help the homeless, this is a terrific book), and I realized I never blogged about Creativity Inc.

The book, as described on Amazon:

Creativity, Inc. is a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, a manual for anyone who strives for originality, and the first-ever, all-access trip into the nerve center of Pixar Animation—into the meetings, postmortems, and “Braintrust” sessions where some of the most successful films in history are made. It is, at heart, a book about how to build a creative culture—but it is also, as Pixar co-founder and president Ed Catmull writes, “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible.”

One of the things I really enjoy about reading on the Kindle (or Kindle app) is the ability to highlight important passages and then access them later online. There were so many interesting stories and concepts in this book that I decided to take a look back at my highlighted sections to refresh myself after finishing the book. Here are some of the more interesting highlights:

The name Pixar came from combining Pixer (which they imagined was a (fake) Spanish verb meaning “to make pictures”, and Radar, which they thought made them sound more high-tech. Pixer + Radar = Pixar!

~ …(Pixar) democratic central tenet: You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.

~ Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.

~ If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.

~ Find, develop, and support good people, and they in turn will find, develop, and own good ideas.

~ Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality).

~ Management’s job is not to prevent risk but to build the ability to recover.

~ I often say that managers of creative enterprises must hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentions.

~ …we must be open to having our goals change as we learn new information or are surprised by things we thought we knew but didn’t. As long as our intentions—our values—remain constant, our goals can shift as needed. At Pixar, we try never to waver in our ethics, our values, and our intention to create original, quality products. We are willing to adjust our goals as we learn, striving to get it right—not necessarily to get it right the first time. Because that, to my mind, is the only way to establish something else that is essential to creativity: a culture that protects the new.

~ Change is our friend because only from struggle does clarity emerge.

~ We will all be happier and more productive if we hurry up and fail.

~ In big organizations there are advantages to consistency, but I strongly believe that smaller groups within the larger whole should be allowed to differentiate themselves and operate according to their own rules, so long as those rules work. This fosters a sense of personal ownership and pride in the company that, to my mind, benefits the larger enterprise. – Yes! Small teams win :)

~ Unleashing creativity requires that we loosen the controls, accept risk, trust our colleagues, work to clear the path for them, and pay attention to anything that creates fear. Doing all these things won’t necessarily make the job of managing a creative culture easier. But ease isn’t the goal; excellence is.

~ Trust doesn’t mean that you trust that someone won’t screw up—it means you trust them even when they do screw up.