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Creativity Inc Ed Catmull Summary



We all have watched Disney animations and love them. But have you ever wondered what goes on beyond the scene and what it takes to create such amazing computer-animated movies? It turns out that creating great animations needs a lot of hard work and creativity and we can learn from that process and apply it to other areas of life. Ed Catmull is the current president of both Pixar and Disney Animation Studios. In his book, called Creativity Inc, Ed Catmull shares the secret to his success. He wants to help managers on how to tap into the creative process. In this summary, I’ll share with you three key lessons that I learned from the book.



Key Lesson #1: Fear of failure causes people to resist change


People usually don’t like new stuff because it is not familiar and humans are designed to gravitate toward what is familiar. For example, if a new software is introduced in the office, people at first resist it but once they get adapted to the new software they start to love it. By trying new things we always risk failure but that is the only way to bring change. Fear of the new can also cause people to try to control the future. We see this in business, where companies stick to a “safe route,” and create rigid plans to cope with an uncertain future and they miss out on so many opportunities. For example, after Pixar and Disney Animation Studios merged together, the head of HR at Disney came to Catmull with a detailed, two-year plan specifying their goals and staff recommendations, hoping to eliminate instability by adhering to a carefully conceived plan. But Catmull knew this was a mistake: although businesses need a goal to work towards, they cannot be constrained by them. Thus, he refused to sign off on the plan in favor of maintaining flexibility.



Key Lesson #2: Having the right people is more important than having great ideas


People usually think success depends on coming up with as many good ideas as possible. This is kinda true but you should know that having the right people around is more important than having great ideas. Without a great team, even if you have a great idea, you won’t succeed. If you look around you, from iPhones to buildings, nothing is the result of a single idea. They are actually the result of many creative minds who came together to create that product. Also, diversity is a huge factor when it comes to building a great team. When people come from different backgrounds they can compliment and inspire each other. For example, when Catmull was studying at the University of Utah, he joined a special program where students had extremely diverse interests and were allowed to work on whatever they wanted. Having such a diverse group of people working together created a highly inspirational atmosphere where students often worked on their projects long into the night, playing and experimenting with ideas. And that approach was a huge success.



Key Lesson #3: Design a work environment that fosters creativity


The environment in which we work has a huge effect on creativity. But you see so many companies completely overlook this. The architecture of the workspace should inspire creativity, not boredom. This can be done simply by replacing a table or cleaning the workplace. Early on at Pixar, they used to gather along a rectangular table to have meetings, and people at the edge didn’t feel free to participate. But once they replaced the old table with a square one, everyone felt much freer to voice their ideas. When Catmull first came to Disney Animation he noticed every desk looked like each other. To him, this was devastating for creativity. In Pixar, people can decorate their workplace however they want and that is one of the reasons why Pixar is so successful with its creative animations.



So in summary, change and instability should not be avoided and it is necessary for any creative environment. In a creative environment, success depends more on having the right people rather than having great ideas. And by designing the work environment you can help to foster creativity.


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