Creativity Inc. Summary and Key lessons from the book

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Creativity Inc. by  Ed Catmull &  Amy Wallace

If I had to rephrase the prerequisite of success of Ed Catmull, I guess would be no better choice than the following sequence:

Woody: Buzz, you’ve got wings! You glow in the dark! You talk! Your helmet does that, that… *whoosh* thing! You are a cool toy!

[loses steam]

Woody: As a matter of fact, you’re *too* cool.”

(Toy Story)

What do I mean about that? I invite you to join me to the Creativity, Inc‘s book summary. My promise? To quench your thirst for information, to give you access to great nuggets (visual quotes from book) and still leave you wanting for some more.

A door was left open and amazing stories are coming out from a creative world born to bring to life the most beloved animated characters.

It’s time to see Pixar’s stories from a different side and by standing much closer that you’ve ever imagined. No cinemas, no 3D, no popcorn or children laughing in the background (unless you have children laughing in the background).

And also, this time, there is no peaking. Not at all. Ed Catmull and his assistance Amy Wallace are sharing the business story that stands behind the successful brand for animated movies: Pixar.


Creativity involves missteps and imperfections.

I was thankful that a book like this was born. Thankful to Ed Camull, especially. But, if he’s the author, what about Ed Catmull?

“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,”

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If you know what Pixar is, you can say that you almost know some things about Ed Catmull. On his business card it may be written: co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios and president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation. But what stands behind this achievements? A Ph.D. in computer science from the University of Utah and five Academy Awards, including the Gordon E. Sawyer Award for lifetime achievement in the field of computer graphics.

This book is written for you. How come? Because you find yourself in at least one of the following portrayal:

Creativity, Inc. is written for those kinds of managers who are more interested to be called leaders than bosses and want a strong and motivated team. This book is also for those that are tirelessly seeking for originality in business, in their job, in their ideas. And for those that cannot stop their curiosity to find out what stands behind great things and how these can be made possible again.

Creativity Inc

Few great things were built in 7 days. It usually takes time, patience and courage to dream of something big. Before becoming successful, Ed Camull dreamed by looking at a star and he strived to find the way to get closer to it. Walt Disney was his star that he looked up to all the time and his dream was to make the first computer-animated movie. In 1995 Toy Story was released and Ed Catmull proved that it was a dream worth following.

The success ingredient: money? great ideas? right employees?

Creativity Inc.

Everybody’s looking for the magical success recipe. Ed Camull has built by himself the key ingredient for it: a unique environment at Pixar based on philosophies that protected the creative process and defied convention, like:

Idea vs team: “Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better.”
Reveal the hidden truth: “If you don’t try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.”
Safety and safeness:  “It is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.”
Undoing errors: “The truth is, the cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.”
Organizational networking: “A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.”

Creativity Inc.

And those philosophies were created around 3 key concepts that represent, in fact, the pillar of this strong and unique environment:

Creative culture. This book’s beating heart is defined by this concept. And as Ed Catmull writes, this means “an expression of the ideas that I believe make the best in us possible” by removing impediments to creativity—“uncertainty, instability, lack of candor, and the things we cannot see.”

Storytelling power as an engine of creativity and Braintrust. Because behind this stands more than a good idea. There stand great people ready to turn any idea in a great story.

Humanized leadership. And by that he means to be more human than a leader. He thinks that is leader’s responsibility to support healthy habits, encourage the employees to have fulfilling lives outside of work and helping them to achieve the balance.

Creativity Inc. is a journey in 4 parts that begins at Kilometer 0 and ends with the silver lining.

Creativity Inc

As any beginning, in the first place you will be able to find out how all got started, how Pixar was born, how it was baptized and given to the world. How first decisions were made and first expectations designed.

“MY FIRST ORDER of business as Pixar’s president was to find and hire good people, a core staff that could help us begin to address our inadequacies.”

What comes next may seem at the first sight more as wordplay. Honesty or candor? Fearful or fearless to failure and misfires? If you are looking for Pixar’s movies backstage stories about failures, challenges and momentary troubles – the second part is the right place for it.

“All the time in my work, I see people resist and reject failure and try mightily to avoid it, because regardless of what we say, mistakes feel embarrassing. There is a visceral reaction to failure: It hurts.”

The third part will lead you to the specific methods used at Pixar in order to put the collective heads into a different frame of mind:

  1. Dailies, or Solving Problems Together
  2. Research Trips
  3. The Power of Limits
  4. Integrating Technology and Art
  5. Short Experiments
  6. Learning to See
  7. Postmortems
  8. Continuing to Learn

But after all these strategies, and creative cultures and stunning success, a thunderstorm has come:

“I’m thinking about selling Pixar to Disney” Steve said


“You’re what?” we responded in unison”

What happened next? How everything that was built survived this great challenge? Only one way to find out: search for some clues in our nuggets and read the book from the very first page to the last one.

There is no use to hide the happy ending – we all know it and see it every time we check the latest animated movies from cinemas.  But I dare to anticipate the Pixar and Disney ‘s perspectives :

'Buzz: To infinity, and beyond!' @edcatmull Click To Tweet

(Toy Story)


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