Tag Archives: business

Book Review | Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull & Amy Wallace

BOOK REVIEW

TITLE: Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

AUTHOR: Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace

PUBLISHER: Random House

RELEASE DATE: April 8, 2014

GENRE: Business, Nonfiction, Leadership

BUY LINKS: Amazon | B&N 

From Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, comes an incisive book about creativity in business—sure to appeal to readers of Daniel Pink, Tom Peters, and Chip and Dan Heath. 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.”

For nearly twenty years, Pixar has dominated the world of animation, producing such beloved films as the Toy Storytrilogy, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Up, and WALL-E, which have gone on to set box-office records and garner thirty Academy Awards. The joyousness of the storytelling, the inventive plots, the emotional authenticity: In some ways, Pixar movies are an object lesson in what creativity really is. Here, in this book, Catmull reveals the ideals and techniques that have made Pixar so widely admired—and so profitable.

As a young man, Ed Catmull had a dream: to make the first computer-animated movie. He nurtured that dream as a Ph.D. student at the University of Utah, where many computer science pioneers got their start, and then forged a partnership with George Lucas that led, indirectly, to his founding Pixar with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter in 1986. Nine years later, Toy Story was released, changing animation forever. The essential ingredient in that movie’s success—and in the thirteen movies that followed—was the unique environment that Catmull and his colleagues built at Pixar, based on philosophies that protect the creative process and defy convention, such as:

• 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.
• If you don’t strive to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.
• It’s not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take them.
• The cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.
• A company’s communication structure should not mirror its organizational structure. Everybody should be able to talk to anybody.
• Do not assume that general agreement will lead to change—it takes substantial energy to move a group, even when all are on board. (Description from Goodreads)

MY THOUGHTS

(***Please note that this review may contain spoilers***)

I wanted to read this book for two reasons, 1) I really love Pixar and their films and 2) I’m reading lots of books to gain more knowledge on leadership.

I’ve always been fascinated with the success of Pixar, especially after the merge with Disney. So picking up a book written by one of the founders of Pixar was a no brainer. I wanted to know how Pixar got started, what its challenges were, and how they became successful. Ed Catmull’s stories of Pixar didn’t disappoint and I loved reading about the how they overcame challenges and successfully created some of my favorite films like Cars, Ratatouille, and Brave.

Obviously, the other goal of this book was to provide some insight into what it takes to lead a creative company, but I think many of the lessons Catmull discusses can be used in a company that isn’t necessarily a “creative” company. I think it can resonate with all companies in different ways.

There are common themes throughout the book that really resonated with me; change, challenges, and culture. As someone who’s been in a leadership role myself, I know that these three things are really important in a company. Then trying to create a culture that embraces change and challenges is even more difficult and I think it’s admirable that the Pixar leadership team was able to achieve that. They even made sure that when it seemed people weren’t speaking up and challenging the status quo they pressed the reset button and had, what they called, “Notes Day”.

Notes Day came about when the leadership team needed to decrease the budget by 10% without impacting creativity and quality. So they decided to ask everyone in the company, but would also achieve the issues they were facing where people might have been having a hard time expressing their concerns or ideas. Notes Day was a full day of all Pixar employees attending seminars on topics that could help decrease the budget, but also improve the company overall. Pixar’s employees were so engaged and got to meet so many different people from other departments. It was a huge success to the company.

I really liked that Pixar is so much about the people and culture that they would get all their employees involved to solve a problem that you usually see decided at the top of a company only. I can’t think of another company that got every single person, no matter their job title or level, to help solve a company wide problem. It’s impressive in my opinion and a testament to the culture Pixar’s founders created.

The idea of change and overcoming challenges was also something that was throughout the book. These two things are ALWAYS present in any company. I feel that I am like Catmull in the sense that I embrace change and challenges. Both are inevitable and I’d rather embrace it. I want to be a part of something that takes a company to the next level.

So reading this book just made me happy overall. I was happy to know more about Pixar, but also happy that a successful leader was talking about things I already believed in. It made me feel I was on the right track with my career and the way I see the world.

Favorite quotes:

  • “Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.”
  • “No one-not Walt, not Steve, not the people of Pixar-even achieved creative success by simply clinging to what used to work.”
  • “Since change is inevitable, the question is: Do you act to stop it and try to protect yourself from it, or do you become the master of change by accepting it and being open to it? My view, of course, is that working with change is what creativity is about.”

I highly recommend this book if you want to know more about the inner workings Pixar and you want to be in a leadership position one day. It’s also a good read even if you don’t have a leadership role, but want to act more like a leader within the company you work for.

OVERALL RATING

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

WEBSITE

Edwin Earl “Ed” Catmull, PhD is a computer scientist and current president of Walt Disney Animation Studios, DisneyToon Studios, and Pixar Animation Studios. As a computer scientist, Catmull has contributed to many important developments in computer graphics. (Bio from Goodreads)

Follow Stories Unfolded on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

Social Media Put Simply

I recently came across this photograph that basically put social media in simple terms.  As everyone should know, social media is a way for you to connect to people online.  So, I wanted to share my thoughts about some of the social media sites I use everyday and how they help me.

Facebook

I use Facebook to interact with my friends about my personal life.  I like to see what my friends are doing in their lives as well, it keeps me up to date especially if I don’t see people on a regular basis.  Facebook also allows me to promote interests of mine such as these blog posts I write.  I am able to share my writing with friends and they support me by reading what I have written.  I have also started using Facebook for business purposes.  I manage pages for organizations and businesses which helps me perfect my social media marketing skills, which can be put on my resume and LinkedIn profile.

Twitter

Twitter is a place for me to see what people are doing in the field I am interested in.  On twitter, I can follow Richard Branson and see what updates he has about business.  I essentially use twitter for educational and business purposes.  I like to follow people who are influential in business and can offer valuable advice to young business people like myself.  I can connect with people that I would have otherwise not been able to connect with by other means.

LinkedIn

This is my online resume.  I update my profile constantly on LinkedIn.  It is used to show people the type of experience I have and what activities I have been involved in.  I am able to showcase my articles on LinkedIn in the profile updates, look for jobs, network, and maybe even offer jobs to people I know (in the future of course).

Foursquare

Foursquare is something I recently got into and it’s actually pretty interesting.  I can link it to my Facebook and Twitter accounts when I check-in somewhere.  Personally, I want to see what my friends are recommending because I like to go to new places and experience new things.  If my friends say they like it, then I might like it.  As for business, I want to check to see how my clients are doing in terms of customers checking-in and what they are saying about the business.  This helps us get a sense of what is most popular in the store and what we should focus on when it comes to discounts.

Instagram

I am also new to Instagram and it is actually really fun.  I like to use my creative side when taking pictures and manipulating them into some artsy way.  I like to see what my friends are up to and I am excited to learn more about this outlet of social media.

All outlets of social media are connected.  You can post something on Instagram that you can link to Facebook and Twitter as well.  When you post to Twitter you can link to Facebook or LinkedIn.  There is just so much you can do with social media and it’s fun to interact with a variety of people whether it be school friends, family, professors, co-workers, or even someone who wrote a best selling book.  I am not saying everyone has to use every single type of social media tool, but it’s good to think of them as a way to enhance your personal and professional life.

Entrepreneur Interview- Timothy Gaspar

There are so many entrepreneurs in the world and a handful of them started their businesses when they were attending college or high school.  While some become a big time success such as Facebook creator Mark Zuckerburg there are those small businesses that make a difference in their own communities.  The question is how did they do it?  How were they able to open up and sustain a business while attending school?

To answer these questions, I set out to talk to those entrepreneurs that were able to make their dream of owning a business a reality while pursuing an education.  My first interview is with Timothy Gaspar of Gaspar Insurance Services, Inc., in Woodland Hills.

Q: Tell me a bit about yourself.

A: I live in Woodland Hills, am married and I have a 1 year old son. I’m 30, went to El Camino for High School and CSUN for College, I graduated with a degree in Finance. I owned a small business when I graduated high school so I didn’t originally to go College, but when I met my wife when I was 21 she made me go or she said she wouldn’t marry me. Plus, by that point I had a few good “lumps” from business so I knew I better have a solid foundation.

Q: Tell me about your business.

A: I own an insurance agency. We provide personal insurance policies to individuals and families including earthquake, homeowners, auto, umbrella etc. We also provide insurance for businesses including general liability, workers compensation, professional liability, etc. I currently have 20 people and 2 offices.

Q: Why did you decide to open up your business?

A: I love running a business, it’s my passion. Some part of me enjoys the fact that it’s incredibly challenging every single day (including weekends).

Q: How did you balance your education and your business ventures?

A: I went to school at night via the PACE program. I like being busy, it motivates me. When I’m not busy I noticed I get incredibly lazy. You just find ways to get everything done

Q: What steps did you need to take to open up you business?

A: I did as much planning and work as I could before I left my old firm. I didn’t pull the trigger on stepping out on my own until all my ducks were in a row. Once you take that leap there is no going back so you don’t want to find out you forgot to submit some form to the state that is going to delay you another week.

Q: How did you get your business funded?

A: A big fat loan to start because I had to buy my book of clients from my old agency. But generally I’m not a fan of using debt to expand, I think it usually leads to trouble. I think when expanding your business you should rely on current cash flow, as old school as that seems.

Q: Was your family supportive of your decision to open up your business right out of high school?

A: Not really, but that’s only because they worried. They would have preferred I went directly into college full-time, that just wasn’t me at the time. My spouse however was very supportive when I left my old insurance firm 5 years ago.

Q: What is the biggest obstacle you faced being a student and a business owner?

A: Just managing time. You just take it day by day, you string enough days together you a get a week, then a month, then you’re out of school.

Q: What are the biggest lessons you learned being a student and an entrepreneur?

A: Don’t borrow money if it’s not absolutely necessary. Treat your people exceedingly well, better than the next guy (that includes paying more).

Q: How is your business doing since graduating from college?

A: We have worked really really hard to keep expanding and thankfully we are doing that.

Q: Did you have an mentors to help you start your business? If so, did he/she offer valuable advice?

A: Yes. My Stepdad taught me the value of emotional intelligence in how you treat people, my Dad is just a hustler, pure and simple. I just wanted to work as hard as he did.

Q: Did your education make it easier for you to start your business?

A: Yes, indirectly. Some of my clients and current relationships are people I met in school.

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to a college student who wants to open their own business?

A: Start small but dream big.

A special thanks to Timothy Gaspar for allowing me to interview him.  🙂

Are you an entrepreneur who started your own business in school? Let me know. I would love to write about your success story.

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