Creativity Inc

“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.”  – Ed Catmull


Lessons learnt: Fail fast, fail cheap. Change requires risk and the courage to take on risk. People are more important than ideas.


Writing your memoir can quickly get you lost in details, glance over struggles or put yourself in a too glorious position. Ed Catmull does none of these things. In a story that chronologically follows his journey through the development of animation is one of great humility and many lessons learnt. When Ed was young he had a dream: making an animated feature film, his dream came through – and then some!

This book is highly recommended for anyone interested in leadership, but why? It is because Ed has some lessons that other ‘management gurus’ have yet to mention. Among those lessons is the following: “It’s not the manager’s  job to prevent risks. It’s the manager’s job to make it safe for others to take risks.” Instead of shielding yourself (or your company) from risks, it is your people who should not have to worry about it. Why? Because there always is a risk, without it progress would not happen. But the feeling of risk, the negative associations should not be afflicting your team. Your team should feel safe to take risks and know that you have their back.

Another lesson about communication comes from the growth of Pixar. During the growth of Pixar, they used to have weekly meetings in a boardroom. It was at an oval table which seated everyone perfectly, there was no hierarchy. But due to growth two things started to happen, 1) the table became too small, people sat in one or two rings outside the big table to join, and 2) name-cards were placed to reserve places for the big-time executives. Ed recognized that he had failed to keep communication open and without hierarchy. After this realization, he ordered a larger table and after another struggle in abolishing the name-cards, he successfully eliminated the hierarchy.

About halfway through the book, I was thinking to myself “What was the name of the author again?” It completely slipped my mind, in all its length the book rarely mentions Ed’s name. He instead opts to name many others for their great accomplishments. For criticism, however, he mostly ascribes the blame to either himself or organisational flaws, never to another individual. Between the lines, he demonstrates that leadership sometimes is not about doing the right things, but also about not doing some things (i.e. assigning blame).


“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.” – Ed Catmull


Creativity Inc. is an entertaining, never dull, and pleasant read. I have listened to it in the gym and on my way to work and it has the perfect amount of knowledge-density for an audiobook. Through personal stories, Ed will take you on a leadership journey in creativity.


The Book:

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration – Ed Catmull – ISBN-10: 0593070100 – ISBN-13: 978-0593070109


More on Creativity Inc. – Quotes from Creativity Inc. – Keep Your Crises Small – Talk by Ed Catmull – More reviews of Creativity Inc.