Notes

Ed talks about a personal dilemma at the beginning of the book. After wrapping up production of Toy Story and releasing it to the world he wasn’t sure what he would do next. He’d done what he set out to by proving a movie could be made with a story that audiences everywhere could relate to and be moved by using computer graphics. He was pretty sure making another movie wasn’t what he wanted to do next. Fostering sustainable creative culture in a community of artists, writers, producers, directors and everybody else on the team would be his next great adventure …

Creativity Inc

Chapter 1

  • Job titles are the opposite of helpful during the process of ideation, creation
  • Took them awhile to figure out the physical space in meeting rooms was causing people not to contribute or speak up. They started with a long rectangular table where Ed, and John sat at the middle and everybody else seated elsewhere. Other spots at the table were reserved for specific people. People furthest away from the centre were silent during discussions
  • Team was trusted to innovate

Chapter 2

  • Had to learn to be comfortable bringing on and working with smarter people than he (this was hard!)
  • who else is solving the hard problems we’re trying to solve? (list?)
  • change is not a thing most people are comfortable with. trying to get the production team at lucasfilm using software that would make their lives better was hard. why change what they’d been doing for years that worked. it would only make them slower today. if you don’t have buy in from the team, failure becomes a real possibility
  • if you’re getting the story right, visual polish doesn’t matter (this probably applies to what we’re doing in tech … how?)

Chapter 3 : Defining the Goal (Pixar)

  • trying to solve a hard problem in an overly simplistic way can be damaging to the cause. eg here was a pricing decision they made on what of their early software / hardware tools that priced it beyond what people were willing to pay based on well meaning advice from people who didn’t understand the context
  • first question from ed to steve jobs before he bought pixar : how would we resolve conflicts?
  • production managers @ pixar : manage people and safeguard process (what’s our analog in ops?)
  • key question : how is Pixar working and not working?
  • key question : if we did something right that helped us achieve success, how could we ensure we recognized it and could do it again?

Chapter 4 Pixar’s Identity (Values)

  • after toy story, disney asked pixar to make toy story 2 and that it be direct to video. nobody at pixar felt that a direct to video sequel would live up to the standards they had for their films. they said yes anyways. in disney’s experience, the d2v market was lucrative and films targeting it could be made more quickly
  • fallacy : an inexperienced team backed up by a successful one could simply replicate the success of the successful one
  • getting the team right is crucial
    • giving a good idea to a bad team will get buggered up
    • a bad idea to a good team will be improved or quickly tossed
  • focus on how a team is performing, not on the individuals in it
  • find, develop, and support good people. they’ll come up with good ideas on their own
  • how can people be made more comfortable with unexpected results … or surprises throughout the filmmaking process?

Chapter 5 : Candor

  • be able to speak honestly and openly about most everything ability to share ideas, fears, criticisms is sign of health
  • braintrust: Smart, passionate people + small room + hard problems + candor => answers (often)
  • early on all their movies suck. If people were afraid to speak they’d be in lots of trouble
  • you’re guaranteed to become lost at some point during the process of creating something new
  • Andrew Stanton : if you’re going to be wrong be quick about it. Be wrong as fast as possible. If you’re faced with 2 choices pick one and test. If it’s not right you’ll find out pretty quickly. This seems critical to all fields.
  • Constructive criticism is better than criticism. Don’t tear something down with leaving a thing in its place.
  • braintrust people : make you think smarter, puts lots of ideas out there quickly

Chapter 6 : Fear and Failure

  • mistakes are inevitable when you’re doing something you’ve never done before
  • worse than failing is trying to avoid it to the exclusion of growth, learning, willingness to reach
  • normal is being faced with a hard problem, feeling at a loss for an answer, resolution, relief
  • we should be comfortable throughout the cycle of creation
  • Pixar shuts movies down when a director loses the confidence of his / her crew
  • measure of how well you’re doing as a manager : can the people on your team rally together to solve a hard problem? Yes == you’re doing fine.

Chapter 7 : The Beast and the Baby

  • protect the new. original ideas often come to life weak, not perfectly formed. in need of protection
  • contrast with the demands of a successful business. every dollar must be accounted for. every body in the organization fully utilized.
  • goal of what we do is not to come up with a perfect process, it’s to make something great for our customers
  • these 2 forces need to be balanced. if either wins you’re in trouble
    • balance in this case == fast, appropriate responses to changing realities

Chapter 8 : Change and Randomness

  • when you feel the world is crashing down on you stop to write a list about what’s wrong. if you’re lucky there will be 1 or 2 themes. regardless you’ll have a hard list of issues rather than a vague feeling of unease.
  • changing ones mind is not a sign of weakness. quite the contrary. If you have new information that requires it … only a fool wouldn’t
  • big and small problems both should be faced with the same set of values and emotions. freaking out or blame is unhelpful in the best of times.
  • find potential. nurture talent. let people who would rise to the occasion do so.

Chapter 9

  • a leader’s view is obstructed by people who are adept at figuring out what a leader wants
  • people don’t often talk to leaders as candidly as they would peers
  • our mental models play a large part in how we perceive the world
    • “only 40% of what we experience as input comes from our eyes”
  • people often ignore input that contradicts what we already know to be “true”
  • cognitive bias : confirmation bias

Chapter 11

  • Ed Catmull’s job : artist management, cost control (What’s mine?)
  • Brad Bird : “Sometimes as a director, you’re driving. And other times, you’re letting the car drive.”
  • collaboration requires constant interaction and communication. doing it well takes sustained effort over long periods of time. don’t be irritated by this.
  • producers keep projects on track and on budget
    • good ones don’t dictate. they reach out, listen, wrangle, coax, cajole
    • different models of what it’s like to do this job
      • sheep and a shepherd. a few are going to be lost over a hill somewhere. you’ll have to go find them. you’ll have to pop out in front of flock, sometimes behind. weird stuff happening in the middle. you’ll get there eventually but maybe it’s slow progress in spots. more interested in general direction of herd vs absolute control.

Chapter 12

  • people appreciate cash bonuses but almost as much they enjoy being told “Thank you” by somebody they respect