Review: “Creativity, Inc.”

Book Review
Book: Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace

Reviewer: Bobby Powers

My Thoughts: 9 of 10
Creativity, Inc. is packed with tips for how to breed innovation and employee autonomy in any company. Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, pulls back the covers to reveal how Disney and Pixar foster a healthy culture of creativity by trusting their people to solve problems. This book is required reading for any leader looking to empower his or her people to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes.

Takeaways from the Book


  • “We start from the presumption that our people are talented and want to contribute.  We accept that, without meaning to, our company is stifling that talent in myriad unseen ways.  Finally, we try to identify those impediments and fix them.”
  • “Trust doesn’t mean that you trust that someone won’t screw up—it means you trust them even when they do screw up.”
  • “We realized that our purpose was not merely to build a studio that made hit films but to foster a creative culture that would continually ask questions.”
  • “I look for ways to institutionalize (candor) by putting mechanisms in place that explicitly say it is valuable…Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid with one another.”
  • “What is the point of hiring smart people, we asked, if you don’t empower them to fix what’s broken?”
  • “When looking to hire people, give their potential to grow more weight than their current skill level.  What they will be capable of tomorrow is more important than what they can do today.”

Pixar Characters


  • “To be a truly creative company, you must start things that might fail.”
  • “You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”
  • “To be wrong as fast as you can is to sign up for aggressive, rapid learning.”
  • “Better to have train wrecks with miniature trains than with real ones.” -Joe Ranft
  • “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.”
  • “There is nothing quite as effective, when it comes to shutting down alternative viewpoints, as being convinced you are right.”
  • “It is not the manager’s job to prevent risks.  It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.”
  • “Don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share them with others.  Show early and show often.  It’ll be pretty when we get there, but it won’t be pretty along the way.  And that’s as it should be.”

First Step to Failure

Awesome ideas from Andrew Stanton, director and producer at Pixar

  • “(Stanton) is known around Pixar for repeating the phrases ‘fail early and fail fast’ and ‘be wrong as fast as you can.’  He thinks of failure like learning to ride a bike; it isn’t conceivable that you would learn to do this without making mistakes—without toppling over a few times.  ‘Get a bike that’s as low to the ground as you can find, put on elbow and knee pads so you’re not afraid of falling, and go,’ he says.”
  • “If you apply this mindset to everything new you attempt, you can begin to subvert the negative connotation associated with making mistakes.  Says Andrew: ‘You wouldn’t say to somebody who is first learning to play the guitar, “You better think really hard about where to put your fingers on the guitar neck before you strum, because you only get to strum once, and that’s it.  And if you get that wrong, we’re going to move on.”  That’s no way to learn, is it?’”
  • “There’s a difference between criticism and constructive criticism.  With the latter, you’re constructing at the same time that you’re criticizing.  You’re building as you’re breaking down, making new pieces to work with out of the stuff you’ve just ripped apart.  That’s an art form in itself.”
  • “Include people in your problems, not just your solutions.”

Think you’d like this book? Purchase it from Amazon:

Other books you may enjoy:
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Other notable books by the author:

3 thoughts on “Review: “Creativity, Inc.”

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