Thursday, November 19, 2015

Creativity Inc by Ed Catmull

This is one of those books that, when I started, was a bit disappointing, but when I changed my mindset, turned awesome and inspiring. There were so many lines that I wanted to save as quotes, such as
Ideas though, are not singular. They are forged through tens of thousands of decisions, often made by dozens of people.
For all the care you put into artistry, visual polish frequently doesn't matter if you are getting the story right.

(Although maybe the second quote is only inspiring to me?)

Of course, it makes sense that the book is great for advice on telling a good story - after all, this is a memoir of Pixar, the studio that brought us Monster's Inc, Finding Nemo, etc. Lots of good stories came out from that place.

At first, I approached this book thinking this was going to be a wellspring of story advice. So when I realised it was about the birth of Pixar and what made it Pixar, I was disappointed, to say the least. So I took a break before returning to the book, this time with the mindset of "this is a business biography".

Things really changed after that. Apart from enjoying the history of Pixar, I found lots of gems, such as
When downsides coexist with upsides, as they often do, people are reluctant to explore what's bugging them, for fear of being labelled complainers.
^That is totally true. The fear of being labelled a complainer, especially in a culture that values group harmony, can end up with people getting unhappy and gradually more and more unproductive.

There's a lot of talk about company culture here. The employees are what make Pixar great, and the book talks about how they built the culture, challenges in maintaining it (especially in the face of huge changes), and how problems areas can creep up without anyone noticing - a call to be vigilant, if anything.

The book covers the founding of Pixar to its acquisition/merger with Disney, ending with a note about the author's feelings on the passing of Steve Jobs. Once I changed my expectations, I ended up really enjoying the book, and learning a lot from it. I highly recommend this to fans of Pixar.

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