Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull

Reading Time: 3 minutes


Creativity, Inc. is Ed Catmull’s story about how he built a culture of constant creativity and innovation at the Pixar. Through engaging stories, Catmull conveys timeless business principles that will help you be a better leader and agent of creativity in your organization.

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Key Takeaways

What am I not saying that need to be said?

A great question for leaders to ask themselves regularly.

Get the story right

Visual polish doesn’t matter as much as you think of you get the story right.

The danger of tactical questions

Tactical advice like “start high then go low” when choosing a price for your product is seductive. But this tactical advice prevents you from asking more important, fundamental questions, like “how can we meet the ongoing needs of our customers?”

Japanese manufacturing principle

You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility. If there is a problem that you identify that isn’t under your direct responsibility, you can take ownership and solve that problem without asking anyone for permission. You will be a more valuable contributor to your organization.

Get the team right

Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right. Giving a good idea to a mediocre team will lead to worse outcomes than giving a mediocre idea to a good team. A good team is not all about individual talent – team chemistry is a big and important factor. The individual members of the team need to complement one another.

Efficiency vs. quality

Efficiency is good, but quality is better.


Don’t just encourage people to find balance. Help them achieve it.

Short vs long-term

Don’t let short term pressures distract you from long term health and happiness. Live by this creed in your actions, not in your words.


Pixar created a Braintrust to evaluate major projects. These braintrusts created a culture of candor. To do that well, you need to remove power dynamics from the situation. The feedback system needs to be built on empathy – it’s not about who is right, it’s about a team working together to get to the best outcome.

Mistakes and failure

Mistakes are an inevitable consequence of doing something new. Trying to avoid failure will lead you to failure. Failure is a painful, but necessary learning agent of progress. Don’t chastise people who make mistakes, or you will build a culture of fear and mediocre work. You can build a culture that embraces failure by sharing your failures openly as a leader. Trust is the ultimate antidote to fear.

Confiding in people builds trust

Confiding info in employees demonstrates that you trust them, and make them partners in keeping that into.

Confiding in people builds trust

Conflict is healthy and essential for good ideas to be tested and thrive.

Blind spots

As a manager you have many blind spots. Other people see problems and solutions that you don’t, especially since most people present their best selves to you. You have to create a culture that empowers people to find and solve problems.


They’re easy not to do, but it’s wise to do them.

Great Quotes

“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.”

“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.”

“Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.”

“When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless.”

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