I love learning from fields outside of my experience. I recently finished a book by Twyla Tharp, famed ballet chorographer.
Ballet = far outside my field of experience. So very far.
Similarly, animation is outside of my field and I was eager to learn from Ed Catmull’s book, Creativity Inc. Ed Catmull is co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios and President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. I picked up the book primarily to hear the story of how Pixar began and grew, but Creativity Inc is more than a biography – it is a leadership book unpacking the creatively disciplined culture of the greatest storytellers in film.
Here’s five surprising quotes from the book:
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.
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.
Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.
Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.
But I should caution that if you seek to plot out all your moves before you make them—if you put your faith in slow, deliberative planning in the hopes it will spare you failure down the line—well, you’re deluding yourself. For one thing, it’s easier to plan derivative work—things that copy or repeat something already out there. So if your primary goal is to have a fully worked out, set-in-stone plan, you are only upping your chances of being unoriginal.
What makes these five quotes surprising?
To begin with, creativity is often equated with ideas and idea generation. Typically when we think of a creative person, we think of a person who has great ideas or who can come up with lots of ideas quickly. Catmull opens up the door for creativity to be more than a great idea because a great idea without a great team will never thrive. Ministry often prompts leaders to go after bigger and better ideas (try this, become that, purchase this) – but at Pixar, the source of creativity is not the best idea, but the best team.
The other surprising thing about these quotes is the emphasis Catmull places on failure, on making mistakes. Perfection is not expected in the process. Like author and artist Austin Kleon, Catmull encourages the Pixar team to show their work in process. One of my most difficult personal challenges to overcome was/is fear. As I spent more time in ministry and sat around different tables of church leadership, I feared sharing ideas and projects with the team because I felt my work was not perfect. When my work or my words or my rationale was on point, I would jump into discussion. Otherwise, I would hang back and observe. Pixar’s culture encourages people to show their work and jump into challenges fearlessly.