When it comes to the idea of running my own business, I have no idea what I would do. Maybe a writing workshop or a writers guild where writers work together, using each other as sounding boards to publish their books, or helping aspiring novelists turn their ideas into a reality. I don’t know what we would be selling, but I like the idea. Anyway, if I ever had a business this book would be one of my instruction manuals. Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar, takes what I knew about running a business, which is very little, and spins it on its head.
Taking us on a walk through the creation of Pixar and the most important things needed to run a successful business, Creativity Inc. shares a unique perspective of businesses as a democracy that only works when the employees are happy and everyone (and I mean everyone) feels the freedom of expressing their thoughts and ideas openly. From his early post college years to the present, Ed Catmull shares the mistakes and successes that helped define him as a man and as the president of the leading animation studio.
As I said above, I don’t run a business, nor do I have much idea what kind of business I would have if I decided to start one, but I currently work for a company that many of you may know, i.e. Lowes. After reading this book, I’ve taken a better look at the company I work in and tried to analyze the differences and the similarities between the two business philosophies and the effect the differences have on the overall organization. In my opinion, they don’t have very much in common. There is very little communication; you don’t feel free to express your thoughts to your superiors without the fear of being fired for second guessing your boss; most people don’t understand how everyone else’s jobs work and so get angry with each other; most people working there don’t like their jobs. Does this mean that the Pixar way is the best way? I can’t honestly say since I’m not a businessman, but Catmull has some very good points that should be considered more thoroughly.
That aside, what I think inspired me the most was the way the creative process was described. It isn’t easy and there are always problems and mistakes, but it makes the final result so much more satisfying. Writing something on the first try is almost never great skill, it’s usually laziness, and the results are evident to those trying to enjoy it. Quality work, whether it be writing or what have you, takes time, patience, hard work, and a sense of humor. I want to emphasize that I think it’s incredibly important to be able to laugh at yourself and not take yourself too seriously. We will undoubtedly make mistakes and have failures, but the key is to turn them into something that can benefit your work ethic or inspire your creativity. This has helped me as I try to get myself into the writing process; it put things into perspective so that it’s a little easier for me to sit down and start when I know I may very well fail that day.
With all that being said, I’m unsure of how to critique the writing style or skill in this book. In a way it’s a self-help book while at the same time, it’s an autobiography. The only thing to really say is that Catmull made his story and advice both enjoyable and inspiring. Nonfiction can be a hard genre to tackle because of the need to share a great deal of information in a limited space while also making it an enjoying read. I’ve read some nonfiction that was horrible and dry, and some that was interesting and cleverly written. Fortunately, this book joins the ranks of the latter. One day I hope to go back and reread it more carefully, with pencil in hand and sticky notes at the ready. For all aspiring novelists, or for anyone aspiring to make a career in the arts, I offer this book as a must-read.