Lessons about Creativity from Ed Catmull

Ed Catmull is the Co-Founder of Pixar Animation Studios and President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation.

These are some interesting and valuable bits I collected from readying "Creativity, Inc".

"Give a good idea to a mediocre team, and they will screw it up. But give a mediocre idea to a great team, and they will either fix it or come up with something better." — Ed Catmull.

Page 75:
"So for the next couple of years I made a habit, when giving talks, of posing the question to my audience: Which is more valuable, good ideas or good people? When I asked for a show of hands, the audiences would be split 50–50. 
People think so little about this that, in all these years, only one person in the audience has ever pointed out the false dichotomy. To me the answer should be obvious: Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas."

Page 109:
"Failure is a manifestation of learning and exploration. If you aren't experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it. And, for leaders especially, this strategy dooms you to fail."

Page 111: 
"In a fear-based, failure-averse culture, people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk. They will seek instead to repeat something safe that's been good enough in the past. Their work will be derivative, not innovative. But if you can foster a positive understanding of failure, the opposite will happen.

Page 124:
"The antidote to fear is trust. Trusting others doesn't mean that they won't make mistakes. It means that if they do (or if you do), you trust they will act to help solve it."

Page 153:
"Personally, I think the person who can't change his or her mind is dangerous. Steve Jobs was known for changing his mind in the light of new facts, and I don't know anyone who thought he was weak."

Page 235:
"I've always been intrigued, for example, by the way that many people use the analogy of a train to describe their companies. When things go wrong, we talk of getting 'derailed' and of experiencing a 'train wreck'. And I've heard people refer to Pixar's production group as a finely tuned locomotive that they would love the chance to drive. What interests me is the number of people who believe that they have the ability to drive the train and who think that this is the power position — that driving the train is the way to shape their companies future. The truth is, it's not. Driving the train doesn't set is course. The real job is laying the track."

Page 295:
"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. Doing all these things won't necessarily make the job of managing a creative culture easier. But ease isn't the goal; excellence is."


This book is a page-turner. Every now and then I read some pages again and again. The idea to compile here in this article is to have easy access to some powerful statements and to share some of his amazing thoughts about managing creative people.