Catmull, Creativity Inc.

Pixar is easily seen as one of the most creative companies in the world, so any time they 2013-06-28-pixar_header-533x294produce material to help others be creative you would do well to pick it up.In this case, Ed Catmul, the President of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation wrote a book that is part history and part inspiration, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration. It’s an incredible book that talks about the difficult (and relational) work of creativity and how to shape a culture which can produce incredible cultural progression in art and science.

Many people do not think that creativity is something churches think about, which is probably why so many people describe their experience of church as boring! At The Grove we are constantly thinking about how we can create novel designs in our systems and presentations that creatively integrate with our cultural moment. In order to speak the gospel to people in a meaningful way, we work hard to create remarkable meaning and beauty in our church.

On a personal level, this book helped me in two ways: First, it was helpful in the formation and structure of my sermons, which is a strength I am constantly working to improve. img_0568I want to make the very best sermon experience ever – every single week. That seems like a ridiculous goal, but you wouldn’t be the first person to think that I am ridiculous. Secondly, Creativity Inc. helped me to be able to best shape and share the story of The Grove as an event that unifies and inspires people – both those inside and outside of The Grove itself. Our story, told in (again) meaningful and beautiful ways, is what God is doing and will be doing soon in us and through us within our city and our world.

The amount of learning I did in this text forced me to start putting one img_0569sentence chapter summaries on the front cover just to get a handle on how much I was processing. Still, here’s some creative wordings that give a taste of how helpful this book was,

  • p.x, “The point is, we value self-expression here.”
  • p.x, “What makes Pixar special is that we acknowledge we will always have problems, many of them hidden from our view; that we work hard to uncover these problems, even if doing so means making ourselves uncomfortable; and that, when we come across a problem, we marshal all of our energies to solve it.”
  • p.xv, “My aim at Pixar… has been to enable our people to do their best work. …my job as manager is to create a fertile environment, keep it healthy, and watch for the things that undermine it.”
  • p.12, “Basically, they welcomed us to the program, gave us work-space and access to computers, and then let us pursue whatever turned us on.”
  • p.74, “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… Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.”
  • p.77, “Supporting your employees means encouraging them to strike a balance not merely by saying, “Be balanced!” but also by making it easier for them to achieve balance. (Having a swimming pool, a volleyball court, and a soccer field on-site tells our workers that we value exercise and a life beyond the desk.) But leadership also means paying close attention to ever-changing dynamics in the workplace. For example, when our younger employees – those without families – work longer hours than those who are parents, we must be careful not to compare the output of these two groups without being mindful of the context. I’m not talking just about the health of employees here; I’m talking about their long-term productivity and happiness. Investing int his stuff pays dividends down the line.”
  • p.94, “Michael Arndt, who wrote Toy Story 3, says he thinks to make a great film, its makers must pivot, at some point, from creating the story for themselves to creating it for others.”
  • p.105, “Every creative person, no matter the field, can draft into service those around them who exhibit the right mixture of intelligence, insight, and grace. ‘You can and should make your own solution group,’ Andrew Stanton says, …’Here are the qualifications required: The people you chose must (a) make you think smarter and (b) put lots of solutions on the table in a short amount of time. I don’t care who it is, the janitor or the intern or one of your most trusted lieutenants: If they can help you do that, they should be at the table.”
  • p.119, “When a director stands up in a meeting and says, ‘I realize this scene isn’t working, I don’t yet know how to fix it, but I’m figuring it out. Keep going!’ – a crew will follow him or her to the ends of the earth. But when a problem is festering and everyone seems to be looking the other way or when people are sitting around waiting to be told what to do, the crew gets antsy.”
  • p.191, “as more people are added to any group, there is an inexorable drift toward inflexibility.”
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