This is from the July Leader’s Edge Book Summary of Missio Nexus. These are the best book summaries on the web. Leader’s Edge monthly book summaries and insightful interviews connect you with today’s leading writers in the Great Commission community. You can visit their website here. Access for individuals starts at under $30. The services include:

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Accessing their services just for the book summaries is well worth the cost. Below is a sample from last month’s edition of Leader’s Edge Book Summary of Catmul and Wallace’s book Creativity Inc. Each book summary includes the content of the book by category of:

  • Best chapter
  • Best quotes
  • Best illustration
  • Best idea
  • Best take away
  • Recommendation

creativity

Creativity Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Author: Ed Catmul and Amy Wallace

Publisher: Random House, April 2014, Hardcover 368 pages (ISBN: 978-0812993011)

Also available in Kindle format (B00FUZQYBO).

Summary

Ed Catmul is the co-founder (along with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios. The book provides a back stage pass to a fascinating corporate journey including Steve Jobs, George Lucas and Michael Eisner that is worth the read by itself. But the principles developed by the Pixar team about how to organize for creativity and sustain it over time are excellent. The thesis of the book is “there are many blocks to creativity, but there are active steps we can take to protect the creative process.” Kindle location 141

 Best chapter

Chapter: 5 – Honesty and Candor

” A hallmark of a healthy creative culture is that its people feel free to share ideas, opinions, and criticisms. Lack of candor, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.” (Kindle location 1370) This chapter introduces the primary mechanism Pixar uses to leverage candor to root out mediocrity and increase creativity: the Braintrust. “The Braintrust, which meets every few months or so to assess each movie we’re making, is our primary delivery system for straight talk. Its premise is simple: Put smart, passionate people in a room together, charge them with identifying and solving problems, and encourage them to be candid with one another.” Kindle location 1370

Best quotes

“…successful leaders embrace the reality that their models may be wrong or incomplete.” Kindle location 143

“When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchies are meaningless.” Kindle location 172

“The obvious payoffs of exceptional people are that they innovate, excel, and generally make your company—and, by extension, you—look good.” Kindle location 454

“Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.” Kindle location 458

“The responsibility for finding and fixing problems should be assigned to every employee, from the most senior manager to the lowliest person on the production line.” Kindle location 846

“You don’t have to ask permission to take responsibility.” Kindle location 862

“We realized that our purpose was not merely to build a studio that made hit films but to foster a creative culture that would continually ask questions.” Kindle location 1068

“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.” Kindle location 1215

“Getting the team right is the necessary precursor to getting the ideas right.” Kindle location 1217

“Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas…Find, develop, and support good people, and they will find, develop and own good ideas.” Kindle location 1230 and 1243

“It is the responsibility of good leaders to make sure that words remain attached to the meanings and ideals they represent.” Kindle location 1310

“…without the critical ingredient that is candor, there can be no trust. And without trust, creative collaboration is not possible.” Kindle location 1382

“Candor could not be more crucial to our creative process. Why? Because early on, all our movies suck.” Kindle location 1424

“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.” Kindle location 1486

“To set up a healthy feedback system, you must remove power dynamics from the equation—you must enable yourself, in other words, to focus on the problem, not the person.” Kindle location 1487

“…people need to be wrong as fast as they can. In a battle, if you’re faced with two hills and you’re unsure which one to attack…the right course of action is to hurry up and choose. If you find out it’s the wrong hill, turn around and attack the other one.” Kindle location 1542

“…you don’t want to be at a company where there is more candor in the hallways than in the rooms where fundamental ideas or matters of policy are being hashed out.” Kindle location 1672

“There is an alternative approach to being wrong as fast as you can. It is the notion that if you carefully think everything through, if you are meticulous and plan well and consider all possible outcomes, you are more likely to create a lasting product. But I should caution that 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 the chances of being unoriginal.” Kindle location 1798

Note: there are so many good quotes in this book we are forced to leave out dozens of them.

Best illustration

Speaking about the interview for a job at Lucasfilm:

“My first meeting there was with a man named Bob Gindy, who ran George’s personal construction projects—not exactly the qualifications you’d expect for a guy spearheading the search for a new computer executive. The first thing he asked me was, ‘Who else should Lucasfilm be considering for this job?’ Meaning, the job I was there to interview for. Without hesitation, I rattled off the names of several people who were doing impressive work in a variety of technical areas. My willingness to do this reflected my world-view, forged in academia, that any hard problem should have many good minds simultaneously trying to solve it. Not to acknowledge that seemed silly. Only later would I learn that the guys at Lucasfilm had already interviewed all the people I had listed and asked them, in turn, to make similar recommendations—and not one of them had suggested any other names! To be sure, working for George Lucas was a plum job that you’d have to be crazy not to want. But to go mute, as my rivals did, when asked to evaluate the field signaled not just intense competitiveness but also a lack of confidence. Soon I landed an interview with George Lucas himself.” Kindle location 506

File under: humility, abundance mentality

 Best idea

The Pixar Braintrust is a powerful concept the author believes can be adapted to any context and shares the following general principles of effectiveness:

– The Braintrust does not mandate changes, they give honest feedback built on empathy, on the idea we are all in this together.

– Feedback, what they call a note, says what is wrong, what is missing, what isn’t clear, what makes no sense. It doesn’t have to include a proposed fix, but if it does, the fix only illustrates a potential solution.

– The Braintrust is benevolent. It wants to help. It has no selfish agenda.

– The Braintrust includes people who a) make you think smarter and b) put lots of ideas on the table in a short amount of time.

 Best take away

Even leaders who don’t view themselves as creative types can play a critical role in shaping a culture of creativity. This ranges from how we respond to failure, our approach to risk, the level of bureaucracy, and the openness of communication across the organization.

Recommendation

What would it look like to create your own Braintrust group, inside or outside your organization? What if you had a safe place to share ideas and receive candid feedback from a smart group of benevolent people who did not have authority to mandate changes, had no selfish agenda and were capable of putting a lot of ideas on the table in a short period of time? Who would you invite and when will you start?

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