I’ve been reading Creativity Inc, by Ed Catmull. Though I’m not done, I’ve enjoyed the lessons that Ed imparts in the book. Ed is the President of Pixar and share many stories of how he’s developed Pixar into a powerhouse of creativity and success. I’m just halfway done, but so far, here are some of my takeaways so far:
Candor is forthrightness or frankness – not so different from honesty, really. And yet, in common usage, the word communicates not just truth-telling but a lack of reserve. Everyone knows that sometimes, being reserved is healthy, even necessary for survival. Nobody thinks that being less than candid makes you a bad person (while no one wants to be called dishonest). People have an easier time talking about their level of candor because they don’t think they will be punished for admitting that they sometimes hold their tongs. This is essential…Candor is the key to collaborating effectively. Lack of candor leads to dysfunctional environments.
Mistakes are not evil
We need to think about failure differently. I’m not the first to say that failure, when approached properly, can be an opportunity for growth. But the way most people interpret this assertion is that mistakes are a necessary evil. Mistakes aren’t a necessary evil. They aren’t evil at all. They are an inevitable consequence of doing something new (and, as such, should be seen as valuable; without them, we’d have no originality). And yet, even as I say that embracing failure is an important part of learning, I also acknowledge that acknowledging this truth is not enough. That’s because failure is painful, and our feelings about this pain tend to screw up our understanding of its worth. To disentangle the good and the bad parts of failure, we have to recognize both the reality of the pain and the benefit of the resulting growth.
Lightly to goals, firmly to intentions
I often say that managers of creative enterprises must hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentions. …We must be open to having our goals change as we learn new information or are surprised by things we thought we knew but didn’t. As long as our intentions—our values—remain constant, our goals can shift as needed. At Pixar, we try never to waver in our ethics, our values, and our intention to create original, quality products. We are willing to adjust our goals as we learn, striving to get it right—not necessarily to get it right the first time. Because that, to my mind, is the only way to establish something else that is essential to creativity: a culture that protects the new.