Posted on August 5 in Communication Tools

Corporate Communicators: Give a Copy of Creativity, Inc. to Every Business Manager You Know

Have you read Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc.? I love this book. Stop what you’re doing and read it as soon as possible. Then share it with every business manager you know.

Reason number one: Giving this New York Times bestseller to colleagues and clients is a way to share a good read. It’s a true story about George Lucas, Steve Jobs, the founding of Pixar and its acquisition by Disney; the creation of Toy Story and subsequent, beloved animated movies; the building of Pixar’s blockbuster brand; and the rise of a new generation of animation superstars, including Ed Catmull, who invented computer animation.

This is a high-level, how-to manual for establishing a creative culture in any business enterprise. And the way Catmull defines creativity, it’s not just for the entertainment industry; creativity is synonymous with problem solving.

Reason number two ­and ulterior motive for gifting this book: If you want to work in or with a productive, creative culture, this book inspires managers to establish this kind of environment for their teams.

Catmull’s advice for laying the groundwork for a creative culture will come as no surprise: hire people that have the potential to grow and form a great team. Then comes the hard part, especially for managers of the command-and-control school: empower employees, who then become more engaged and productive.

Planting the Seeds of Creativity

Catmull writes with the intention and heart of a mentor and organizes his book to be useful. His 33 bulleted principles form a recap called “Starting Points: Thoughts for Managing a Creative Culture.”  A recurring theme in the book and within this list is the idea that risk and failure are integral to success.

Catmull appeals to managers to “coax ideas out of your staff and constantly push them to contribute.” In an environment where people contribute freely, he says, “it is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.” He cautions, “The desire for everything to run smoothly is a false goal – it leads to measuring people by the mistakes they make rather than their ability to solve problems.”

And then, the business ramifications: “Do not fall for the illusion that by preventing errors, you won’t have errors to fix. The truth is, the cost of preventing errors is often far greater than the cost of fixing them.”

Freedom of Expression in Creative Cultures

One of Pixar and Disney Animation’s practices is holding a company-wide Notes Day. It’s aimed at removing the fear of speaking out and taking risks, and it’s devoted to discussing and collecting suggestions for changes in a company’s processes, culture and management. Notes Day is followed by a period of implementing the best suggestions.

Read the book to get details on practices that foster creativity, and meanwhile ask yourself: Am I candid with colleagues about what I think will be best for our organization? Do I encourage others to be? How right do I think I am, and how open am I to alternative viewpoints?

Answering these questions may put you on the path to creating and participating in a creative culture where great work is the goal.

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