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Cultivating Creativity

Ed brews a culture of creativity

The ability to put a commercially successful movie out into the world is a gargantuan creative effort. To do it 18 of 19 times, is nearly incomprehensible. It is equal to one person winning the lottery 18 times buying only a total of 19 chances. If the profound ride of Pixar was depicted in a movie, it wouldn’t be a documentary.

How is this human effort possible?

If you sat in the room with the rest of us, or read Ed Catmull’s book, Creative, Inc. you’d come to one idea, “a creative culture.”

Creativity is a way to solve problems, in all forms and they happen to apply this to films. But, more importantly, Ed suggests we ask, what forces block creativity from happening? With this he sets up the patterns of behavior and culture he fostered. There were a few themes from Ed’s talk that seemed to define how a creative culture is curated. Here’s what this author heard.

The Braintrust: a group of people who get together, take on that title only during the gathering. They are peers talking to peers, leaving egos at the door and focusing all their attention on the problem. The ideas flow, but no one becomes overly attached to their idea, allowing others to add and improve upon it.

The Failure: 18 of Pixar’s 19 films had a significant failure, only Toy Story III did not. You can guess which film didn’t make the “commercial success” marker. If everything is going perfectly, something is wrong and you should be aware of this. Steve Jobs gave this advice to Ed, and he was right.

Baby Ideas: the essence of an idea is a fragile sapling and needs to be protected for it to survive. The story for “UP” the movie was a weak sapling in its infancy, struggling to grow. Ed openly admitted, “our films suck in the beginning.” But if you remember the opening scene from “UP”, you can see they were able to protect and nurture the once weak sapling into a flourishing Evergreen.

Culture, trucking hard: After the Disney acquisition of Pixar, the team went into a studio with a long record of failures. Ed and the Pixar team took 4 hours to explain how they did what they did (18 of 19 successes) to their new friends at Disney. Then, it took 4 years to get it right. Getting a creative culture to work is really hard work and takes time.

Those are the big four themes gleaned from a speech that was obviously charcoal filtered through the Disney legal system. With that in mind, Ed, thank you for sharing your perspective and advancing the culture of creativity. Ed, thank you from a creative individual who is fighting for creative cultures everywhere.

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