How Pixar stays creative

Great interview with Ed Catmull, President of Pixar outlining some of the practical, tough ways they manage the creative process. There are some excellent insights into how to manage creative people and the importance of collaboration.

Fundamentally, successful companies are unstable… the forces of conservatism are trying to go to a safe place

There are a small number of people who are socially dysfunctional, very creative. We get rid of them.

When we say we are director-led, we mean the director has to lead

 

Why work doesn’t happen at work

I’m not the biggest fan of Ted talks, but this one struck a chord. It reminded me of this classic John Cleese talk on creativity as it is discusses how to get in the right frame of mind to be productive. People can’t be truly creative on demand, and the distractions inherent in a busy office are actively destructive to being in a flow state.

That said, the traditional, bustling workplace has a vital place (as Yahoo knows). Working relationships have to be build on physical proximity and serendipity. Nothing beats sorting out a tricky issue over coffee or finding out accidentally that you and a colleague share a common interest.

But businesses would do well to acknowledge that presenteeism is not a virtue. Hours in do not equal work out. Let’s give trusted employees clear tasks and objectives, and let them deliver them in the way that works best for them. Because that will also mean it’s the best way for the business.

 

Brilliant talk on creativity by John Cleese

A quite wonderful lecture from John Cleese on creativity that really ought to be seen and shared.

It validates and articulates pretty much everything that I have stumbled on after 20 years of working and I wish I’d seen it earlier.

The greatest benefit to me is that it endorses being playful and shoots down pressure and solemnity as a means to being more productive. It’s not just OK, it’s a good thing to laugh, ponder and be silly.

My notes whilst watching it:

  • Creatives are people who can get into a playful, child-like mode more easily
  • Creativity is not possible in the closed mode (anxious, got to get stuff done, purposeful)
  • Open, creative mode is more relaxed, but less purposeful, more inclined to humour. This is playful. Curiosity for its own sake can happen. That allows our lateral creativity to happen.
  • Hitchcock would say when faced with a block, he would tell an unrelated story. “We’re pressing, we’re pressing. We’re working too hard. Relax and it will come.”
  • Once you’ve had the idea, you need to switch to closed mode to implement.
  • Space is important for getting into play. Where you won’t be disturbed. For Steve Jobs this was a walk.
  • A •fixed• period of time is useful too. Maybe in 90 min chunks.
  • Creatives play with the problem for longer before trying to solve it. They’re happier to tolerate the uncomfortableness of uncertainty. More pondering is better.
  • Decisiveness and confidence strangles creativity at birth.
  • Maximise your pondering and leave the decision late. It is too easy and suboptimal to chicken out and decide early.
  •  Next importance thing is to not be fearful about what is possible. Embrace the silly and the what if. “You can’t be spontaneous within reason”
  • Humour gets us from closed mode to open mode more quickly
  • Po-facedness around humour being inappropriate comes from a misunderstanding of the difference between serious and solemn.
  • Solemnity is self-important and serves nothing.
  • Rewards come out of the blue later. It might be in the shower.
  • It’s easier to be creative with other people unless there is anyone involved that stops you feeling playful or defensive.
  • The funniest part of a joke is connecting two things that are seemingly unrelated to generate •new meaning•
  • “Intermediate impossibles” can be stepping stones to  breakthrough ideas
  • Very funny section at the end about how to stamp out creativity. Stamp out all humour otherwise people might start having new ideas and scaring the people at the top. Praise makes people uppity! Don’t let anyone ponder!! Demand urgency and create anxiety to keep everyone closed.