Tag Archives: creativity

Five Takeaways from Creativity, Inc.

“What is the best book you’ve read?”

burgerI get that question a lot. I never have a good answer. It’s like asking “what’s the best meal you’ve ever eaten?”. There are so many ways to think about that question – the most memorable (one in Alaska), the best food (ok – maybe that same one in Alaska), the one I needed most (one after an exhausting five set tennis match, many, many years ago). And then, there are variations – the best barbecue you’ve ever had (I’ve eaten great barbecue from each of two of my brothers, one of whom was state champion more than once a few years back), the best Mexican food, the best… You get the idea. In other words, there is no “best meal ever” answer.

And, maybe except for The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, and my favorite Nero Wolfe novel (The Doorbell Rang), there is no answer for the “best book you’ve ever read” question either.

The best book is the one that gave me what I needed, at the time I needed it and, at times, it almost does not matter how good a book it actually is if it gives me what I need at the moment.levarburtonlaforge

{I think back to when The Road Less Traveled by Scott Peck was recommended to me a few decades ago, at a critical time in my life. The book seemed to have been written for me. That’s one that pops into my mind pretty regularly}.

So, with these thoughts… I have a book to recommend highly. Don’t dismiss it too quickly. You may think it is just a story about the success of Pixar. Yes, it is that… but it is so much more.

pixarThe book is Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull (President of PIXAR Animation and Disney Animation), with Amy Wallace (New York: Random House. 2014). I read it, and prepared a synopsis for this book, at the request of and for a private client. (I think I will either present it at a later First Friday Book Synopsis, or simply record my synopsis and put it up on our companion 15minutebusinessbooks site).

This may be as good a book as I have read about:


How to work with powerful personalities (think Steve Jobs), how to manage the balance of “task-master” and “freedom” with creative people; how important it is to embrace and learn from failures and mistakes in the pursuit of the end success…

The list of valuable insights in this book is really long.

Here are some key thoughts gleaned from the book:

  • Build a team; give them freedom – but, freedom in service of a common goal…
  • Maybe the biggest problem: the unending resistance to change
  • Find the problems; see the problems, find the problems…
  • Braintrust – constant questioning… (with “straight talk”)
  • Honesty is ok, but candor is better, and essential! (candor = a lack of reserve)
  • The team comes first – first the team, then the ideas! (not the other way around — (To me, the answer should be obvious: Ideas come from people. Therefore, people are more important than ideas).
  • Truly, truly, genuinely expect that the unexpected will arrive
  • Randomness will happen!
  • “Be wrong as fast as you can…”Ed Catmull
  • Be careful where you let your “Steve Jobs” go, and where you let him (her) speak up…
  • Failure is not only inevitable, but also valuable; good
  • Conflict is good; necessary
  • The successful ones have to mentor the new ones!
  • Use “inclusive” furniture
  • “The stick propping the door open was too small” – every detail matters!

If you manage people, especially if you manage creative people, this would be a valuable book for you to read.

Here are my 5 lessons and takeaways from the book:

  1. Learn as widely — (as many skills) — as you can
  2. Learn to observe (take field trips to see…everything)
  3. Learn to practice candor – it is essential!
  4. Really, truly, give everyone a voice
  5. Keep making everything, every part of everything, better!

Seriously, this may be just the book you need at this moment in your business life.

Randy Mayeux
Contributed by:
Randy Mayeux
Professional Speaker & Writer
Co-founder, First Friday Book Synopsis

Finding Creativity in Boredom

How many times have we heard that someone has their best ideas in the shower? Is that because showers are one of the only times that we are required to be “unplugged?”

Last month, SGR’s 10 in 10 highlighted an article on a topic that I have been continuously pondering for the past few months. In One woman’s plan to take your creativity back from your phone — by making you bored, Adam Wernick explored a project called “Bored and Brilliant” and the over-utilization of our smart phones and other media outlets. The brief article highlights Manoush Zomorodi, blogger and host of the WNYC podcast New Tech City, who’s most recent post included a one-minute video on digital detoxing.

boredIn the article, she describes a story from her childhood where she gathered all of the plants at her house, named them, and then performed a concert for their benefit. She said she did this because she was bored! In general, society is no longer bored due to the invention and proliferation of the smart phone and, Zomorodi argues, the amount of time and attention we give to our smartphones prevents us from putting our brain into “idle mode.” Her latest project, Bored and Brilliant, studies the intersection between boredom and creativity and encourages us to turn off our phones and spend more time on creative thinking. To assist with her project, she created an app called Moment that tracks the amount of time that you spend on your smart phone each day and how often you check it.

bored4A few months ago, a group of girlfriends and I completed a social experiment that required us to go without media for an entire week. Our media fast included television, emails that were not strictly work-related, texting, and social media. For an entire week!  After my complete addiction to Facebook was demonstrated during the first day when I could barely contain myself to not catch a glimpse of my constantly updating newsfeed, I managed to overcome my non-media boredom. Instead of television, I read an entire novel during the week. I was also more present with my children and my work tasks list was amazingly completed during daytime hours. The week taught my friends and me many things, but I think the biggest message was this: we need simplification in our daily lives.

bored3At work, how many of us use our email inbox as our to-do list? Does everything that is important to your community transform into an email? Then why do we let electronics determine how we spend our time?

When was the last time that you spent a significant amount of free time pondering the strategies of your management or the challenges of your community? Have you been able to find boredom? Or do you look to the latest newsfeed, tweet, fantasy sports ranking, and so on to fill the time you could be spending immersed in the boredom that leads to creative innovation? Imagine the creative renaissance your organization would experience if exposure to media was limited and high-level strategies were pondered! bored7

Whether you try the Bored and Brilliant method or utilize the Moment app, I challenge you to unplug from all media outlets for five to ten minutes each work day and concentrate on strategies for your organization. Where is your organization today? Where is your organization going? How are you going to get the organization there?

Let’s find out where boredom and creativity can take your organization.


Written by:
Katie Corder
Executive Search Manager

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