HIGHLIGHTS FROM READING CREATIVITY, INC.

These are points that stood out to me as I read Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull
  1. Good stuff can hide the bad stuff
    When downsides coexist with upsides, people are reluctant to explore what's bugging them for fear of being labeled complainers. Solution: intentional open-ended conversations. What is and isn't working?
  2. Give a good idea to a mediocre team and they'll screw it up. Give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team and they'll either fix it or come up with something better.
    Getting the team right is the precursor to getting the ideas right. Even the smartest people can form an ineffective team if they are mismatched. A good team is made up of people that complement each other.
  3. It is management's job to take the long view, to intervene and protect our people from their willingness to pursue excellence at all costs. Not to do so would be irresponsible.
    Ambitions of both managers and their teams can exacerbate each other and become unhealthy. It is a leader's responsibility to see this and guide it, not exploit it.
  4. When encouraging open communication, better results will come out of using the word "candor" rather than "honesty". Honesty has too many moral connotations.
  5. It takes certain elements to create a productive Braintrust
    1) members see each other as peers (trust and mutual respect) 2) no personal agendas 3) focus on project at hand 4) no ulterior motives behind voicing thoughts like getting credit for an idea, pleasing supervisors, or winning a point for the sake of winning
  6. A Braintrust differs from other feedback mechanisms
    1) made up of people with a deep understanding of the problem and have been through the process themselves 2) Braintrust has no authority- it's up to the leader of the project how to address the feedback
  7. The Braintrust isn't there to prescribe solutions - it's to bring problems to the surface so the true causes can be found
  8. You are not your idea
  9. Candor isn't cruel. It does not destroy.
  10. Successful feedback is built on empathy, on the idea that we are all in this together, that we understand your pain because we have experienced it ourselves
  11. Every note we give us in the service of the common goal: supporting and helping each other
  12. People you choose for a Braintrust must make you think smarter and out lots of solutions on the table in a short amount of time
  13. Seek out people who are willing to level with you and when you find them, hold them close
  14. Failure comes with baggage (failure is bad!) when really it's an opportunity for growth
  15. Mistakes aren't evil; they're an inevitable consequence of doing something new
  16. "Fail early and fail fast"
  17. "Be wrong as fast as you can"
  18. Deal with the possibility of failure by addressing it head on, searching for mechanisms that turn pain into progress
  19. Trying to avoid failure by out-thinking it dooms you to fail
  20. When leaders talk about mistakes and their part in them, they make it safe for others
    Being open about problems is the first step toward learning from them. Fear is inevitable in high-stakes situations. We need to loosen its grip on us - while we don't want too many failures, we must think of the cost of failure as an investment in the future
  21. By going down a path, you see things you couldn't possibly see when you started. Explore the neighborhood!
  22. When experimentation is seen as necessary and productive, not a frustrating waste of time, people will enjoy their work even when it is confounding them
    A failed approach won't be seen as their failure. Rather, each idea leads them a bit closer to finding the better option.
  23. Are we thoughtful about how people learn and grow?
    As leaders, we should think of ourselves as teachers and try to create companies that see teaching as a valued way to contribute to the success of the whole
  24. The antidote to fear is trust
  25. Fear can be created quickly; trust can't
  26. There will always be something to be afraid of. Trusting other doesn't mean no mistakes - it means you trust they will act to help solve it
  27. Leaders must demonstrate their trustworthiness over time through their actions
    Best way to do that: responding well to failure. Go through difficult times together, solve problems together, and you will build trust. Be patient. Be authentic. Be consistent. Trust will come.
  28. Your employees are smart - so treat them that way. When we are honest, people know it.
  29. Management's job is not to prevent risk but to build the ability to recover
  30. Originality is fragile
  31. Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal
  32. When efficiency or consistency of workflow are not balanced by other equally strong countervailing forces, result is that new ideas aren't afforded the attention and protection they need to shine and mature. They are abandoned or never conceived of in the first place.
  33. The thinking of "just keep something moving through the pipeline" yields predictable, unoriginal fare because it prevents the kind of organic ferment that fuels true inspiration.
  34. At too many companies, the need for product drives the output, not the strength of the ideas at the front end
  35. All groups in a company must have interests balanced - no one group can always win, or we lose
    This will cause conflict. It's management's job to help others see conflict as healthy.
  36. You learn how to achieve balance with practice
  37. Managers of creative enterprises must hold lightly to goals and firmly to intentions. Strive to get it right, not necessarily right the first time
  38. Negative feedback may be fun, but it is far less brave than endorsing something unproven and providing room for it to grow
  39. Protection of a new idea example
    Intern program - departments didn't want to use their budgets on interns. They made it a corporate expense instead until the program proved the value - then they were out back into department budgets
  40. Quote from Ratatouille: "The world is often unkind to new talent, new creations. The new needs friends."
  41. Coping with change: when you feel like the world is crashing down, make a list of what's actually wrong. Usually you can group the list into 2 or 3 main problems. Having a finite list is so much better than an illogical feeling that everything is wrong
  42. Methods to manage people through fears
    Pretend you're not going to actually do anything, just playing around. Then if you hit on some new idea that clearly works, people are excited about it and happier to act on the change. Another is to encourage people to play. Creativity has been described as "unexpected connections between unrelated concepts of ideas" so watching YouTube videos or talking about last weekend can actually be productive in the long run
  43. Once you master any system, you typically become blind to its flaws
    Even if you can see them, they appear far too complex and intertwined to consider changing. To remain blind us to risk draining the creative impulse.
  44. Randomness is difficult for us to understand
    "When companies are successful, it's natural to assume that this is a result of leaders making shrewd decisions. Those leaders go forward believing that they have figured out the key to building a thriving company. In fact, randomness and luck played a key role in that success."
  45. If we shut out reality in the interest of keeping things simple, we will not excel.
  46. No one ever achieved creative success by simply clinging to what used to work
  47. Working with change is what creativity is about
  48. After you get promoted to a leadership position, no one is going to admit that they can no longer be as candid with you. You have to be aware that your access to information has changed; be aware of the hidden.
  49. Most of us do not realize that we distort our own view of the world, largely because we think we see more than we actually do
  50. When faced with complexity, we should accept that we can't understand every facet of a complex environment and instead focus on techniques to deal with combining different viewpoints.
    "If we start with the attitude that different viewpoints are additive rather than competitive, we become more effective because our ideas or decisions are honed and tempered by that discourse. In a healthy, creative culture, the people in the trenches feel free to speak up and bring to light differing views that can help give us clarity."
  51. Cross-department openness is only possible in a culture that acknowledges its own blind spots. Managers need to understand that others see problems they don't - and that they also see solutions.
  52. "The full set of possible outcomes at any time is so astonishingly vast that we can't begin to fathom them, so our brains have to simplify in order for us to function."
    The fate of any group enterprise and the individuals in it are interconnected and independent. Acknowledging what you can't see helps promote flexibility. To be truly humble, leaders must understand how many of the factors that shape their lives and businesses are out of sight.
  53. Hindsight is not 20-20
    The past should be our teacher, not our master
  54. Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft
  55. You'll never stumble upon the unexpected of you stick only to the familiar
  56. "You can't manage what you can't measure" is a maxim used by people who are unaware how much is hidden. The problem comes when people think that data paints a full picture, leading them to ignore what they can't see
    Measure what you can, evaluate what you measure, and appreciate that you cannot measure the vast majority of what you do. Take time once in a while to step back and think about what you are doing
  57. Include people in your problems, not just your solutions
  58. Everything is changing, all the time, and you can't stop it
    Resisting change robs you of your beginner's mind - your openness to the new
  59. Earning trust takes time
    There's no shortcut to understanding that we rise and fall together. Vigilant coaching is needed - pulling people aside who didn't speak their minds in a particular meeting, encouraging those who are always hesitant to jump in
  60. Smaller groups within the larger whole of an organization should be allowed to differentiate themselves and operate according to their own rules, so long as those rules work
    This fosters a sense of personal ownership and pride in the company that benefits the larger enterprise
  61. The future is not a destination - it is a direction
    Unleashing creativity requires that we loosen the controls, accept risk, trust our colleagues, work to clear the path for them, and pay attention to anything that creates fear