I have read many books on creativity, but the one that towers far above them all is Amy Wallace and Ed Catmull's Creativity, Inc. It was given to me by my head creative genius, Brian De La Torre, who wanted me to better understand the creative process and what it takes to come up with consistently awesome creative work. The themes in this book, however, might surprise you.
When It Comes to Commenting on Creative Work ...
There are many important factors that come into play here, but the most important tenant that was instilled by Ed Catmull is that the story must come first and be prioritized over all else (including egos, titles, technology, time and budget). That's easy to say and a hell of a lot harder to live up to. But it is one of the main reasons Pixar consistently launches some of the best movies the world has ever known. Think about it, when it comes to the creative product, does the story win the day? Unfortunately, this is not always the case. When the "highest paid person in the office" or HIPPO makes a comment, often the pecking order, not the feedback, wins the day.
To avoid this, Pixar created a safe zone when seeking feedback on its movies. When you walk into the room to provide feedback, egos and titles are checked at the door. When everyone is "equal" then the feedback is judged based on the ability to tell a better story, rather than the rank of the person giving the feedback. This alone made momentous strides at Pixar and now has been adopted by Disney.
The Creative Product is NOT a Reflection of You
When your creative team puts their heart and soul into something, they become entangled in the creative product itself and often "defends" the end product--even if the feedback being given is warranted and spot on. As an entrepreneur, we must work with our creative teams to separate out their emotional attachments to their work and judge the work solely on its core business objectives. Is this the story we need to tell? Is there a better way to tell it? Is it visually enticing? Does it draw you in? Do people outside of the creative process immediately "get it"? If not, keep working. Something worth doing is worth doing right.
Creating Brilliant Ideas Takes Time
It almost sounds cliche, but outstanding creative work takes time. When creatives bump up against deadlines, they either rise to the occasion or fall apart. We live in a very time-sensitive world. We would like to do more than we have time to do, so we must pick our battles. When something needs to be spot on, then more time is usually needed than you would like to give it.
That said, it's important to keep in mind that it will take you 20% of the time to get to 80% of the end product. The last 20% takes the other 80% of the time. And not all products and campaigns require a creative obsession and perfect execution. In life, sometimes there are, in fact, "Get Er Done" jobs that require less than creative perfection. The trick is to know when you need what and to assign the time resources accordingly.
The Best Players Only Want to Work with The Best Teams
This was something Steve Jobs drove home to Ed Catmull and something Ed Catmull adopted for both Pixar and Disney. Not everyone at your company is "playing full out," nor have they achieved greatness through their previous work. The trick is to set an incredibly high standard and lead by example. Your top-tier workers will band together to deliver outstanding products consistently. Those in your organization that are not performing at peak levels, will require coaching and additional mentoring. If this support is not enough, they may need to find another place to work. You can love a person, respect them and honor their skills / abilities, and still help them land their next gig somewhere else. Just because they are not a great fit for your company, doesn't mean they don't have value and couldn't do a bang up job for someone else.
Creativity Requires Vulnerability
If the objective of a creative person is anything other than bringing to life something that did not exist before, then their compass is probably off. Our egos are often the main thing that gets in our way of delivering outstanding creative products. This is why vulnerability is so important. To be vulnerable is to take risks, to be willing to fail and to accept that we are not perfect. Being vulnerable means we acknowledge that people may not like what we produce, and do it anyway. Vulnerability means we craft our story from a place of heart and emotion, not obsessing over logic but allowing our guardrails of the assignment to guide us. Creativity requires vulnerability because without vulnerability, the much needed emotional connection simply won't show up in the work and as such, will fail to win the hearts and minds of the audience we seek.
You ARE a Creative Person
To tell yourself, "I'm not creative" is a lie; pure and simple. We were born to create. While our mediums are different, we all have the same desires inside of us waiting for a chance to unleash. You are many things and if you are honest with yourself, you will see that your best work has been driven by your creative passions, be they writing, speaking, selling, recording, collaborating, mentoring, building, cooking, parenting, and I could go on and on. It doesn't matter what profession you are in or what you believe your job to be, the more creativity you put into it, the more enjoyment you will get out of it and the more people will respect and admire the fruits of your labor. So go ahead, unleash your inner creative child and see what he or she creates. When you're in the zone, time will appear to stand still and then you will know you are living your purpose.