Creativity Inc [Speed Summary]

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Fear’s Dark Force

What’s the secret to a successful innovation project? Fail early, fail fast, fail fearlessly. Every early failure is a door that closes on future wasted time, allowing you to focus on opportunities with potential. Just one of the insights shared by Ed Catmull, co-founder with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter of movie hit-machine Pixar Animation Studios (Toy Story, Monsters Inc, Incredibles, Frozen…).

Penned by Catmull himself and dedicated to Steve Jobs, Creativity Inc. does what it says on the tin – it shows innovation teams how to overcome the dark forces that stand in the way of innovation success.  These dark forces flourish in fear – fear of failure, fear of criticism, fear of change, fear of others.  And the big problem that many organisations face is that they run on and cultivate fear.  Fear kills innovation. Overcoming what stands in the way of innovation success means overcoming institutionalised fear and creating a fearless culture of innovation.

Fearless Innovation

Although Catmull draws the glamorous world of movies to make his points, the insights for delivering fearless innovation are applicable for innovation across sectors and categories. Here are the top insights that most resonated with us;

  • Get Out There – Don’t innovate in a safe bubble, live and breath the context where your innovation will play out
  • People Before Ideas – Be fearless in putting together your team, strive for a great team with great potential, not a safe team with a proven track record (proven track records can blinker and blind people to new opportunity)
  • Harness Collective Brainpower – Be fearless in bringing in outside views by inviting people to critique ideas throughout the development process
  • Candour is King – Encourage fearless candour in feedback, without candour – honest and open feedback – feedback is useless
  • Autocracy, not Democracy – Listen to others, but keep executive control within the team and ultimately with the team leader
  • Show and Tell – Be fearless and don’t wait for things to be perfect before you share. Show early and show often
  • Fail early, fail fast, fail fearlessly – Run experiments with low cost, low risk prototypes and mockups to feel for appeal
  • Be Opportunistic – Don’t fear randomness, embrace it – realise that successful innovation owes a lot to random opportunity and random events
  • Throw Out the Cookie Cutter – Rules, procedures and processes can be comforting but that can also kill innovation. Be fearless about doing things differently.

The BG Take

Creativity, Inc. is an inspiring read from the founder of an inspirational company. You many not work in the movie industry, but you’ll find that many of the insights for creating a great movie can be applied to creating a great product or service. And that in itself make innovation more fun, and fearless. Recommended.


Paul Marsden

All stories by: Paul Marsden
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