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Fueling a Culture of Innovation From ‘Creativity, Inc.’

September 25, 2014 by Bruce Jones, Programming Director, Disney Institute

Introducing to the first installment of our new What We’re Reading series! In these posts, we will be spotlighting books and other resources that inspire our Disney Institute team on the topics of business leadership, culture, service, brand loyalty, creativity and innovation.

Speaking of creativity and innovation, they have always been at the very core of our company’s values. So, when considering the very first book to feature for this series, this one immediately came to mind: Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, co-founder and president of Pixar Animation.

I love the title of this book because it challenges all of us as leaders to perhaps dig a little deeper than we might normally do and to look for the “unseen forces” that may be preventing our teams (and ourselves) from being as creative and innovative as we can be.

If you are like me, at first you might skip to the end of the book to see what’s in store. There you will find, “Starting Points: Thoughts for managing a creative culture.” I thoroughly enjoyed knowing that was there, because this is what we need as leaders – some insights and ideas that help us think differently about our organizational culture and provide a roadmap of sorts to help us get started.

In the book, Catmull says: “I believe that everyone has the potential to be creative.” At Disney Institute, we agree, and we have come to understand that creativity and innovation is the product of intentional leadership. What this means is, if everyone has creative potential, we must be very intentional in our actions as leaders in order to unleash it as a force for continuous innovation.

Which brings me to the 18 principles listed in the section at the back of the book. I’d like to share four principles that stood out to me, with the hope that they will get you started as well. Importantly, Catmull tells us, “The trick is to think of each statement as a starting point, as a prompt towards deeper inquiry, and not as a conclusion.”

Here are Catmull’s first four principles*:

It isn’t enough merely to be open to ideas from others. Engaging the collective brainpower of the people you work with is an active, ongoing process. As a manager, you must coax ideas out of your staff and constantly push them to contribute.
It is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.
Our job as managers in creative environments is to protect new ideas from those who don’t understand that in order for greatness to emerge, there must be phases of not-so-greatness. Protect the future, not the past.
Excellence, quality and good should be earned words, attributed by others to us, not proclaimed by us about ourselves.
So, what does it look like when an organization actually applies these insights in the workplace? Well, that’s what the rest of the book is for! Catmull provides rich examples that bring his principles to life at Pixar Animation and Disney Animation, and, as you examine these illustrations and discuss them with your team, you will come to see how the same principles could be brought to life in your organization.

Tell us – How can you unleash creativity and fuel a culture of innovation in your organization?

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Enroll in our professional development course, Disney’s Approach to Creativity & Innovation, and learn how to improve your business results through processes that bring innovations to life. For nearly three decades, Disney Institute has provided engaging and insightful learning opportunities for business professionals and organizations, teaching them the Disney approach to business….focusing on Service, Leadership, Culture, Brand Loyalty, Creativity and Innovation. To learn more about how you can attend an upcoming course, see our full Course Calendar. Not sure which course is best for you? Try our Course Recommender.

*Sourced from: Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand In the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull