If you had to rate how creative your business is on a scale of 1 to 10, what number would you give it? Maybe you’re thinking, “But we’re a manufacturer, or a financial advisor, or a law firm. Creativity isn’t for us, right?”
Regardless of your industry or job description, the principles of creativity can be just as applicable to business processes and culture as they are to the disciplines of art and design.
In this article, I’d like to share a few things our team is learning from the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. Ed is the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, a company whose name is practically synonymous with creativity and fun. (Pixar is to creativity what John Williams is to film music.)
But you don’t have to animate imaginative monster worlds, superheroes, or talking toys to benefit from the principles below. In fact, it was fascinating for me to discover how creative principles apply to management and company culture. I’d venture to say many business owners could discover marked improvements in their process and culture with even a mild dose of creativity. (And it’s not that hard to do!)
Here are a few highlights:
Protect the Future—Not the Past
In the book, Ed Catmull says:
Change and uncertainty are part of life. Our job is not to resist them but to build the capability to recover when unexpected events occur. If you don’t always try to uncover what is unseen and understand its nature, you will be ill prepared to lead.
You may have heard of a phenomenon called organization imprinting—or in other words, a business tries to stay successful by repeating what’s worked in the past. I can sympathize with that! After all, who wouldn’t want to repeat their past business successes using a predictable formula and a comfortable process that you already understand!
The problem with imprinting is that the processes, decisions, and tools of the past may not bring you the same success in the future—because of change.
A creative company will embrace that they never figure it out. But they are persistent in figuring it out every day.
Rather than fighting to preserve the past, make space to explore what is next. The processes, decisions, and tools of the future are an investment. They don’t make money today, but they will help you succeed tomorrow.
Embrace Risk and Mistakes
Embrace mistakes as the essential path of the learner—indeed, they prove that you are learning! Mistakes should never be stigmatized, but celebrated as a sign of progress.
- Fail early and often.
- Loosen controls to give your team the freedom to make mistakes.
- Trust your team — not to avoid mistakes but to recover from them.
The Significance of Candor for a Creative Team
On a surface level, most managers would say they value candor, but to create a culture of candor takes constant vigilance. Your team probably wants to be affirming and not raise contrary opinions. And whether they realize it or not, they might be intimidated, or afraid to speak up.
A manager who leads with candor can expect the same from his or her team.
The benefit that comes from candor is the discovery of exceptional ideas and feedback from anyone and everyone on your team. When everyone is free to weigh in on a topic, everyone benefits from their shared knowledge.
How about you?
We’re grateful to learn from the experience of sharp minds and exemplary teams like Pixar.
If you liked this article, let us know! We’d love to know what you’ve been reading too.