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Co-founder of Pixar’s Ten Learnings for Building Creative Studios

“Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration” published in 2023, is a book by Ed Catmull, the co-founder of Pixar Animation Studios, that should be in your personal library. It offers valuable insights into how to foster a creative culture within a business. Here are key learnings for creative studios that may be particularly useful for someone running a mobile game studio:

  1. Focus on People, not Ideas: While it might seem counterintuitive, Catmull emphasizes the importance of investing in people rather than ideas. Good people can change inadequate ideas, but good ideas can’t salvage inadequate people.
  2. Embrace Uncertainty and Failure: Creative endeavors are not always predictable. It’s important to be prepared for failures and setbacks. The key is to learn from these failures and to see them as opportunities to improve.
  3. Candor and Transparency: Catmull stresses the importance of honest communication within a company. It’s crucial that everyone feels safe to voice their ideas and critiques. He introduced the concept of “Braintrust,” a group that reviews projects without the power to mandate changes, enabling free-flowing ideas and constructive feedback.
  4. Fostering a Creative Culture: Create a nurturing environment that promotes creativity. Catmull argues that employees should be encouraged to think creatively and independently. Trust your creative teams to make significant decisions.
  5. The Power of the Team: The collective brain power of a team can outdo the smartest individual in the room. Building a team of different talents and fostering a collaborative environment can lead to more innovative ideas.
  6. Balance between Creativity and Constraints: While creativity is essential, it is also important to have constraints like time, budget, etc. These constraints can push the creative process to deliver the best under given circumstances.
  7. Leadership Perspectives: Good leadership is about making your employees feel safe, appreciated, and motivated. Leaders should act as mentors, not just as managers. They should work to remove obstacles for their team, not create them.
  8. Continuous Learning and Iterative Process: Catmull believes in the power of continuous learning and iterating. He encourages constantly refining and tweaking projects, which aligns well with the process of game development, where regular updates and adjustments are often necessary for success.
  9. Empower Employees: Catmull suggests giving employees ownership of their work. Empowered employees are more likely to contribute original and inspired ideas, which can lead to better games.
  10. Don’t be Motivated by Fear: Avoid making decisions based on fear. Instead, make decisions based on potential and opportunity. Fear can lead to conservative decisions that can stifle creativity and innovation.

For your mobile game studio, these principles might be applied in a variety of ways for your creative studios: by establishing clear, open communication channels, by encouraging iterative testing and development of game mechanics, fostering a diverse, collaborative team environment, and by prioritizing people and their growth within your organization.


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