Creativity vs. Blindness


sight but no vision.jpg


Are you searching for better ways to see?

I recently listened to the audio version of Ed Catmull's book, Creativity Inc. and am totally stoked by the culture he and Pixar leadership have created to uncover hidden forces that get in the way of true inspiration.

catmull creativity inc.jpg

Ed's thesis was this: 
"...there are many blocks to creativity, but there are active steps we can take to protect the creative process
...the most compelling mechanisms.
..are those that deal with uncertainty, instability, lack of candor, and the things we cannot see
...the best managers acknowledge and make room for what they do not know—not just because humility is a virtue but because until one adopts that mindset, the most striking breakthroughs cannot occur
...managers must loosen the controls, not tighten them. They must accept risk; they must trust the people they work with and strive to clear the path for them; and always, they must pay attention to and engage with anything that creates fear.

Moreover, successful leaders embrace the reality that their models may be wrong or incomplete. Only when we admit what we don't know can we ever hope to learn it."

What Ed has described is the wisdom and courage needed for true collaboration. The environment creates lots of space for failure, learning, and improvement. It protects new ideas and originality from the demands of productivity (Ed calls it the beast). This is an awesome foundation on which to raise a family.


Because ultimately, creativity is not drawing and artistic expression. It's engagement with complex problems (of which we'll never have a shortage) and effectively seeing to find solutions. The best ones help meet people's needs and result in them moving forward to be and do their very best. And isn't this exactly what our loved ones need to grow and become mature? Raising children is a profound act of creation and it requires high levels of creativity.

What happens when people don't find better ways to see?

Here are some extreme examples from the past:

In each of these, there were people, in some instances lots of people, who knew something was wrong but chose to be blind. In her book Wilful BlindnessMargaret Heffernan traced several profound factors that contributed to groups of people evolving to horrific levels of neglect. She began with the default behavior of seeking out those similar to us. In addition, there is a lack of healthy conflict resolution skills; without a safe place for candor, status quo and conformity takes over. Now mix in financial incentives for 'just doing your job', high levels of stress, and chronic exhaustion from workaholism (and the bravado of sacrificing yourself), and you have the makings of a perfect storm where a lot of people will get hurt and possibly devastated.

Equation for Disaster:
Affinity driven by insecurity
+ Conflict Aversion
+ Homogeneity of Unhealthy, Extreme Views
+ Siloed Operations  
+ Blind Organizational Structures
= Communities of Conformity
= Willful Blindness

How's your vision? What kind of culture are you creating in your family? Your organization?