My path to reading Ed Catmull’s Creativity, Inc. (Shop your local indie store) was through reading other books that quoted and referenced him, a process which I’ve come to love. This was how I read Joseph Campbell too as I’ve written in a post earlier. My fascination began with Steve Jobs, the late visionary leader of Apple; I read his biography last year by Brent Schlender’s Becoming Steve Jobs: The Evolution of a Reckless Upstart to a Visionary Leader.
At a pivotal point in Steve’s career after being forced out of the board of Apple, he started working with Pixar Animation and met Ed Catmull and John Lasseter. It was at Pixar where he was first humanized, and it was because of Ed’s style of leadership.
“I liked him from the moment I met him,” Steve told me (Schlender) once about Ed. He found him an intellectual match. “Ed is a quiet guy, and you could mistake that quietness for weakness — but it’s not, it’s strength. Ed’s really thoughtful, and really, really smart. He’s used to hanging around really smart people, and when you’re around really smart people you tend to listen to them.
Steve listened to Catmull. Though he could often come across as a know-it-all, Steve was constantly trying to learn. Trim and professional, Ed was ten years older than Steve, making him as much of a mentor as a colleague.
Theirs was a quiet, sincere friendship, enabled in great part by Catmull’s maturity.
It was at this point that I wanted to know more about the President of Pixar. At the first turn of the page you can already sense Ed’s humanism: the dedication on the third page simply writes “For Steve.”