I recently finished a wonderful book on developing exceptional creative environments, called "Creativity, INC." by Ed Catmull. Ed is the co-founder of Pixar Studios as well as the President of Pixar and Disney Animation. This book is for the creative leader.
As a huge fan of Pixar, I dove right in to this book, hoping to find the nuances that make them so successful as creatives, as well as learn a few "secrets" of the trade. Catmull did not disappoint. While I could write an entire book review (which may come at some point), I want to hone in on one subject today.
The subject is Candor.
In leading up to a lengthy section regarding the legendary Pixar Braintrust, Catmull explains some of the things that make the Braintrust so needed. The first item he discusses is Candor. Catmull describes Candor as forthright and frankness. Not all that different from honesty, but as Catmull states, the word Candor communicates a lack of reserve.
In the creative world, we could all benefit from having someone in our life who can speak with us frankly. Not someone to bash us or our work. But someone we can trust to express their concerns, likes or dislikes when it comes to our work. Hearing a frank honest perspective can help us continue to develop our work.
Catmull explains the necessity of Candor in this way.
You have to start with a basic truth: People who take on complicated creative projects become lost at some point in the process. It is the nature of things - in order to create, you must internalize and almost become the project for a while, and that near-fusing with the project is an essential part of its emergence.
The problem that arises from this connection with your creation is one of not being able to see the big picture. You get lost in the trees which keeps you from seeing the forest. Being able to go to someone who will speak candidly with you helps us to keep perspective. Their is a need for Candor in our work.
Obviously, finding the person who can be candid with us is always a challenge. Conversely, being able to hear someone talk candidly about our work is perhaps a bigger challenge. But if we are going to stretch our creative bounds, we have to be challenged by someone we trust. We have to be pushed.
In choosing the people who can be candid with you, Catmull gives two qualifications: 1.) The people must make you think smarter. 2.) The people must put lots of solutions on the table in a short amount of time.
Catmull closes his article on candor with a simple challenge: "Seek out people who are willing to level with you, and when you find them, hold them close."
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