Creativity, Inc.

When I saw Creativity, Inc. on the bookshelf, I thought it was just another business book on creativity — in other words, dumb. But this book is by Ed Catmull on how Pixar is run. I mean, this is the guy who invented texture mapping.

The early part of the book recounting the early days of his career and the hardware computer graphics business that preceded Pixar is pretty interesting. But the meat of the book is how Pixar keeps its groove on (and quite interestingly, how Pixar imparted that groove to Disney after the merger).

There’s plenty of stuff about processes and storytelling and processes about processes and storytelling, and Steve Jobs, but there’s one lesson in there that I’ve been telling people: check your backups. Pixar almost lost an entire movie due to two classic errors: rm -f and assuming that the backup process was working. They really lucked out due to an employee working at home who had copied everything.

I’m surprised people this smart would have fallen into this trap of bad risk management, but I’ve seen it happen at two of my workplaces. One was a small game studio that was backing up the wrong drives and the backups weren’t working, anyway. The other was software related to a space telescope (I won’t say which one, except that it rhymes with bubble). There are just two backup failures that I’ve been around — I’ve heard of others. So, don’t pull a Pixar — check your backups!

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