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Book Reviews

Key Leadership Triggers for Creativity and Innovation

At its core, great leadership relies on a combination of three emotional triggers: Friendship, Authority, and Hope.

Pixar president Ed Catmull is revered among business development and leadership experts for his remarkable success, but more so for his approach to making others successful.

In a Forbes article, Professor David Slocum reviews Catmull’s book, Creativity, Inc., as “one of the…best books that have been written about creative business and creative leadership. Ever.” Here’s what he says:

Reading Creativity, Inc., one can easily appreciate Catmull’s gifts as a leader whose style – deft, open, humble, caring, trusting, purposeful – has built, shaped and sustained an exceptional creative culture…That combination of effectively bringing creativity to his leadership challenges and leadership to his firm’s creative work is rare.

Note the key adjectives used to describe Catmull’s approach: “deft, open, humble, caring, trusting, purposeful.” A generation or two ago, these attributes would have been seen as too soft, even weak for a leader. But in today’s flatter business environments, these values become invitations for contribution rather than directives for duty.

And, they are powerfully persuasive.

We know from neuroscience that people are far more willing to agree, support, and follow your lead when they perceive your proposal as a shared solution; one that includes, respects, and involves their participation. Slocum refers to Catmull’s “tireless communication” and credits Catmull for his “intensive, democratic collaboration” as a central tenet of his leadership style. This is rooted in a mindset that begins with the value and perspective of others.

Even in leadership it’s not how we sell, but why others buy.

Creativity, Inc., coauthored with Amy Wallace, has been nominated for a Goodreads Choice Award: Best Business Books of 2014.


The Persuasive Power of Curiosity

Brian Grazer is perhaps best known as the other half of the highly successful motion picture duo that includes director Ron Howard. Together, the team produced such popular and critically-acclaimed movies and television shows as Apollo 13, Splash, 8 Mile, A Beautiful Mind, Friday Night Lights, and Arrested Development. His new book, A Curious Mind, is a treatise on the virtues of curiosity, a well-developed attribute of Grazer’s that he has tuned into something of a lifelong quest. It’s a zigzagging hodgepodge of Hollywood stories, business advice, and personal memoir, all built around the central concept of curiosity.

We know from brain science research and persuasion best practices that an active interest in others yields more than just the acquisition of information. It is foundational to the Friendship Trigger, the basis of any needs profile, and an important source of one’s own intellectual and emotional growth. The route to being persuasive is not to inform or compel others about ourselves – our ideas, our goals, or even our products and solutions – but to inform ourselves about others. And then to traffic in the currency of how they feel over what they think. Intriguingly, Glazer’s experience suggests something even more: that the very mindset – the posture, if you will – of curiosity leads to a richer, more fulfilling life; one which offers more surprises, opportunities, and rewards.

There’s a lot to recommend Glazer’s assertion that curiosity is as fundamental to human endeavor as it is under-appreciated for its power to fuel human achievement. But Grazer doesn’t always connect the dots. What is it exactly about curiosity that not only enriches one’s own life but also engages and influences others? Despite suggestive tidbits about his management style (questions in lieu of commands), as well as many intriguing examples of the author’s “curiosity conversations” with the worlds most accomplished people, the question of how this pursuit really works in a tactical way to amplify Grazer’s life and work remains rather generalized; even vague.

The missing connections here may be due to the book’s lopsided emphasis on Grazer’s inquiries with the famous and powerful, those beyond his own sphere of personal and professional involvement. Because he has little if any follow-on engagements with the majority of his “curiosity conversation” subjects, they feel like a series of fascinating though somewhat superficial “one-offs.” They seem like… well, curiosities.

The few instances where we get to look into how Grazer’s constant posture of curiosity works to advance his everyday relationships with everyday people are illuminating and instructive. I was yearning for more depth and detail on how curiosity works to expand opportunity and creativity; how it serves as a catalyst for better relationships, greater influence, and bigger success. Perhaps I was yearning for a different book: less memoir, more guidance. Alternately thrilling and frustrating, rewarding and incomplete, A Curious Mind is nevertheless full of intriguing notions; a highly valuable addition to any robust personal development archive.

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A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life
Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster (April 7, 2015)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 147673075X
ISBN-13: 978-1476730752