Book Review: Creativity, Inc

 

Every once in a while you come across a book you would never attempt to read but for some stupid reason you do, and you are so thankful you did. This is one of those times.

While researching material on writing, I came across a recommendation for a book, and I kind of scratched my head. This was a book on business, and there was just no way I would read a book on business – my eyes would glaze in the first page, the same way they do if someone is talking actuarial tables or student loan forms. What could such a book have to do with writing? It just so happened the library had a copy I was able to grab. And that book, despite being a couple of years old (2014), is the best book I have read so far this year.

Creativity, Inc. is written by Ed Catmull,  who was part of the driving force behind Pixar Studios, the film company known for making ground-breaking and award-winning (and record-breaking, with more than 14 Billion dollars in revenue) animated films, such as Toy Story, Monsters,Inc, A Bug’s Life, and more. When Pixar and Disney merged in 2006, he applied his same priciples to the flagging animation department at Disney, who hadn’t had a hit in 16 years. Disney shot right back up with films like Wall-E, Cars, Incredibles, Coco, Brave, etc. To read this book is to relive the last 30 years of animated film making. If it’s not a walk down memory lane for your childhood, it is a reminder of all the wonderful films you saw with your children. If you haven’t enjoyed any of them, run and grab one today. 

What is Catmull’s secret? Of course a strong bottom line is what investors want, and Catmull agrees, but he refuses to allow the creativity of the artists to be stymied in any way. There are no superstars – not even preferred parking. Everyone from the janitor to the lunch lady to the writer is allowed equal – respected – input. Employees are encouraged to do what it takes to keep happy and relaxed, because happy employees are productive employees. They are encouraged to take time for classes offered at work – art, archery, whatever. If they are producing a film in Africa, a team of writers and artists will take a field trip to Africa and experience what they are trying to portray. Films, from first idea pitch to final cut – are brought up for constant, honest review, where the ensemble team toss ideas off each other about the work, good or bad, and the film may take a twist for the better from it. Every artist is respected every step of the way. Written into the contracts is a proviso that if a film reaches a certain amount of return, a portion of that is given to the employees as a bonus.

Needless to say, Pixar and Disney Animation staff are  happy to go to work. 

So, how did that all relate to writing?

Remember that movies start as stories. Someone has to write them before they can be filmed. By keeping an atmosphere that encourages creativity, no matter how odd (come on – talking cars? Emotions? Bugs? A rat who likes to cook? ), by immersing yourself in a creative environment, by learning to take constructive criticism without imploding, you become a better writer. A writer needs feedback as they develop ideas, as they write the ideas, as they polish their ideas into a final copy.  

This book was a joy to read. Grab it, read it, whether you’re looking for a business model to follow, as a manager looking to improve productivity, as an artist looking for appreciation, as a movie person wanting to know more about Pixar and Disney films. It’s all there. 

Be amazed at the process, and then check out one of the masterpieces Catmull’s presided over. Wall-E, Coco and Up are perfect for adults!

The Incredibles   –  Ratatouille  –  Cars  –  Shorts Finding Dory  –  Wall-E   

Inside Out –  Brave  –  Monsters, Inc  –  Toy Story  –  Coco  –  Up

Freshen Up That Resume!

stock-photo-resume-forms-with-phone-on-table-job-interview-concept-1030784911Spring is the traditionally time we clean things  out around the house.  Why not apply the same  idea to your resume? It may be past time you went in there and spruced things up a bit. Fortunately for you, the library is a valuable resource for more than just  the latest thriller novels and that movie you couldn’t make it to the theater to see. We also pride ourselves on being a fantastic resource for the every day job hunter!

Included below are a couple of tips and tricks to updating your resume, polishing its look, and making it stand out to a new prospective employer.

  • First off, make sure you’re succinct and to the point, do the hiring managers job for them if possible. No matter how well written, your resume won’t get a thorough reading the first time through. Generally a resume gets scanned for 25 seconds. Scanning is more difficult if it is hard to read, poorly organized or exceeds two pages.
  • It’s best to use clear type and headings to lead the viewer’s eye through the page, stick to classic fonts, such as Times New Roman, Arial, or other easy to read, classic fonts.
  • Tailor your resume to the job you’re applying for! Do some light trimming if you feel certain jobs aren’t relevant, or include achievements you feel would help you stand out.

    – Example: You’re applying for a job in sales and you’ve helped your town sell tickets to raffles every year. This achievement will highlight that you’re experienced in sales, and also interested in helping your community.

Example: You had a job at Target back in 2005, and now you’re applying for a job in graphic design in 2019. You can leave Target off the list if you feel it’s no longer relevant.

Using Active Language –

  • Your resume should be written using active language without extraneous words. This means using power words, such as “achieved”, “earned”, “completed” or “accomplished”. If your resume is too long or seems hard to read, you might consider making sentences shorter or ideas more concise.For example, you may have a job description that reads: – “During my time at Freedom Inc, I ran multiple team-based projects and helped each team member with various tasks associated with each project.”This example could be shortened and strengthened in the following way: –  “Led multiple team-based projects and effectively coordinated group tasks.”

Finally, make sure you send your resumes to friends, relatives, and others you trust to proofread and edit. Another pair of eyes is important to the writing process, and having someone else read through your resume can give you a fresh perspective. Feel free to CV resume. Job interview concept. Writing a resume.stop by the library and reserve one of our new study rooms to write and research in private. All you need to do is call or visit one of our reference librarians and sign up for a slot! We also have online resources that can help you perfect your new resume, including BrainFuse’s Job Now. This helpful site includes templates you can follow, resume assistance from live assistants, and help finding the perfect fit job for you.

Who knows, 2019 may be the perfect start to a new career, a step up in your field, or the chance to pursue new goals and challenges. Take the chance and apply for that job that you feel is out of your reach, or maybe one you never thought you’d be interested in. Don’t worry, the library has your back the whole way.

CPL has several guides for writing & polishing up your resume, both on our shelves (look under 650.14), and ebooks (via OverDrive and hoopla with your CPL card).

Dealing with Toxic People at Home and at Work

In a previous Blog Post, I discussed the prevalence of bullies in workplace culture (How to Spot a Bully in the Workplace and What to Do About It). My recommended reading list included The No Asshole Rule with the comment “A gem. I may write another post just about this book.”

Here it is.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn’t by Robert Sutton, PhD

The summary of this book says it is, “a business handbook on preventing and curing a negative work environment that explains how to restore civility to the workplace by weeding out problem employees in order to increase profit and productivity.”

But, oh, it is so much more.

How bad can working with, living with, and  having  toxic jerks in your life be? Consider some of these stats from the book:

Studies show that having just one chronic jerk in a workplace can diminish performance of the entire staff by a whopping 30%-40% .

Negative interactions affect mood fives times stronger than positive interactions.

25% of bullying targets and 20% of witnesses to bullying leave their jobs.

Working with toxic people can increase you risk of heart attack  20%-40%.

While this book was written with workplaces in mind, The No Asshole Rule can be applied to all areas of life. The author originally published his idea in the Harvard Business Review with the title: “More Trouble than They’re Worth”. And that basically sums up the No Asshole Rule. Some people, whether in your personal life or your business life, are simply more trouble than they’re worth.

The No Asshole Rule can help you:

1. Distinguish between  people who are having a bad day (temporary assholes) and those who are persistently nasty and destructive.

2. Spot the most common actions that toxic people use against others.

3. Discover how to assess the actual cost of having a toxic person in your workplace or life. (Yes, you can add up the money spent dealing with destructive, mean people. Think of such things as hourly salaries of managers and the human resources department. Think of sick time taken by the people who are targeted by the jerks. Think of the costs of counseling and lawyers. Think of stress-related illnesses and medications. Think of the loss of quality of life.)

4. Discover how to set up a No Asshole Rule and enforce it.

5. Learn how not to be an asshole. (Reigning in your inner jerk, avoiding asshole-poisoning, and a self-test to see if you often behave like a jackass.)

6. Tips for surviving an asshole-infested workplace.

7. The virtues of assholes (Yes!) with the warning that being a jerk all the time won’t work.

8. How a few demeaning creeps can overwhelm a horde of nice people.

The bottom line is that toxic personalities, whether at work or home, demean and de-energize those around them. They cost everyone in many ways: money, time, health, confidence, etc, etc. The advice of this book is clear: Expel rotten apples as fast as possible. There is a reason, Sutton asserts, that there is a delete button on the cover of the book.

I give this book Five Stars. It’s not just a valuable tool for the workplace, it is important for those who want to free themselves from anyone toxic in their lives.

Save

Save

How to Spot a Bully in the Workplace and What to Do About It

Do any of these things sound familiar?

  • Someone falsely accuses you or one of your coworkers of making errors
  • You have been subjected to stares, glares and other nonverbal intimidation tactics
  • Someone at work refuses to speak to you
  • A coworker exhibits a wide-range of mood swings, including yelling and throwing tantrums
  • A coworker thinks the rules don’t apply to him
  • Someone at work is harshly and constantly criticizing you, disregarding any satisfactory or exemplary work you do

If you have witnessed or been subjected to any of these behaviors, then you have a bully in your workplace.

Jacket.aspxAccording to Gary and Ruth Namie, authors of The Bully-Free Workplace, bullying in the workplace is fairly common. Nearly half of all Americans have either witnessed bullying at work or been the target of a workplace bully.

The big question, the Namies assert, is not why bullying happens (the reasons are many) but what can be done about it. And the answer is fairly simple: There must be consequences for those who are bullies.

Turning the other cheek does not work. Mediation does not work. Anger management does not work. These traditional methods of dealing with workplace conflict are not effective because bullies thrive on exploiting any perceived weaknesses in their targets.

Walking away makes the bully think you fear him. Forcing a target of bullying to sit across the table from his tormentor in a mediation session gives the bully power because he is usually able to make it seem that the target is the problem. The target is portrayed by the bully as being too sensitive, or incompetent, or having no sense of humor. The mediation is actually a reward for the bully, who gets to portray his target as weak before their supervisors. And anger management presupposes that the bully is likely and able to change his behaviors, something not borne out by numerous studies on the subject.

So, what can you do? The authors of the Bully-Free Workplace suggest:

If you are an employee:

  • Confront the bully the very first time he attempts to target you. To quote the Namies, “To turn one’s back to walk away to fight another day proves very costly for targets.” Waking away is perceived by bullies as weakness, making them go after you all the more.
  • Don’t be an enabler. This means if you witness a coworker being bullied, either speak up or take the target by the arm saying, “I need to speak with you” and then lead them away from the bully.
  • Report the bullying, whether you are the target or the witness.
  • Stop rumors. Rumors about other employees are a form of bullying. If you hear them, tell the gossiper you don’t want to listen to negative talk. If you are spreading rumors, even if you are not the bully, you are enabling the bully. Shut up. Seriously.

If you are a manager:

  • Be willing to recognize bullying. Bullies often present their best faces to management. They agree with you, they praise you, they “always have your back.” Thus, when managers hear complaints, they cannot associate the talk with the picture they have of the accused bully. Take a step back and assess the situation as objectively as possible.
  • If you hear a report of bullying, investigate with the assumption that the report is true. This is especially important if the bully is in management. Studies show that other managers are usually reluctant to believe one of their upper-level coworkers is a bully, since, as noted above, the bully will often not show that side of his nature to equals or superiors in the workplace hierarchy.
  • Intervene when you see bullying or hear about it. An intervention from management will often stop a bully in his tracks.
  • Create an explicit policy against bullying because policies are enforceable and vague values statements are not.

And, oh yes… Warning signs that YOU are the bully:

  • In meetings, you are rarely ever challenged.
  • The final decision, even after getting input from others, is yours because it is more expedient.
  • Others do not understand or appreciate your management/teamwork style.
  • If a decision you made was a failure it was because you received incomplete or inaccurate information from someone else.
  • It takes a special type of person to work with you. Your staff changes often. Coworkers seem reluctant to work with you.
  • You believe fear motivates staff to optimal performance.
  • You believe leaders must demonstrate resolute certainty and unwavering principles.
  • You are surprised when other staff do not have the same high standards you have.

In addition to The Bully-Free Workplace, there are several other titles that can help you deal with workplace bullies:

suttonbookThe no asshole rule : building a civilized workplace and surviving one that isn’t / Robert I. Sutton, PhD.
A gem. I may write another post just about this book.

 

Jacket.aspxBullies : from the playground to the boardroom : strategies for survival / Jane Middelton-Moz, Mary Lee Zawadski
Follows bullying from childhood through adulthood and analyzes what works and what doesn’t when dealing with a bully.

 

Jacket.aspxBullies, tyrants, and impossible people : how to beat them without joining them / Ronald M. Shapiro & Mark A. Jankowski with James Dale.
A 4-point plan, called the NICE method (neutralize, identify, control, explore) for dealing with bullies.

Jacket.aspxThe bully at work : what you can do to stop the hurt and reclaim your dignity on the job / Gary Namie and Ruth Namie
The prequel to The Bully-Free Workplace.

 

Jacket.aspxOvercoming mobbing : a recovery guide for workplace aggression and bullying / Maureen Duffy, Len Sperry
Discusses the difference between mobbing ( when individuals, groups, or organizations target a person for ridicule, humiliation, and removal from the workplace) and bullying.

Consider A Chromebook

HP Chromebook

A Chromebook is a laptop of a different breed. Instead of Windows 10 or Mac OS X, Chromebooks run Google Chrome OS. Chromebooks are often criticized as “glorified web browsing machines” or disparaged for their lack of functionality. It is true that their functionality is limited, but I think the negative comments are unfair.

A Chromebook is designed to be used while connected to the internet, with most applications and documents living in the cloud. You can’t really “install” any applications. If you want to download iTunes, you’re out of luck. But you can listen to your music collection by moving it to the cloud in Google Play Music, a free alternative service. If you want to install Microsoft Office, you’re also out of luck. But you can use Microsoft Office Online, Microsoft’s new (and free!) cloud version of its popular office software. You can also use Google Docs and Slides.

And that is the theme of the Chromebook: if you think you can’t do something, you’re not thinking outside of the box, or outside of the OS! (That was a joke. You don’t have to laugh.)

Think of the last time you used your computer. I bet you were doing something online, and if not, I bet you could have been doing it online through a free cloud-based alternative. The software you use on your computer is more and more likely to be available in cloud-form as the days go by. Even Adobe Photoshop now has free cloud-based alternatives like Pixlr Editor.

On average, Chromebooks cost less than $200, and they have a boot time that’s well under 5 seconds. The Google Chrome operating system (OS) takes up about 4GB of space, compared to 11GB for Windows 10 and 15GB for OS X. This small footprint allows Chromebooks to affordably utilize lightning fast solid state drives (SSDs). They also have a long battery life.

So is a Chromebook right for you?

If you spend the majority of your computer time on the web, whether it’s surfing social media, reading the news, or using web-based services like Gmail and Google Docs, then Chrome OS would meet your needs just fine.

Take a moment and think about the programs locally installed on your computer, like word processors, email apps, image and video editing software. If these can be replaced with web-based alternatives, a Chromebook can work for you.

In fact, there’s a good chance a Chromebook will actually make things easier than what you’re used to with a traditional PC setup. Virus protection is built-in, and you never need to update your apps or your operating system. You never need to download drivers or “optimize” your PC to make it faster. You turn on your Chromebook, and 5 seconds later, you’re on the web.

To learn more, visit Google’s Chromebook site: http://www.google.com/chromebook


Technology Help – Need device advice? Schedule a one-on-one lesson in the basics of computers, laptops, tablets, and eReaders. Call the library at 203-272-2245 to make an appointment or come to our monthly Drop-in Tech Help program.