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431 of 440 people found the following review helpful
When I started reading Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky, I had grand hopes. I wanted this book to single-handedly pick my ideas off the dusty shelf in my brain and turn them into million-dollar businesses (or something like that). Maybe that is a little extreme, but I was instantly drawn to this book because I have a hard time making my ideas happen. I suppose I was looking for inspiration and a hidden secret on how to turn any old idea into something of functioning brilliance.

Of course, no book can accomplish that. But Making Ideas Happen is probably going to change my life. Here's the thing. This book is not filled with flowery prose or motivational stories meant to get you off your butt. Instead, this is a college course in taking your idea somewhere. Belsky mines the experiences of a lot of visionary people who all have one thing in common, they were able to make their ideas happen.

If you are still in love with the idea of your idea, you are going to want to get over that pretty quickly. The idea is not the thing, Belsky argues, the execution is the thing. Ideas flow freely, while doing something about them takes a lot of hard work and focus. Making Ideas Happens spends most of its time talking about the nuts and bolts on exactly how you can bring your idea to reality. Warning, it is not easy. Things will stand in your way. Heck, you will get in your own way. You will need great passion and determination. If you can muster those things, then the tips in this book will serve you well. If you just want to be creative all day, well Belsky has advice for that to, get a partner who is a doer.

Scott Belsky argues that you need three things to make any idea happen. He says, "you just need to modify your organizational habits, engage a broader community, and develop your leadership capability."

Getting Organized

If you ever want to move your ideas forward, you need to figure out how to organize them and then how to manage the process of working on them. Belsky spends a lot of time talking about how to manage tasks better. His suggested system involves three main categories, Action Steps, References, and Backburners. One of the problems with ideas is that they hit you at the most inconvenient times. You need a place to store new ideas while you move ahead on current ones.

Belsky suggests that you take a project-based approach to making ideas happen. Each major idea should be a project. Each project should have action steps (the things you currently need to do to move the idea forward), references (the information that feeds the idea but is not necessarily action oriented), and backburners (things for future consideration). Belsky and his team at Behance have actually developed a task management system that incorporates these ideas. It is called the Action Method, and I am currently using it with great success. Look for a review on it soon.

Being organized is the first step toward execution. Creative people have a tendency to flit about from one thing to the next. When a new idea strikes, we leave off on an old one. With a project based approach and a way to organize and create action steps around an idea, you can stay focused and stay creative at the same time.


The next major piece of making ideas happen is collaboration. Belsky argues that all good ideas need a team to move them to completion. I am sure you can find examples where this was not true, but Belsky has great examples of when this was true. Teams make more progress than individuals.

In the book, Belsky spends a lot of time explaining the importance of collaboration. One of the surprising benefits he brings up is skepticism. Having someone on hand to thoroughly vet your idea, to poke it to see if it holds water, is actually a very good thing. One of the best things you can do to make ideas happen, it seems, is to kill the bad ideas quickly.

Of course, there is a lot more that collaboration can get you. When you can get more people than just you excited about your idea, you can take it places. Layer that on top of your ability to organize your idea into a linear project, and you will soon be moving quickly toward final execution on your idea.

Another thing that Belsky brings up is the dynamic of the dreamer and the doer. If you are the dreamer, it may be in your best interest to find a doer to partner with so you can take your idea to market. A dreamer is creative and challenges the status quo. A doer may not see the big picture as well, but they sure can see all the little details needed to get the job done. Gary Vaynerchuk shares similar advice, and this is something that I personally (as a dreamer) have been pondering for a while. Dreamers are sometimes afraid of doers, because they think that they will have to compromise their dream. However, without a doer, sometimes their dream will never see the light of day.

Be the Leader

Finally, to bring your ideas to fruition, you need to step up to the plate and lead. You lead yourself first, by getting organized. Then you create excitement around your idea and build a team. To keep that team motivated and moving your idea forward, you must learn how to work with them, to make them feel important to the process. In the last part of the book, Belsky gives a lot of advice (again, taken from people who have had great success) on how to lead.

There is one big twist in Belsky's advice on leadership. For the most part, this section of the book could be in any leadership or management manual. But Belsky always ties it back to the idea. The idea is the engine that makes everything else possible. So when you lead, you are not doing it as a fancy-pants CEO. You are doing it as the person with the idea, and you are instilling passion every step of the way. Earlier, I pointed out that execution is the thing, not ideas. This is true, but in the end, good execution needs a great idea.

This book is for you:

If you have a great idea (or ideas) but can't get it off the ground
If you are already working on your ideas and want to execute better
If you need to learn a better way to manage tasks and organize projects (read the first part of the book)
If you want to create a dynamic team that buys in to your idea 110%
If you want to enable your team to get more done and achieve more creative results
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81 of 88 people found the following review helpful
on April 15, 2010
The buzz was high on Making Ideas Happen in the past month, but despite the hype, the book is not disappointing, It's very well structured, easy to read while addressing complex issues. As expected, it's very action oriented and full of tips and best practiced based on tried and true cases. Finished the book in a day, it's a must read both to help understand how to address the challenges of making your ideas become reality, but also as a study of how others in sometime different context apply essentially a similar approach to not let ideas remain just that.
I had been hearing about this book everywhere from different sources, now I understand why. The chapter on The Force of Community is fascinating and captures so many tools that so many chose to ignore in trying to bring their projects to life.
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69 of 76 people found the following review helpful
Scott Belsky attempts to explain how to translate ideas into action. It is a nice try, but doesn't quite make it.

What I liked about this book:

**the simple, yet powerful breakdown of tasks into: action, reference and backburner. Scott tells us to focus on the action steps.

**explanation of creative types: dreamers, doers and incrementalists. By understanding what drives these folks, you can better communicate with them.

**concrete examples of creative companies that have successfully followed this plan. IDEO is one great example.

What missed the mark with this book:

**it's very repetitive. Scott could have made his points in half the pages. Perhaps he should look for a better editor next time.

**not enough detail about how companies have successfully moved from creative ideas into concrete actions. I believe that success stories will help convince those creative types that process can be a good thing.

**too much mention of Scott's company, Behance. At times, the book seemed like a thinly disguised plug for his company.

**the suggestions are pretty basic Project Management 101. Anyone who's ever had to manage a project knows these steps. Perhaps the creative folks need to hear this though.

In spite of the negatives, I thought this book was an interesting read for anyone, creative type or not. It will help you organize your ideas and also help you deal with other creative types.
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67 of 78 people found the following review helpful
According to the author, Scott Belsky, the ability to execute ideas can be developed by anyone willing to build their organizational habits and harness the forces of community. That's why he founded his company, which helps creative people and teams develop these skills.

He spent six years studying the habits of highly productive creative people --- people who work with ideas, come up with them and execute them.

After he interviewed hundreds of successful creative people he put together their best and worst practices. Here are a few . . .

- Generate ideas in moderation and act without conviction
- Reduce all projects to just three primary components
- Encourage fighting within your team
- Seek competition and share ideas liberally

In my profession, advertising copywriter, I find that in my own case, coming up with the ideas is the hard part. Executing them is easy. But many in my profession have the opposite problem. They quickly come up with great ideas but fail to execute them so they are useful.

I heard of someone who had great ideas. Trouble was, she never did a thing with those ideas. Someone else often took her ideas and actually executed them. The person with the great ideas remained poor. The person who executed the ideas made money. Another man took the great ideas of others and made millions. Having brilliant ideas is a wonderful thing. But it's the person who executes the idea, brings it to life, gives it birth, who becomes successful. So the key is to come up with ideas but then take it to the next level and execute those ideas.

That's what this book is all about.

Highly recommended.

- Susanna K. Hutcheson
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Anyone with much experience with brainstorming sessions already knows that "making ideas" is quite easy. Making them HAPPEN is quite a different challenge and a much more formidable one. Again I am reminded of Thomas Edison's admonition, "Vision without execution is hallucination." What we have in this book is a remarkably comprehensive as well as a lively and informative discussion of how almost anyone can develop the capacity to master a process that Scott Belsky characterizes as a "primer":

1. You have ideas (yours or someone else's) that you want to make happen: "Most ideas get lost in what I call the `project plateau,' a period of intense execution where your natural creative tendencies turn against you." Belsky explains what these tendencies are as well as how to avoid of overcome them.

2. Making ideas happen == ideas + Organization = Communal forces = Leadership capability: "We will dive into ach of these forces and discuss how you should use them in your own creative pursuits." Belsky delivers in abundance on that promise.

3. Organization enables you to manage and ultimately execute your ideas...or someone else's: "The Action Method [that Belsky explains and discusses in detail] is a composite of the best practices for productivity shared by creative leaders." Belsky has picked the brains of hundreds of the most productive creative thinkers and shares their most valuable insights, as well as his own. Better yet, he organizes them in the aforementioned Action Method, a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective system to make ideas happen.

4. The forces of community are invaluable and readily available: "Ideas don't happen in isolation. You must embrace opportunities to broadcast and then refine your ideas through the energy of those around you." The greatest teams achieve their success with communication, cooperation, and most important of all, collaboration.

5. Fruitful innovation requires a unique capacity to lead: "While the tendency to generate ideas is rather natural, the path to making them happen is tumultuous. This book is intended to outfit you with the methods and insights that build your capacity to defy the odds and make your ideas happen." The process of effective execution of ideas, once refined through rigorous collaboration, requires leadership that combines tenacity with patience, vision with a compulsion to make that vision a reality, and personal integrity with what Ernest Hemingway once characterized as a "built-in, shock-proof crap detector."

Belsky devotes an entire chapter to self-leadership, calling his reader's attention to the fact that "as you lead others in creative pursuits, you are your greatest liability. Self-leadership is about awareness, tolerance, and not letting your natural tendencies limit your potential." What does he suggest?

"Find a Path to Self-awareness. Our best hope for staying on track is to notice when we stray and to figure out why - to be self-aware. Self-awareness is a critical skill in leadership but it is deeply personal. It is not about our actions but abut the emotions that trigger them.

"Develop a Tolerance for Ambiguity. Patience in the face of ambiguity helps us to avoid rash decisions driven by our emotions instead of our intellects. We must use time to our advantage to temper our tendency to act too quickly.

"Capture the Benefits of Failure. When things go wrong, there are three questions we should seek to answer:

o What external conditions may explain the failure?
o What internal factors may have compromised your judgment?
o Are there any gems in the unintended outcomes?

"Avoid the Trap of Visionary Narcissism. The tendency to think that a given opportunity or challenge is a one-off persists. I have come to call this propensity 'visionary narcissism' - it is a leader's default thinking that he or she is an exception to the rule."

The word "how" is frequently used throughout my review because, as I hope my comments suggest, Belsky is a diehard, world-class pragmatist who was determined to learn everything he could about how to make ideas happen. The observations he shares in this brilliant book are anchored in a wealth of real-world experience (his and others'); his recommendations, therefore, are research-driven. For those who now struggle to understand the obstacles between vision and reality, as well as for those who now struggle to overcome these obstacles, this is a "must read."
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59 of 70 people found the following review helpful
This was our web professionals book club's second book. Of the seven people who read it, only one managed to finish it. The rest of us all bogged down and quit in the third section, a fluffy little bit about "leadership." We are all either working for the man or heads of one or two person consultancies. There wasn't much to be gained.

The first part of the book actually had some good productivity tips. I use the Action Method and its products, so I found it illuminating with regard to using that system better (and it really is a good system if you're a creative).

The second part of the book was about the value of community. Now, if you're the type who cries in a corner or becomes heinously defensive whenever someone criticizes your work or offers feedback, you need to read this section. But if you, like myself, have learned to extract feedback and opinions from other humans as joyously as though they were nuggets of gold from a riverbed, you probably don't need to read this chapter.

There was too much name-dropping and self-aggrandizement in this to hold my interest. The copy was repetitive without being deep. The consensus of the group was that the book could have been a third of its size and far more interesting with the benefit of a proper editor.

Also, the Goldman Sachs name-dropping and references seemed comically pre-depression, dating the work and giving it an almost macabre feel.
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27 of 34 people found the following review helpful
Scott Belsky's first book Making Ideas Happen is a good start for him. It shows he took his own advice and has accomplished a lot and should be commended. I can see a lot of creatives getting something out of it. I've read tons of self-development books, so nothing in this book feels new or original. I can still half-heartedly recommend this to creatives and knowledge workers who are really not into reading many books on productivity will probably get something out it. Anyone else should pass. Even though the book dabbles on many subjects, I just wish he had explored the topics further without sounding so redundant at times. It felt like Belsky had tons to say, but never took command of the subject matter.

Hopefully, Scott Belsky's future books have a more polished feel with less plugs and more inventive ideas. Not to discredit the other reviews online, but many have written up reviews after reading the first few pages, which has led to impulsive reactions. This book does deliver on ideas for improved productivity -- too bad they aren't new or original ideas.

Full review: [...]
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29 of 37 people found the following review helpful
on April 18, 2010
Since I am not a creative artist, an entrepreneur, or even a business person, I expected that Making Ideas Happen would be a dry, abstruse, intimidating book that was excessively philosophical on the one hand, and overbearingly specialized on the other. Instead, I was delighted to find that it was a well written, readable, and, at times, entertaining product that went far beyond usefulness in a business context. The author, Scott Belsky, has impeccable credentials. He completed his undergraduate studies at Cornell, his graduate studies at Harvard Business School, drew from his experiences at Goldman Sachs, and founded Behance, "a company that develops products and services to organize the creative world". Making Ideas Happen represents the culmination and assimilation of knowledge gained from hundreds of interviews with the CEOs, Vice Presidents, Chief Designers, and Directors of departments of companies such as Apple, Google, and Zappos. From these interviews, as well as his own experiences and other information obtained from conferences and readings, Belsky extracts the most salient aspects of why these companies have become giants in their respective fields, and how they have been so successful in "making ideas happen". Belsky's writing style is also a true delight. His use of poignant and highly relevant quotations, such as "Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration" (Thomas Edison), and of fascinating proverbs and clichés, such as "You don't know who is swimming naked until the tide goes out," is refreshing. Also, what might be called helpful "sound bites" are scattered throughout each chapter, e.g., "an idea executed for an audience of one is an awful waste of potential inspiration and value for the greater good," and "the best indicator of future initiative is past initiative". In addition, Belsky uses amusing, yet highly informative personal anecdotes to relate certain points. For example, he describes his experiences while attending a workshop run by Jay O'Callahan ("one of the greatest storytellers in the world") to introduce the technique of "appreciations," which is built on positive feedback and forbids criticism, even if "constructive". However, the single most significant contribution made by Belsky is not his incisive writing style or his use of quotations, clichés, or anecdotes, but rather his ability to pull it all together into a nice, neat package in which the relationships of the components are made explicit. Few points in the book (some counterintuitive) are surprising. However, by integrating material across a huge body of data, Belsky has demonstrated that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Two thumbs up for Making Ideas Happen!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The forces that help us be productive and execute our ideas are often at odds with the very source of our ideas, our creativity, according to Scott Belsky in this book. The process of turning ideas into reality is usually far more difficult than the process of coming up with good ideas in the first place, and accordingly a creative organisation needs to adopt practices that ensure creative ideas actually go somewhere.

The author refers to his approach to making ideas happen as the "Action Method". This involves organising projects into their most basic elements: action steps, which are tasks needing to be completed; references, which includes any information related to the project; and backburner items, which are ideas that are not yet actionable. The distillation of projects into these basic elements needs to be followed by relentless prioritisation and execution.

The book covers a lot more ground, but I found myself engaged in a mental debate as I read: on the one hand, the author's approach seems too simplistic to waste time contemplating, but on the other hand the gap between having ideas and implementing them is a serious problem for nearly everyone, and a seemingly over-simple approach may be the best solution. The book is well-written, easy to read, and potentially very helpful to anyone engaged in a creative pursuit.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2011
This book is great if you are an artist of any kind and are a mess organizationally. Buy it and it will possibly help you out. Mostly because you don't study or have much interest in project management, organizational design, management, or just business in general.

If you are an individual who believes they are a working professional, do not buy this book. Belsky must think the rest of us non-Ivy league educated people are idiots. While I understand that it's easy to knock someones ideas - after all, Belsky wrote and published a book and I have not - if you don't use many of the parts of his "action" plan daily, then you probably don't work at one place for very long.

Is it that novel to have a structured plan for something? To finish a meeting with next steps and assignments? To hold others accountable? For me, this was a waste of time and money.
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