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Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality Paperback – March 27, 2012
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Amazon Exclusive: Seth Godin Reviews Making Ideas Happen
Seth Godin is the author of Linchpin, Tribes, The Dip, Purple Cow, All Marketers Are Liars, and Permission Marketing, as well as other international bestsellers. He is consistently one of the 25 most widely read bloggers in the English language. Read his exclusive Amazon guest review of Making Ideas Happen:
Should you buy a book that will make you uncomfortable?
More questions: Why is it so difficult to ship good ideas out the door? Why do committees show up and wreck the purity of your idea? Why do people avoid doing the hard work of actually bringing their work to the market?
I'll tell you why: Because it's safe. Ideas that never ship are never criticized. Faceless committees accept the blame for tepid products that were probably better off in the warehouse. And managers in search of a place to hide can best hide behind the unshipped product, the unrealized idea and the system gone wrong.
Scott Belsky has your number. He's seen it all before. He knows your excuses, he's seen your shtick and he knows all the ways to avoid doing the work. In this book, Scott's not giving you any place to hide.
There. Do you still want to read his book?
If you care about your art, your job or your market, you really have no choice. This is strategy and tactics, concepts and how-to, all in one on a topic that's often overlooked.
--Seth Godin, author of Linchpin--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Though creation always begins with an idea, ideas don't always lead to creation; examining why that's so, online entrepreneur Belsky finds that, no matter how unique or radically different ideas may be, the individuals and teams who carry those ideas to fruition share a number of common traits, such as engaging peers and leveraging communal forces. In this guide to realizing ideas, Belsky examines those traits in detail. Chapters like "The Chemistry of the Creative Team" set forth an action-based plan that forgoes time-wasting meetings and other corporate culture standbys, citing studies, progressive thinkers and case studies of companies like Best Buy, IBM and Sun Microsystems. Modern-day successes, Belsky contends, have traded "the traditional butts-in-chairs mindset" for a "Results Only Work Environment," where employees are compensated based on achievement of specified goals, rather than work hours. Ultimately, Belsky insists, creative success is a matter of rethinking methods and increasing focus, while emphasizing and rewarding old-fashioned passion and perspiration.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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."
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
The sad truth is that ideas that move industries forward are not the result of tremendous creative insight. Rather, it the masterful execution of creative insights that wins – every time. The implications of this truth are the subject of author Scott Belsky’s Wall Street Journal bestseller for 2011.
The book describes the three forces that are necessary to make ideas happen: Organisation and execution; Leveraging communal forces; and Leadership in the creative pursuit.
Organisation is all about applying order to the elements of a creative project that allows for execution. I know that nothing makes me dump a book faster than an author describing the “most effective way” you can motivate yourself, improve yourself or organize yourself. There is “no most effective way” – there is only the highly idiosyncratic way that works best for you. Beslky is far too smart to talk of “the most effective way”, instead he provides a simple and practical format that will work with your own most effective technique.
The best methods for managing creative projects are simple and intuitive. They help you capture your ideas and do something about them – no more, no less. The “Action Method” Belsky describes begins with a simple premise: everything is a project.
Every project can be reduced to these three primary components: Action Steps, References, and Backburner items. All of these need to be captured in any way that works for you.
“Action Steps” are specific things you must do to move an idea forward and must be captured in writing starting with a verb – “Call Linda to get information on…” Ideas don't reveal themselves only in meetings and neither should Action Steps. You will require some means to capture Action Steps anywhere, any time. You can use your phone or a notebook - anything that is always with you.
“References” are pieces of information worth storing, not revering. Most people never refer to the piles of notes they keep anyway. All you need to concern yourself with is how you should identify a Reference so that you can intuitively find it later.
“Backburner” items are ideas for another time, not now. You will need to periodically revisit and curate your Backburner.
While creative people need to be optimistic about the future, they need to be pessimistic about tasks. You should be deeply concerned with how to manage your ideas and projects. Waiting builds apathy and increases the likelihood that another idea will capture your fancy and energy before you have completed the execution of the previous one. Traditional practices such as writing a business plan – ultimately a static document that will inevitably be changed as unforeseen circumstances arise – must be weighed against the benefits of just starting to take incremental action on your ideas.
Proof come Apple, the company known for new ideas and the ability to think differently, which must also be one of the most organised companies on the planet.
So the formula reads: Creativity X Organisation = Impact.
If the first force for making ideas happen is organisation and execution, the second is leveraging communal forces. The notion of the lone creative genius might have existed in the past, but there can be no doubt that it is wildly outdated in the 21st century.
Your community is all around you – your team, mentor's, clients or customers, collaborators, and of course your family and friends. Your community will seldom understand the idea in the beginning, but they will help make it real in the end.
Consider one aspect of your community, your peer group. Three broad categories of creators were found in Belsky’s research: The Dreamers, the Doers, and the polymaths whom he calls Incrementalists. As entrepreneurs, Dreamers often jump from one new business idea to another and are likely to become engaged in new projects at the expense of completing current ones. The Dreamers are more likely than anyone to conceive brilliant solutions, but they are less likely to follow through. Some of the most successful Dreamers attribute their success to a partnership with a Doer.
Doers don't imagine as much because they are obsessively focused on the logistics of execution. Doers often love new ideas, but their tendency is to immerse themselves in the next steps needed to truly actualise the idea. While Dreamers will quickly fall in love with an idea, Doers doubt and chip away at the idea until they love it or, as often, discounted it.
Then they are the Incrementalists – those with the ability to play the role of both Dreamer and Doer. Incrementalists are able to bask in idea generation, distil the action steps needed, and then put ideas into action with tenacity. However, Incrementalists have the tendency to conceive and execute too many ideas simply because they can. Incrementalist are the O blood-type of the world of collaboration – the universal donor.
In the Apple leadership one could call Jonathan Ive (chief designer), Tim Cook (chief operating officer), and the late Steve jobs (chief executive officer) the Dreamer, the Doer, and the Incrementalist respectively. A similar structure exists in the fashion house, Calvin Klein.
Walt Disney, known for his boundless creativity not his scepticism, went to great lengths to ensure that his community, his creative team, reviewed ideas ruthlessly and killed them when necessary. Wired magazine's editor-in-chief Chris Anderson said: I don't believe you can do anything by yourself; any project that is run by a single person is destined to fail.
The last of the three forces that make ideas happen is the specific type of Leadership required for creative pursuits. Leadership capability is what makes the pursuit of an idea sustainable, scalable, and ultimately successful.
An example of a leadership challenge is how to deal with the problem posed by the timeframe of great ideas. Your long-term vision is not going to be enough to sustain the followers you need so badly. How people spend their energy is greatly influenced by the short-term reward systems that permeate our lives. Belsky both raises and offers suggestions for creative leadership challenges like this one.
“Leadership Capability” relates both to your leadership of others as well as your ability to lead yourself. Everyone has tendencies that can become obstacles in the execution of the creative project. An example: The challenge is to capitalise on feedback, but if feedback is so readily available around us and so crucial to making ideas happen, why is there so little focus on it? Though the value is high, the incentive to give feedback to others is low, and the natural desire to hear it is often non-existent.
How you lead yourself separates the winners from the rest.
Execution, community and leadership are worthy of serious consideration at the start of 2012 to give us the best chances of realising our best ideas. This book is a must read for anyone who has great ideas that haven’t yet hitting the bottom-line, or has partners or subordinates with the same tendency. It is rich in insights and its suggestions are practical.
Readability Light ---+- Serious
Insights High -+--- Low
Practical High -+--- Low
Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy
I will recommend Making Ideas Happen to all of my friend, family and fellow creatives to help them with their personal and professional quandaries.