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Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision and Reality Paperback – March 27, 2012
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"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, Linchpin
"Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard. This book helps you with the hard part."
-Guy Kawasaki, Co-founder of Alltop and former chief evangelist of Apple
"Making Ideas Happen is timely and vital to a new generation of creative leaders. Ideas are important, but executing on those ideas is the crucial component that so many of us forget about. Great execution is rare, and Belsky lays out practical principles and a clear plan for getting things done. I highly recommend this book!"
-Brad Lomenick, Executive Director, Catalyst
"From his years spent understanding how the most productive entrepreneurs and creative minds operate, Scott Belsky provides a compendium of the knowledge one needs to turn a great idea into something tangible. This is a book about execution, and when it comes to going from idea to a real business, execution is everything."
-JOHN BATELLE, Co-founder of Wired and Boing Boing, founder of Federated Media
"If your creative team or organization struggles to implement their best ideas, or if you find that your own creative projects languish unfinished, you need Making Ideas Happen.
-TERESA AMABILE, Prof. of Business Administration, Dir. of Research, Harvard Business School
"In just one volume, Belsky shows how to execute simply, boldly, powerfully. He reveals the forces and methods that push projects to completion -and how they are accessible to all of us. Practical and perfect ways to implement your ideas with peace of mind."
-LEO BABAUTA, Author of ZenHabits.net and The Power of Less
"I hear people talking all the time about great ideas that never come to life. This book is like a Swiss Army knife for ideas. It offers step-by-step tools to turn ideas into action, and is full of wonderful and enlightening stories of those who have made their ideas happen."
-JI LEE, Creative Director at Google Creative Lab and Founder of the Bubble Project
"Scott Belsky has observed how designers think and has created a way to help them make the complex clear -and the actionable achievable- within the rush of creativity that defines their mind's workspace. His ideas provide an effective way to manage ideation, iteration, and execution."
-RICHARD GREF+, CEO of AIGA
"Belsky's approach has made my life even simpler. Making Ideas Happen demonstrates that ideas of any magnitude are achievable by simply taking one step at a time. Belsky offers an illustrated map to get to the destination of your great ideas."
-SCOTT THOMAS, Design Director, Obama Presidential Campaign
"There are techniques in this book that can turn disorganized creative prima donnas into organized creative prima donnas. It's full of terrific lessons in how to keep great ideas alive."
-CHUCK PORTER, Co-chairman, Crispin Porter + Bogusky
About the Author
Scott Belsky is a speaker, writer, and an entrepreneur with a focus on the creative industries. As the founder and CEO of Behance, he oversees the Behance Network, the world's leading platform for creative professionals, with millions of visitors every month, and the annual 99% Conference, devoted to execution in creative teams.
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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.
I think the above quote summarizes the gist of this book.
In between the self-promotion, name dropping, and over-promotion of the author's company there is some good material here.
My favorite is when he points out that many creative types flutter from one idea to another, jumping to the latest inspiration and never getting anything finished. That is something that I have always struggled with. I know I'm guilty of it.
I liked the example of Walt Disney's three rooms. Room 1 for rampant brainstorming; room 2 to sort through the ideas from room one; and room 3 for critical review of the results from room 2. This seems like a good way to use space to keep the mind focused on the task at hand.
Summary: Despite it's flaws, it's not a bad book.
"What is this amazing action method that is going to change my life and be the productivity method that finally suits me as a creative personality?"
But as I got into the action method, I discovered it's basically just David Allen's Getting Things Done. If you haven't read GTD, then you may find this book helpful as it's basically the same method adapted to the context of a creative life, but if you have studied GTD, and are looking for something else as far as I can tell this is basically the same thing.