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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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I will recommend Making Ideas Happen to all of my friend, family and fellow creatives to help them with their personal and professional quandaries.
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
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.