“Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky
I previously knew of Scott Belsky as he is the founder of Behance: a social media for creative professionals and I enjoy the online platform very much. He’s also: a speaker, a writer, entrepreneur, holds a MBA and has worked within Goldman Sacs. So I was looking forward to reading his book “Making Ideas Happen” to learn what he had to say about ideas and their execution. As he is also the organiser of the 99U Conference which is an event about getting things done.
This blog isn’t a detailed fine tooth combing of the book; instead it provides key points that I recognise to be helpful which may encourage you to take the time to read the book yourself. As Scott puts his research and insights to paper and travels to meet a diversity of individuals and creative groups (IDEO, Google and MIT) to bring their processes and insights to the book, all to the benefit of the reader.
The Action Method, Back burner and References form the core part of the book and are the way Scott suggests to make ideas happen. The approach takes human psychology into consideration, as the action method sees ideas made into small actionable steps. What can be done now, or first, to break the ground of starting to make an idea real is seen as critical for the probability of making ideas real. This bite size initiation helps the “bias towards action” to begin. However it’s recognised that other related ideas may arise at this time, and these are to be placed on the backburner for the future. This gets these possible distractions and sidetracks out of the way allowing focus be maintained on the immediate actions, but at the sametime provides a path for good ideas to pool for a future time. Finally references which could be: books, websites, articles etc are related to the execution of the idea are listed for future consultation. These would then be kept as like related back burner ideas for the time is right.
Share ideas, Kill ideas liberally, Power of the network, Accountabilty, Spotlight and Community are separate points in the book which I’m going to group here for berevity. Although I’m not short changing you, as the main point of getting your idea out of your head and into others for review and refinement is seen as important to making ideas happen. As you should use your network to share your thinking with others who will provide feedback that may well result in the idea being improved, combined or even dismissed – killed. This sharing can make or break your ideas but most of all it makes you accountable as you’ve shared your idea so your network knows and the responsibility has to be accepted.
Insecurity work was the name given to time spent, that could be mistaken for reference gathering, although its actually procrastination. As a designer this new title for this common activity was welcomed as I often find myself on Pinterest or reviewing my bookmarks to view the new works of other designers; this may well inform me of what others are doing and sharpen my sensitivity to current styles – but I’m not progressing with my own design projects. Nevertheless I do find value in spending time this way but after reading this book this time will be far more related to gathering references for a live and current project rather than for sheer perusal.
Self awareness and The love conundrum were two aspects that relate to ideas as a guide, as it’s important to be aware of where and when ideas arrive to you. As this isn’t in brain storming sessions or when asked a direct question by a boss or a peer. It’s typically in the most unlikely of places, but this has to be recognised so you can make yourself aware of it, to be open to better or more ideas. Then the idea endures the “love cycle” where the budding freshness of a new idea bursts with excitement then has to endure the longhaul day to day struggle to be realised. This relates to the cycle of love which accurately maps the path of ideas and their execution. Strange but true.
Tolerance for ambiguity and Willing to be a deviant is the final key point I want to relay from the book. As I often meet intelligent people who are capable of so much more if they were only willing to take a chance and dare to be different. So often they have a large tolerance for the status quo or for fitting in – not rocking the boat. To really make your ideas happen, if it’s a good idea, which means it’s a different idea, you have to be willing to break from the pack and become a deviant in the eyes of your peer group. As that’s the only way you’re going to take forward the action method process and begin to make them happen.
I would recommend this books to all those who are interested in getting their ideas out of their heads and into reality for themselves and others to enjoy and benefit. It’s not to much to state that it should mandatory reading for all: scientists, creatives and engineers. If you take the time to read this book please return to this article and leave a comment about what you took from it and how it helped you and your ideas.