Review “Making Ideas Happen” by Scott Belsky

“Most ideas are born and lost in isolation,” writes Scott Belsky in his book Making Ideas Happen (Penguin, 2012).

If you want to take your idea production game to the next level, this book is for you. It’s packed with all kinds of practical advice from the Founder and CEO of Behance, an Adobe community visited by millions of creative professionals every month.

Recommended resource: Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

Belsky’s formula is simple:

Making Ideas Happen = Ideas + Organization + Community + Leadership

Wisely, he steers clear of telling you how to cultivate ideas (there are plenty of books on that topic) and instead focuses on what it takes to make that idea come alive. While it is written largely for a those in the “creative” professions (artists, photographers, etc.), I found his approach is applicable to anything worthy of pursuit.

The Action Method Belsky describes is simple to implement and effective. I’ve already implemented it in my project tracking. He suggests organizing everything into projects, each of which have three components: Action Steps, Backburner Items, and References. Action Steps are specific tasks that need to get done to advance the project. Backburner Items are not actionable yet, but may become so, and References are simply the materials you may need to complete an Action Step (of themselves, they are not actionable).

The projects themselves should be tagged according to the energy level needed at the time: Extreme, High, Medium, Low, or Idle (which I tag as “Seed”). “Extreme” projects need your immediate attention. “High” is second most in importance, and so on. In this way, projects are treated less linearly (first this, then that) and more like a portfolio that is managed throughout the day, week or month.

Belsky rightly observes that very few successful ideas materialize without the help of others. We need the perspectives, ideas, and talents of others to give additional form and shape to an idea. In his work, Belsky sees three types of creative professionals collaborating to bring ideas to market: Dreamers (those who always generate new ideas), Doers (those focused on execution), and Incrementalists (those who can play both roles). Those who make ideas happen are those who have successfully paired themselves with someone of another type. Of the three, the Incrementalist is most likely to experience trouble, because they can do both (even when they shouldn’t):

“Incrementalists have the tendency to conceive and execute too many ideas simply because they can. This rare capability can lead to an overwhelming set of responsibilities to maintain multiple projects at the expense of ever making one particular project an extraordinary success.”

In the third and final segment of Making Ideas Happen, Belsky provides helpful suggestions for those managing a team of creative professionals. While you might not be leading a team of  such “creatives,” you’ll find some helpful suggestions for harvesting the ideas from the team that you have.

Making Ideas Happen is a well written book with plenty of stories to illustrate the principles without unnecessarily bloating the book with trivialities or repetition. After all, it’s my guess that Belsky knows better than to waste your time. You’ve got ideas you’ve itching to make happen.

If you’ve read this book, what are your thoughts about it?


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