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Roadtest: Making Ideas Happen

February 5, 2013

making ideas happenUnlike the not so wonderful No B.S. book, some of my other holiday reading proved really useful. That reading was Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen.

It’s about getting things done and self motivation. I also got a strong sense of the difference between what it takes to be creative, as opposed to telling yourself you are and nothing to show for it. The message applies to creative people of the arty kind through to innovators in business and so on.

What I liked…

100 x 0; 50 x 2 = 100

I took this as a reminder that getting stuff out there that may not be perfect (50) twice as often (2) is better than having something that is 100% perfect in your head (100) and not getting it out there at all (0).

It’s sort of like the whole “if a tree falls in the forest…” idea- if there is no evidence you are creative, are you really that creative? What’s the point if your killer idea is under your bed?


Creative narcissism

We need to be original and find our own voice when we create, yet we do need to keep an audience in mind. Otherwise, what kind of audience can you hope to have if you haven’t considered them as part of the picture?

This is a really delicate balance because it takes time to get a promotional level happening, to get consistency occurring, to find your voice and your audience. For the first 3 to 6 months of any creative career (or startup blog etc) you’ll probably feel like you’re performing/writing to no-one, probably because you are.

But if it’s been 5 years and the only one turning up is your mum and your long suffering partner, chances are you’re only indulging yourself. Remember, there’s a big difference between being self indulgent, and simply having a niche audience.


Dreamer, Doer and Incrementalist

The book proposes that there are 3 kinds of creative people:

 Dreamers– they are visionaries and come up with great ideas a-plenty. The problem is, they are great at dreams and usually suck at execution or plugging along for the long haul.

Doers– they are the ones who get stuff done. They may not be reaching the dizzying heights on the creative idea scale, but if they have a plan, they’ll execute it.

Incrementalists– can channel the dreamer and the doer in fairly equal measure. They may not be as visionary as the dreamer or as applied as the doer, but the measured approach seems to work.

We’re apparently 1 of these 3. None is better than the other and all have their pitfalls.  Knowing what type you are really helps though because:

Dreamer + Dreamer = No action

Doer + Doer = No visionary stuff

Dreamer + Doer = Yay, happy times!

Incrementalist + anyone = happy times, as long as it’s balanced (e.g. 10 dreamers + 1 incrementalist would be nervous breakdown territory)


We’re not all motivated the same

Making Ideas Happen explores varying different processes that work for other individuals and teams. From looking at the benefits of an office that nags each other, to having reminders of what’s been completed hanging on the walls, overcoming failure and shipping ala Seth Godin or simply understanding when you will freak out most with a project, each of these stories is valuable.

It’s about cherry picking from these ideas and adapting them to suit you, which is much better than having a book that tells you when to organise your email or how many hours of email to read each day. Well, for me anyway.


The final pearls of wisdom

  • Creative people care more about other things than salary, so engage them with challenges, opportunities and unique ways to stretch themselves instead
  • Sometimes the fresh eyes are the best eyes of all, even if the person that has them has less experience or age than other team members
  • Key to survival is momentum and incremental progress. Too much or too little is a mugs game.
  • If you were told the exact moment your life would end, would you manage it differently than today?


Making Ideas Happen is a great book for anyone who struggles with motivation and organisation, keeping the creative fires burning, or simply wants an interesting read.



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