Book review of Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

I really enjoyed reading ‘Making ideas happen; overcoming the obstacles between vision and reality‘ by Scott Belsky with the Young Female Entrepreneurs book club.  The book’s 223 pages are divided into three sections ‘Organization and Execution’, ‘The Forces of Community’ and ‘Leadership Capability’.  The book is written especially to help creative people become more productive and overcome tendencies (even our own limitations), which mean our best ideas are sometimes not developed.  “To be competitive … we need to conceive new ideas to address [both] problems and opportunities, … and we need to defy the odds and make these ideas actually happen” (p.7).  It’s not so much that the best ideas succeed, but that the ones with the right backing and combination of organization, community and leadership.

I always am interested in an equation to success.  Belsky has two.  The first “Making Ideas Happen = (The Idea) + Organization and Execution + Forces of Community + Leadership Capability” (p.14).

The process of an idea being successfully executed should include feedback.  Both from internal and external sources of feedback are more valuable when there is a stronger community developed.  A cherished “community strengthens both your creative energy and your commitment to channel” outstanding ideas (p.17).  The second equation is more simple, “Creativity x Organization = Impact” (p.27).  Obviously having a structure in which to process ideas from start to finish is necessary.  If no structure for managing ideas is in place, then there is a risk that employees “become engaged in new project at the expense of completing current ones” (p.113).

There are many ways to process ideas, with no one way right.  It is, however, critical that there is a bias towards action!  This keeps the team members engaged and the process efficient and effective.  To ensure this happens in ‘Making ideas happen’ Belsky suggests that Actions Step’s should start with a verb and only contain one task.  This helps the process to keep moving forward.  Another key is to not mix ‘References’ in with ‘Action Steps’.  This is why an email inbox is a bad project management tool.  It is simply “a transit terminal where items await processing” (p.51).

Tips I took from ‘Making Ideas Happen’ were:

1, use the Action Method (or something similar), life is easier when you know where to find everything.

2, only check email once or twice a day, and restrain yourself to doing this at set times

3, a responsibility grid/”chart send’s and important message about who is (and, more important, who is not) allowed to respond to certain issues” and tasks (p.66).

4, meetings should mean that everyone who attends leaves with their own ‘Action Steps’ to implement

5, Better and cheaper to be rigorous at vetting ideas early on than just before ‘shipping’.

6, diversity in team members empowers competitive advantage

7, “Recognition accorded for the completion of successful projects is most powerful with it’s distributed” to ALL involved in the project. (p.176).

8, Your team will either make or break your organization

9, Maximize opportunities from failures “when something goes wrong [ask]: what external conditions may explain the failure? … What internal factors may have compromised your judgment? … [and] are there any gems in the unintended outcome?” (p.206)

Gathering a great team is imperative.  A great team can capitalize on conflict to transform ideas into reality – “a chemistry that will transform ideas into remarkable accomplishments” (p.178).  When recruiting, asses the degree to which a person has pursued their interests.  Initiative will help speed up processes.  Initiative is hard to teach but measuring and rewarding outputs helps, and results in increased employee satisfaction.

Being an effective leader requires being able “to share ownership of their ideas, operate amidst adversity, and identify and develop high-potential team members” (p.190).  This doesn’t mean micro-managing!  When successful it will involve: “a deep desire and interest in the topic”, “the ability to learn” and “the capacity to enlist support” (p.217).

Belsky bases the book on his own research and recommends the ‘Action Method’ as a key tool which he developed.  There is a companion website to the book.  There is also a website which has a free version on the ‘Action Method’ tool available.  The tool also has iphone and ipad applications available for free.  The ‘Action Method’ tool is based on creating a ‘to-do’ lists which have actions associated with them.  Belsky aptly calls these ‘Action Steps’.  Belsky also recommends having a ‘Backburner’ list for those ideas which you can’t or won’t action just yet, as well as a ‘Reference’ list which should be linked to Action Steps.  This process ensures ideas keep moving forward and that maximum value is realized as all ideas are captured.

I would really recommend this book to anyone who is involved with developing teams of creative people in businesses and organization or wants to streamline their own processes to maximize output results.  You can buy this Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky here.

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