Friday Book in a Page: Making Ideas Happen

Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

Creative ideas and unexpected solutions come to us most often at times when we’re not actively working on the problem or trying to come up with a creative idea. For me, the top three places tend to be while in the shower, when walking the dog or on the treadmill. I began digging a little deeper to find out why this is and to not much surprise it lies in the understanding that the subconscious mind is working on finding these solutions and coming up with these ideas more actively and consistently than the conscious mind. We just need to get out of the way and turn our minds to other activities, like walking the dog, having a shower etc to make way for the subconscious mind’s work to come to the recognizable surface. 

The tricky part then is trying to figure out how to turn these creative strategies into actions and that is where Scott Belsky’s book Making Ideas Happen comes in. 

Key Messages of the Book:

  1. Break everything down into bite-size pieces. If you’re anything like me you have probably heard this advice before. What’s different about this book is that Belsky is specific about what type of bite-sized pieces. Everything can be broken down into three main categories: action steps, references and backburner items. For example, if writing this post was my project, action items might be read each chapter of the book, write down key messages at the end of each chapter etc. Reference items might be finding a good article on subconscious vs conscious brain processing or creating a Book in a Page on Thinking Fast and Slow. A backburner item might be trying out different fonts, or re-thinking what concepts that are in bold - essentially things I could do later after the action items are completed. The key is not to start with your backburner items if you really want to get something done.
  2. Think in Terms of Action. This idea is one that I also wrote about in The Six Questions to Ask to Make Every Meeting Matter, Brainstorming with people is great. Talking to people who have more experience than you is great. Setting up weekly meetings with people is great. But you need to know why you are having the meeting or the conversation. What is the action item? What is the purpose?
  3. Act. Don’t Just React. If you believe that your ideas are worth taking action on you need to treat your action items as sacred. Create boundaries around completing your action items and treat requests from other people as secondary to your action items. If not, you will only be reacting and more than likely you are helping other people make their creative ideas happen at the expense of your own. 
  4. Build, Nurture and Respect your System. Taking action on our own creative ideas takes energy and unfortunately for most of us, a consistent and reliable source of highly productive energy is not always available to us. Figure out the variables that create highly productive energy for you and create rituals and boundaries around that time. Some people have talked about the importance of rising before sunrise and working on their own action plans before the deluge of the day hits. For me, I like to clear the decks and get in front of the deluge by starting my day by clearing all my emails, connecting with people in my life, anticipating some of the requests that might come my way and then blocking out the rest of the world from 10am to 12pm to work on my own actions (case in point, I'm hitting publish on this at 11:10am). I also learned the hard way that my brain capacity and energy decrease throughout the day and my brain is anything but highly productive after about 4pm. 
  5. Identify and Cover Your Blindspots. Sure it is sometimes more fun to work with people who think like you, talk like you, find exactly the same things funny and can finish your sentence before you can - but if you actually want to make your creative ideas happen this may not be the best partnership. Dreamers need doers and doers need dreamers. Initiators need skeptics and vice versa. (As a side note, I particularly liked Ron Howard talking about this idea when talking about the success of his Imagine Entertainment partnership with Brian Grazer on the Smartless podcast). Our blindspots can also become immediately available to us when we share them freely and widely and get feedback instead of holding on to them tightly and secretively. 
  6. Listen More. Talk Less. This is related to the point above but is one of the easiest ways to even be aware of your blind spots. Ask for feedback. And listen. 

Lasting Message: Ideas are easy. Implementation is hard. Success isn’t about having the best ideas; it’s about having the best execution

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