Vanquishing the Obstacles Between Vision and Fact
Summary of book written by Scott Belsky
The concept of brainstorming has moved the entire creative world forward for decades. Alex Osborn, known as the “Father of Brainstorming,” demonstrated how to organize a gathering of people and magically generate a room full of ideas. Regrettably, this is usually where the narrative ends. “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,” as Thomas Edison famously observed. Get ready to sweat because this is a book about the 99 percent. Prepare to put your thoughts into action.
The founder of Behance, Scott Belsky, and the 99 percent Conference have spent years studying how creative teams could become more productive and effective. He’ll show you how to take a concept and make it a reality in this book.
Organization and Execution
Any creative endeavor is contingent upon the completion of “small tasks.” Even companies lauded for their creativity and innovation, such as Apple, have mastered this. The iPod, iPhone, and iPad exist solely as a result of a relentless bias toward action. By examining companies that successfully combine innovation and action, he developed what he refers to as the “Action Method.” Here’s how you can implement it immediately in your business.
The first step on your 99 percent path will be to acknowledge that everything is a project. Everything must be managed if everything is a project. Excellent start. When you first begin to view everything as a project, things can become overwhelming. This is how you can avoid this happening to you.
Evaluate whether something should be an action item, a reference item, or something to put on the backburner. Action steps are tasks that must be completed, reference items are items that must be referred to in order to complete the action steps, and backburner items are items that are not critical to the project at the moment but may become so in the future.
Assign each of these items to a project. If you’re unable to locate a project to which to assign the item, it’s likely that you’ve just begun a new one.
Assign each action item to a specific person so that it can be “owned.” If no one takes ownership of an action item, it will remain uncompleted. Additionally, keep in mind that an action item should begin with a verb. For example, “groceries” is not an action item; however, “purchase cereal at the grocery store” is. This is a seemingly minor point, but one that must be made.
Maintain a strict watchful eye. If you delegate an action item to a team member, keep in mind that you are still ultimately responsible for its completion, so create an action item to follow up with that person to ensure that the action item was completed. Belsky suggests beginning this action item with the verb “ensure” to facilitate searching for all the follow-up items on your to-do list.
Construct your own system. Make this system work for you by creating the system’s mechanics on your own. For instance, utilize a technology (whether digital or analog) with which you are familiar. He discovered that people who have made their system “their own” are far more likely to actually use it than those who blindly follow someone else’s system.
Each meeting should conclude with a review of the action items discussed. Make your way around the room, reading each person’s item aloud. If you have a meeting and no action items are generated, you have just squandered a great deal of time.
After you’ve organized yourself, you can begin executing. Here are some pointers to assist you in getting things done.
Arrange the projects you’ve created on a grid to determine how much energy each project should receive at any given time. Take note that we did not say the quantity of time; we said quantity of energy. Classify them as follows: extreme, high, medium, low, and idle.
Work on the week’s projects that require the most of your energy. Bear in mind the difference between important and urgent — sometimes projects appear to be extremely urgent but are actually quite unimportant in the grand scheme of things. Avoid devoting your full energy to these types of endeavors.
Create a daily focus area in which you incorporate approximately five action items into your day to focus on, based on your prioritization above.
Create a responsibility grid to identify who is responsible for resolving the common issues that arise during the course of a week. The Y-axis should contain the names of your team members, while the x-axis should contain the typical issues that arise. This will ensure that nothing is overlooked as your projects are implemented on a weekly basis.
Conduct an honest evaluation of both yourself and your team. The majority of people fall into one of three categories: dreamers, doers, or incrementalists.
The dreamer is the visionary who is unable to stop moving from concept to concept.
The doer is someone who puts their head down and gets things done but cannot be relied upon to develop the company’s vision.
Between those two extremes are the incrementalists, who can seamlessly transition from vision to execution. However, those individuals face their own obstacles in the form of creating and executing an excessive number of ideas, which strains them far too thin.
You’ll need a team comprised of members who fill two or more of these roles.
Consistently follow these steps and you’ll be well on your way to bringing your ideas to life.
You might think that a book about bringing ideas to life would end there, but that is only half the battle. How come? Because nothing is as straightforward as breaking things down into a few straightforward tasks and then watching them unfold as planned.
One of the most effective strategies for overcoming our resistance to implementing ideas is to spread them throughout the community. You are probably a member of a number of communities — from the various online communities to the business community in your city, your family, and even your neighborhood. Enlist the assistance of each of them.
The allure of this is that as soon as you announce your concept to the world, things begin to change. The following are some of the steps necessary to harness the power of the community:
Get a grip on yourself. If you are one of those people who struggle with self-promotion, overcome your fear. If you want your idea to succeed, you must spread the word. You’ll need to determine what makes your idea relevant to the audience you’re attempting to reach and then develop a communications strategy to make it a reality (which is beyond the scope of this summary).
Obtain feedback. The majority of our ideas sound fantastic in our heads and, possibly, with our internal team. The best way to determine which aspects of your idea is strong and which require improvement is to put it out there. Allow others to tell you that you’re insane. Allow others to tell you that it will not work. Most importantly, this feedback will come from those who will ultimately consume your product, which is rarely you. Your primary responsibility is to determine what to do with that feedback.
Belsky suggests that we use a straightforward formula to help us make sense of the feedback: ask people what they believe you should begin doing, what you should discontinue doing, and what you should continue doing. Respond to those three questions and none of your feedback will go to waste. Take note that each of those questions results in a specific action.
Take responsibility. When you publicize your idea, people will begin to expect you to carry it out (imagine that!). When you become slothful and fail to deliver on a promise, people will call you on it. There is no way to overstate the impact this will have on the realization of your idea.
Form a group. As it turns out, communal forces function best in groups. For decades, organizations such as Vistage and YPO have brought together groups of CEOs from around the world, creating a dynamic that these leaders would not have had access to otherwise. Ascertain that your group has a maximum of 15 members (or fewer), adheres to a set schedule, meets frequently, and has a leader.
If you follow these steps, you’ll be well on your way to leveraging the power of communities to bring your ideas to life.
As Belsky points out, regardless of your role in your organization, if you do not manage your project as a leader, it will not get done. Here are a few ways you can rethink your leadership style in order to get your ideas off the ground:
Reconsider your incentive systems. We are all hardwired to seek immediate gratification. This creates enormous disconnects when our daily actions determine the success or failure of a long-term project. Do not be alarmed; this is not your fault.
Since you entered the school system, you have been taught to think in this manner. To rethink the reward system, you must forego what most people consider “success.” In the first quarter or even the first year, your project may not be a home run. Persist.
Maintain engagement through incremental rewards. On the other hand, if you’re unable to live without short-term rewards, create your own. Perhaps it’s conducting a daily Google Search to monitor the increase in the number of people discussing your idea. Whatever it is, ensure that it does not divert your daily behavior from the long-term goal.
Concentrate on happiness. Many people will tell you they are in it for the money, but the truth is that the majority of people are terrible at predicting what truly makes them happy. If you want your team to stick around for the long haul, you must prioritize creating a culture that is enjoyable for them.
Incorporate a sense of humor. While this may sound a little wishy-washy, there is mounting evidence that happiness and enjoyment actually contribute to the successful completion of work. Bear in mind that you are leading an organization with a long-term vision.
Provide for adaptability. Unless your project requires people to be chained to their desks or a boardroom table from 9 to 5 (or worse), allow them some flexibility in how they perform their duties. Several businesses have implemented ROWE (results-only work environment). Even if you’re not ready to completely relinquish control, keep in mind that your job is to manage relentlessly for results, not for how and when people perform their work.
Develop an immune system that is capable of eradicating ideas. While this may appear counterintuitive, it is critical to your success. Along the way, you’re likely to be compelled to incorporate new ideas or to continue expanding your existing ones. This is one of the primary reasons projects fail — there are too many ideas to execute. Assassinate them before they assassinate you. Manage your own affairs. This one alone could fill an entire volume of books. Being self-aware and cognizant of one’s limitations