Although the book is called Making Ideas Happen it could be called Making Things Happen – the starting point for the book is that you’ve had an idea, it then offers up a host of insights and tools to Make them Happen. If you are looking for guidance and inspiration about how to supercharge your ability to have ideas, this book isn’t for you.
Page 2 contains the infamous quote from Edison; “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” which is a concept that I totally buy into. We’ve been talking to businesses every day for almost a decade now and it’s very common to find organisation initiate a discussion about innovation, but actually want to talk about ideas – as Belsky puts it so well, “the idea is just the first step – and the smallest, easiest step”. That first step is very seductive however and it’s easy to start and stop there because turning them into reality is much harder.
He provides a simple framework to accompany the rest of the book, that being;
Making Ideas Happen = Ideas + Organisation + Communal Forces + Leadership Capability
Organisation is clearly a passion for Belsky and he makes a strong case that the most creative person in the World, without some organisational skills, simply won’t produce anything. Apple are known as being one of the most creative businesses, but they are also, according to Belsky, one of the most highly organised as well.
He then goes on to describe what he calls the Action Method which starts with the premise that everything is a project regardless of whether it is to prepare for the biggest sales presentation of your life, to mentoring a new colleague. Everything is a project and every project has three elements; Action Steps, References (notes, links, inspirations, insights that are relevant, but not actionable) and Backburner Items (things that need doing, but can’t be described as actions and executed now).
In the third section, Communal Forces he describe the importance of harnessing the people around you to help filter, provide feedback on and build your idea.
This cuts at the heart of one of the most important barriers to innovation which we see on a daily basis which is that the process of creating ideas is “deeply consuming and loaded with narcissism. We fall in love with our ideas and become both certain and protective and less time promoting and explaining them and gradually become less receptive to criticism”.
He argues the need to fight the natural instinct to keep ideas secret and private and simply give them away for free (as indeed I am doing here in my blog). Accept that by sharing the idea you are giving it the best chance to gather a community around it, and if that does happen – if more people buy into it and support it, the odds of it gaining momentum and ultimately happening are significantly higher.
In the last section, Leadership Capability he describes how to keep a team motivated and aligned to make ideas happen. Innovation is difficult and often creates conflict between the idea enthusiasts, skeptics and cynics. Although we would love everyone to fall in love with all of our ideas, in reality we need the skeptics as much if not more because they are likely to ask the difficult questions. The skill is to be able to recognise the skeptics from the cynics and naysayers.