10 Big Ideas: Making Ideas Happen by Scott Belsky

Posted in 10 Big Ideas


In the spirit of Josh Kaufman’s Personal MBA site, I post the 10 biggest ideas I learn from the different books I read.

1. Just having the idea is a small part of the journey

Ideas—good, bad, and indifferent—are plentiful and easy to come by, and therefore not very valuable in and of themselves. In keeping with the famous Edison quote that “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration,” the effort you expend to realize your ideas is much more important than the effort you expend coming up with your ideas, even really good ones.

2. Someone with average creativity can be more successful than a creative genius

Reduced to an equation, the impact of your ideas is equal to your creativity times your organization. Know anyone who has great ideas but is completely disorganized?  Chances are they’re also known for not getting anything done.  Using the same formula, a person with only mediocre ideas and a little bit of organization can have a much larger impact.

How well you organize and prioritize your projects, manage your energy, build and nourish beneficial relationships, and keep others engaged in your ideas—rather than how genius those ideas are—will determine the success of your ideas.

3. Cultivate an “action bias” to move your projects forward

Having a masterful business plan is overrated.  Your ability to keep moving and pushing your ideas forward matters most. Shipping is when you release something, put a product up for sale, debut your latest artwork in a gallery, or when you send your manuscript to a publisher.  There are several tricks you can use to improve your shipping rate.  Sometimes you may have to act without conviction.  You might have an idea but be unsure whether it will work.  Build a prototype, start tinkering, make something… just do it.

4. Idea bloodshed is just as important as wild ideation

Avoid the tendency to escape lulls of project execution by developing new ideas. Brainstorming feels great; it’s intectually liberating.  It can also be a distraction that hampers execution.  Cultivate a skepticism, an element of doubt.  Foster ideas, then rigorously assess them. You need to liberally kill those ideas that don’t pass muster.

5. Establish rituals to remind you to reflect and re-examine

Every project has ideas that aren’t actionable yet.  Capture these items in your backburner, and review them regularly. On the last Sunday of every month, for example, print out the list and with beer or beverage of choice in hand, spend a half hour editing the list.  Establishing a backburner ritual has two benefits.  First, you commit your ideas to a trusted storage process that frees your conscious mind to work on the action steps that will move your project forward.  Second, you have a process to review old ideas for new actionability, discover possible new uses, and eliminating ideas that no longer fit.

6. Consider yourself an entrepreneur

You have a responsibility to make your ideas sustainable. Focus more on incremental progress than on the need for a big win, which is probably many iterations and ideas away.  Be willing to be a deviant, unpopular, and misunderstood.  Persevere through the discouragement and shunning you may receive even from friends and family.  Embrace the backward clock time.  As you seek to capitalize on your creative ideas, remember that the window of opportunity is always closing.  So get on it.

7. Overcome the stigma of self-marketing

“Build it and they will come” is bad business advice. You fear being perceived as self-centered an too promotional, so you hesitate to market yourself overtly.  Smart marketing is about building relationships, learning, and giving potential audience the right context clues to recognize your strengths.  “Monetization” doesn’t happen directly.  If you get people to visit you and they like the experience, other opportunities will follow.

8. You’re at their mercy of those you rely on to drive momentum for your project

Following up is easy when the answer is a phone call away.  Perseverance and a simple determination to follow up until action is complete can make seemingly impossible feats happen. We all need to see incremental progress in order to feel confident in our creative journeys.  When you make incremental progress, celebrate and feature it.  Advertise the action to yourself and your team.

9. Self-leadership is most important – and most challenging

Some of your greatest obstacles lie within. Fear, insecurity, and self-imposed limitations are serious impediments to your success.  Self-awareness means making a personal investment to build better judgment, which builds lasting relationships and great decisions, which garners the respect and confidence needed to lead bold pursuits.  Developing a tolerance for ambiguity so you don’t go nuts over the unknown and you don’t lose patience with disappointments.  Also, developing an immunity to the “momentary injustices” we all face means not letting your own natural emotional tendencies limit your potential.

10. Create an experience that your audience will relate to

The creative mind has narcissistic tendencies that can limit our ability to connect with others. Gravitating to people who have similar interests and a shared understanding of our ideas is natural, but in doing so exclusively, we risk missing out on the full force that our community has to offer.

Connecting with different people requires us to stay connected to their needs and beliefs, which can tune be done without compromising your authenticity or values.  The more Strong leaders are in touch with their true selves, the more they seem able to tune in to the perspectives of others.