Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

(Partial) Book Review: The Excellent "Making Ideas Happen"

Posted by Tom Foremski - April 14, 2010

I don't often review books but Scott Belsky's "Making Ideas Happen" is excellent and I'm only on the second chapter!

In his introduction, Mr Belsky wastes no time in defining a massive problem: how to take great ideas and turn them into actual products or services. It's a problem I suffer from, and many others too, too many ideas and not enough execution.

Mr Belsky has a solution. He has spent six years interviewing people and studying the best practices of teams that get things done.

"Yes, there is a method to the madness of turning an idea into a reality--it's just not as romantic as you thought."

He talks about the problems new ideas face in large companies:

"To a degree, the natural immune system that extinguishes new ideas in big companies is essential. After all, fresh ideas have the potential to take us off course, they are seldom economical (at first) and introduce tremendous risk to a finely tuned system."

He stresses the importance of exposing your ideas to communities and how effective thought leaders work:

"As professionals, they have overcome the stigma of self-marketing and use their respective communities to stay accountable."

The importance of organization:

"Without structure, we can't focus long enough on any particular idea to find its weaknesses. Ideas that should be killed will linger, and others that require development may be forgotten. Structure helps us achieve a tangible outcome from our ideas."

The problems caused by brainstorming:

"...the harsh reality is that brainstorming sessions often yield disappointing results. Ideas with great potential fade from the participants' minds with each additional idea thrown into the mix. Strong possibilities are trumped by alternative--not necessarily better--possibilities. Ultimately, we surrender to the clock..."

The problems caused by ideas:

"A surplus of ideas is as dangerous as a drought. The tendency to jump from idea to idea to idea spreads your energy horizontally rather than vertically. As a result you will struggle to make progress."

Mr Belsky wastes no time in giving you excellent advice on how to manage your projects with his "Action Method."

"For each idea, you must capture and highlight your "Action Steps.""

Don't have one person take notes and then send them to team members:

"Each person needs to "own" their Action Steps. When tasks are written in your own handwriting, in your own idiom, they remain familiar and are more likely to be executed."

Don't take extensive notes:

"The process of excessive note taking actually interferes with the bias towards action that is necessary for a productive creative environment."

It's good to indulge in stationery fetishes:

"The color, texture, size, and style of the materials used to capture Action Steps are important... In other words, the aesthetics of the tools you use to make ideas happen matter."

Every project can be split into three parts: Action Steps, References, and Backburner Items.

"Let's consider a sample project for a client. Imagine a folder with that client's name on it. Inside the folder you would have a lot of References--perhaps a copy of the contract, notes from meetings, and background information on the client. The Action Steps--the stuff you need to do--could be written as a list, attached to the front of the folder. And then, perhaps on a sheet stapled to the inside back cover of the folder, your Backburner list could keep track of the non actionable ideas that come up while working on the project--the stuff you may want to do in the future."

It's important to foster an action-oriented culture:

"...some teams take a few minutes at the end of every meeting to go around the table and allow each person to recite the Action Steps that he or she captured. Doing so will almost always reveal a missed Action Step or a duplication on two people's lists."

More great advice:

"When a colleague sends you an Action Step that is unclear or incorrect, you should reject it and seek more clarification. Doing so will prevent the Action Step from lingering in the realm of ambiguity."

There's so much more in this excellent book and I'm only on page 51! More to come as a I read the rest...

You can check out the book here and buy it at a 55% discount with this SVW affiliate link.


Story link | Subscribe free | Categories: A Top Story




ForemskiInnovator.jpg

The Holmes Report names Tom Foremski one of the top 25 Innovators of 2013.




-->