Book Review: Making Ideas Happen

May 25, 2010 | 5 Comments

With a title like Making Ideas Happen, I expected Scott Belsky’s first book would be of great interest to me, and many other Creativityist regulars as well. Belsky is the founder of Behance and the 99%, a conference built around helping creative people execute their ideas.

In the opening chapter, Belsky sums up the content of the book this way:

Far from being some stroke of creative genius, this capacity to make ideas happen can be developed by anyone. You just need to modify your organizational habits, engage a broader community, and develop your leadership capability.

From a broad and general perspective, I enjoyed the book. It’s a book that is exactly as the title describes…a book about how to move ideas from concept to reality. I have enough conversations with others like me to know that most of us don’t have a shortage of ideas, but a shortage of resources to see those ideas through. Saying no to some ideas isn’t a bad thing, but all of us also have ideas that we don’t want to let go of.

I do have some conflicting personal responses to the book. On the one hand, I love that Belsky devoted two thirds of the book to shaping how ideas come about through collaboration and leadership. That’s something I don’t explore enough in my writings here, and in my own projects, so it was an important reminder.

On the other hand, I’m alway interested in the creative habits of others. What workflows are helpful for getting real work done, and which ones just get in the way. The first third of the book is devoted to this; perhaps I want to see things be too granular, but I would have liked to see more of this.

Overall, I don’t know that I would say this was a groundbreaking book. Much of what I read I intuitively understood through experience or common sense, even if it was helpful to have it laid out for me in the words of another. But, it was a good reality check, helping expose areas of my own creative process that need more development.

  • I totally agree with you. I was very excited to read this book. Nothing about this book is ground breaking, it is nice to have a refresher, but not what I was expecting. Even the Action Method is very similar to the Zen to Done method. Aside from that I found some bit’s contradicting as well. Scott Belsky does seem like a nice guy, and I could see why people have propelled him forward, even though I think he shamelessly plugged way to many people/book’s through out the chapters. Just to sight one comment where is compares his MBA from harvard to Seth Godin’s 6month MBA program stating to likes of it being comparable or even better? yeah right, Seth Godin is a smart guy but no way sir, comments like that make Scott losing creditability; one of the many comments that bothered me.
    I can go on and on; I might end up reviewing this book, just because I see everyone giving it such high reviews.

    Anyway, good review, nice to see a honest one.

  • Seems like a pretty good read. Hopefully I can get a copy. I particularly liked the part about letting go of some ideas. I think people have the tendency to keep on thinking about one idea, sure that it would work, but sometimes one should let go and move on to other things.

  • I would recommend “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip and Dan Heath. The book investigates what has made some ideas viral — like urban legends — and other great ideas not catch on.

    My husband and I are both hard-core ideas people, so we did the audiobook together, completing the exercises at the end of each chapter and then seeing how to apply the principle to our work. It’s helped me rethink how I write my blog posts and how I communicate to volunteers at the Touchwood Project.

    And if you like Made to Stick, I can also highly recommend “Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard” for all the social entrepreneurs out there.

  • Rachel DuBois, I actually have Made to stick sitting in front of me. Looking forward to reading it.

  • Hey John,
    I had just finished your article in COLLIDE on productivity and workflow apps, and I was surprised to see that Action Method didn’t show up in task or idea management. I have used action method for about 6 months now, and I am a believer. I think that Making Ideas Happen is more of a manual on how to effectively use action method. He would have done better to split out the fact that he is personally and professionally invested in a project on making ideas happen. I felt like everything he wrote was through the lens of the work that they had done to create that product. It isn’t bad, unless of course, you aren’t using that product.

    Either way, Action Method does what I have needed/wanted as far as task and idea management, especially in a group context without having to be as project oriented as something like basecamp. It has allowed our team to streamline the way that we operate in multiple buildings at multiple locations with only minimal face time each week. So in that, I would say that the book is above average, but only in the context of actually using Action Method.