Anyone with much experience with brainstorming sessions already knows that "making ideas" is quite easy. Making them HAPPEN is quite a different challenge and a much more formidable one. Again I am reminded of Thomas Edison's admonition, "Vision without execution is hallucination." What we have in this book is a remarkably comprehensive as well as lively informative discussion of how almost anyone can develop the capacity to master a process that Scott Belsky characterizes as a "primer":
1. You have ideas (yours or someone else's) that you want to make happen: "Most ideas get lost in what I call the `project plateau,' a period of intense execution where your natural creative tendencies turn against you." Belsky explains what these tendencies are as well as how to avoid of overcome them.
2. Making ideas happen == ideas + Organization = Communal forces = Leadership capability: "We will dive into ach of these forces and discuss how you should use them in your own creative pursuits." Belsky delivers in abundance on that promise.
3. Organization enables you to manage and ultimately execute your ideas...or someone else's: "The Action Method [that Belsky explains and discusses in detail] is a composite of the best practices for productivity shared by creative leaders." Belsky has picked the brains of hundreds of the most productive creative thinkers and shares their most valuable insights, as well as his own. Better yet, he organizes them in the aforementioned Action Method, a cohesive, comprehensive, and cost-effective system to make ideas happen.
4. The forces of community are invaluable and readily available: "Ideas don't happen in isolation. You must embrace opportunities to broadcast and then refine your ideas through the energy of those around you." The greatest teams achieve their success with communication, cooperation, and most important of all, collaboration.
5. Fruitful innovation requires a unique capacity to lead: "While the tendency to generate ideas is rather natural, the path to making them happen is tumultuous. This book is intended to outfit you with the methods and insights that build your capacity to defy the odds and make your ideas happen." The process of effective execution of ideas, once refined through rigorous collaboration, requires leadership that combines tenacity with patience, vision with a compulsion to make that vision a reality, and personal integrity with what Ernest Hemingway once characterized as a "built-in, shock-proof crap detector."
Belsky devotes an entire chapter to self-leadership, calling his reader's attention to the fact that "as you lead others in creative pursuits, you are your greatest liability. Self-leadership is about awareness, tolerance, and not letting your natural tendencies limit your potential." What does he suggest?
"Find a Path to Self-awareness. Our best hope for staying on track is to notice when we stray and to figure out why - to be self-aware. Self-awareness is a critical skill in leadership but it is deeply personal. It is not about our actions but abut the emotions that trigger them.
"Develop a Tolerance for Ambiguity. Patience in the face of ambiguity helps us to avoid rash decisions driven by our emotions instead of our intellects. We must use time to our advantage to temper our tendency to act too quickly.
"Capture the Benefits of Failure. When things go wrong, there are three questions we should seek to answer:
o What external conditions may explain the failure?
o What internal factors may have compromised your judgment?
o Are there any gems in the unintended outcomes?
" Avoid the Trap of Visionary Narcissism. The tendency to think that a given opportunity or challenge is a one-off persists. I have come to call this propensity "visionary narcissism" - it is a leader's default thinking that he or she is an exception to the rule."
The word "how" is frequently used throughout my review because, as I hope my comments suggest, Belsky is a diehard, world-class pragmatist who was determined to learn everything he could about how to make ideas happen. The observations he shares in this brilliant book are anchored in a wealth of real-world experience (his and others'); his recommendations, therefore, are research-driven. For those who now struggle to understand the obstacles between vision and reality, as well as for those who now struggle to overcome these obstacles, this is a "must read."