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Making Ideas Happen: A book review by Bob Morris

Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming the Obstacles Between Vision & Reality Scott Belsky
Portfolio/Penguin Group (2010)

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.”

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 now struggle to overcome these obstacles, this is a “must read.”

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