6 Tips for Taking an Idea from Start to Finish from a Seriously Successful Entrepreneur
We are all creatives, so we all have big ideas. The difficulty with that, however, is that sometimes these ideas never get to see the light of day because day-to-day life, procrastination or even feeling overwhelmed by the scope of our ideas gets in the way. Scott Belsky, an entrepreneur and the founder of Behance, Adobe’s online portfolio site for professional creatives, has written books on finishing projects. And we’re lucky, because he’s also one of our keynote speakers at Re:Make 2015 (get your tickets here!).
He has some advice for us on how we as creatives can carry an idea from start to finish. After all, you don’t get to be Vice President of Creative Community at Adobe without knowing how to close on a project. “Thomas Edison famously quipped, ‘genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration,'” Scott tells us. Here are Scott’s top tips for seeing your dreams into reality.
1. Find a good idea: “Once you have an idea accompanied by lots of conviction, find an action you can quickly take. Only through successive action will you determine the validity of the idea, engage others in your pursuit and make progress,” says Scott. “There are three vital points to moving a great idea forward — organize what needs to be done with a bias toward action, get people involved and assemble the dream team required to execute. Unless you can manage your actions, expand your circle of colleagues and control your projects, you’ll never give birth to anything new.”
2. Set aside five percent of your time for slow cooked ideas: “We rarely get the chance to create something without a deadline looming. Often, it’s only our personal projects that enjoy the benefits of slow cooking, usually by necessity, not choice. While these projects tend to be neglected, when (and if) they actually do come to fruition they are extraordinary,” Scott says. “Write down thoughts and come back to them without a deadline in mind – over weeks, months or even years. Over time, refine these musings, delete pieces add layers and let them evolve naturally. We can round out our work by keeping a few slow-cooked projects going in the background of our frenetic day-to-day lives. The secret of slow cooking is to not to forget what you’ve got on the stove and to keep coming back to it. See if you can give these ‘slow projects’ five percent of your time as part of your routine.”
3. Embrace the power of uncertainty: “Make sure your objective acts as a guide, but isn’t too limited or pre-determined for your idea. If it’s too broad, the possibilities are infinite and there are no rails to bump up against to spark new ideas. If your objective is too focused, there is no room for exploration that leads to true innovation. An objective that strikes a balance between these two extremes will be the most useful,” says Scott.
4. Pick a system to keep you on track: “The most productive people and teams are obsessed with capturing and completing tasks. The common theme among the most productive people I know is that they operate with a bias toward action,” he tells us. “Find what works for you (the more custom the system the more likely you are to be loyal to it!), but make sure it revolves around action. Capture every task, end every meeting with a summary of things that start with verbs and hold yourself and your team accountable.”
5. Declare war on friction: “Don’t be satisfied with the way you do everyday things like run meetings, manage email or schedule your time. Oftentimes, we fail to optimize our everyday processes because we assume that we shouldn’t fix something unless it’s broken,” Scott says. “Consider making small tweaks to your daily routine, such as checking email after your commute to the office instead of when you first wake up, to see how it affects your overall productivity,” he adds. “Some call this ‘A/B testing,’ where you make a change, test it out, and then decide whether to adopt the change as the new normal or revert to the previous version.”
6. Know when to walk away: “Most ideas are like bad relationships: You know you have to move on, but the idea of letting go seems too unbearable to handle. My team and I have heard excuses from ‘It’s just a matter of time before this idea succeeds’ to ‘This idea is just too perfect to give up.’ But, in reality, the same rule that holds true for relationships should apply for ideas: If it’s going nowhere, it is sometimes best to move on,” Scott tells us. “Many creative professionals feel pressured to move the ball forward on all of their projects. But sometimes we are blinded by our passion for the ideas we have conceived ourselves (conception, not surprisingly, is a very emotional process). We spend so much time pushing all of our ideas to fruition that we’ve lost a sense of perspective. The same passion that drives a creative to succeed can also interfere with judgment. Sometimes, the best idea is to kill an idea that is consuming a lot of your energy.”