Making Ideas Happen Summary

1-Sentence-Summary: Making Ideas Happen is a systematized approach to coming up with creative ideas and, more importantly, actually executing them, that teams and companies can use to move their business and the world forward.

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Scott Belsky is an investor, entrepreneur and the author of Making Ideas Happen. In 2006, he created Behance, a place where designers and creatives can display their work online and show their portfolios to the public. Since 2010, he’s been investing in startups in the early seed stage, and he’s hit some home runs with unicorns like Pinterest, Uber and Warby Parker.

In 2012, he sold Behance to Adobe and has focused on investing ever since. Having built such a creativity-focused company, he decided to share what he’s learned in the process in this book.

Basically, it’s a call to action for creative people to not spend too much time with their heads in the clouds and get executing. Here are my 3 favorite lessons:

  1. For each new project, come up with a full task list and sort all of them into three buckets.
  2. Figure out whether you are a dreamer, doer or incrementalist and then get partners that complement you.
  3. Sort your projects in the right order with an Energy Line.

Ready to make 2017 the year you’ll make ideas happen? Let’s go!

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Lesson 1: Break all of your projects down into tasks in three categories.

As long as you’re in school, life is wonderfully straightforward. Turn to page 19 of your workbook, do exercise 7f, 3g and 12a and you’re done for the day. But the minute you finish it and want to get something done in the real world, you’ll realize life is actually a whole lot messier.

Your boss won’t tell you who to send the email to, which task you should take care of first and what creating a marketing plan specifically contains.

But don’t fret. Scott has simple three-category approach to tackling projects, which, with a little thinking, will make your life almost as easy as it used to be in school.

Let’s say you’re given the job of hosting a workshop for your sales team. You can then start working out the three different kinds of tasks you have to take care of:

  1. Action steps. The actual steps you have to take in minute detail, which in this case will range from “create participants list” over “book a room” to “write outline for the program,” etc.
  2. References. Valuable pieces and sources of information you’ll want to consult or look at for your project, for example adjusting the program in accordance with all sales team leaders or looking at last year’s sales numbers so you know what needs to be improved.
  3. Backburner items. The things that would be “nice to have,” but aren’t necessities. Decorating the room or arranging an afterwork dinner party, for example will improve your workshop, but aren’t vital parts in pulling it off and can be left aside if time gets tight.

By sorting your tasks into these three buckets, you’ll have a clear picture of what to do first and a good overview of what really needs to be done for a project to be successful.

Lesson 2: What are you? A dreamer, a doer or an incrementalist?

Knowing your tasks is one thing. Knowing yourself is another. According to Scott Belsky, there are three types of people when it comes to making creative projects a reality:

  1. Dreamers. You know, the guy with hundreds of ideas, but not much results to show for, because he’s so preoccupied with coming up with new, arguably awesome ideas, that he has a hard time seeing one of them through.
  2. Doers. The pragmatic girl from accounting, who always asks about the financials first, because she’s focused on what’s feasible and realistic. While good at finishing projects, she can’t really warm herself to new and exciting ideas.
  3. Incrementalists. The people who can do both when they need to. The thing they struggle with is that they often start too many things at once and end up not finishing many projects or not giving important ones the attention they deserve.

Which one are you? It’s really not hard to discern. The second I read the definition of an incrementalist, I knew I was one. I have ideas. I execute. But I keep starting more than I can handle and then shutting down some things.

No matter which one you are, all of these have advantages and disadvantages. The point is that once you know, you can partner up with the people that complement you, because they’re a dreamer to your doer or an incrementalist to your dreamer. Together, you’ll go a lot further than alone!

Lesson 3: Create an Energy Line to make sure you spend your time on what’s most important.

Look at all those files, folders and stacks of paper on your desk. How many projects currently in progress are there? 3? 5? 10? No matter how many there are, we usually make one fundamental flaw in judging which one we should be working on right now:

Deciding based on how much energy we’ve already put into them.

It’s tough to let go of the cooperation with the local school when you’ve already put so much time into it – but if it’s not getting results, it’s not getting results.

Go through all of your projects. Sort them by strategic and economic value. Think about how important they are. Forget about the sunk costs, time and energy. Ask how much time you should put into them in the future, not how much time you have put in in the past.

The new pile will become your Energy Line – the line of your projects sorted by how much energy you’ll put into them – and it can serve as a guide for what to do next at all times.

Making Ideas Happen Review

I’m a big believer in anything that helps you become more self-aware – and Making Ideas Happen is definitely a book that helps you do that. Knowing whether you’re a dreamer, doer or incrementalist alone will have a huge impact on how you do things in the future. Thumbs up!

Who would I recommend the Making Ideas Happen summary to?

The 25 year old, who just started his first job at a marketing agency and is overwhelmed with all the responsibility, the 39 year old project manager, who wonders why her team keeps spinning its wheels, and anyone who secretly knows there’s a project they’ve spent way too much time on already.

Last Updated on August 6, 2022

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Niklas Göke

Niklas Göke is an author and writer whose work has attracted tens of millions of readers to date. He is also the founder and CEO of Four Minute Books, a collection of over 1,000 free book summaries teaching readers 3 valuable lessons in just 4 minutes each. Born and raised in Germany, Nik also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration & Engineering from KIT Karlsruhe and a Master’s Degree in Management & Technology from the Technical University of Munich. He lives in Munich and enjoys a great slice of salami pizza almost as much as reading — or writing — the next book — or book summary, of course!