(Photo by Alex Wong via Unsplash)
Just a few days ago, I finished Scott Belsky’s book: Making Ideas Happen. As founder of the Behance Network and 99U, Scott illustrates the many ways he struggled to execute and how other creative professionals did too. He talks about the action method, a process creative minds should implement in order to stay focused and productive while maintaining yourself motivated. You might think to yourself ‘But, I already do this. What’s new?’ Needless to say, the book basically shows you the symptoms you probably have, like Creative Immediacy or Reactionary Workflow. These, and many others, are some of the elements that your brain starts to use when there’s lack of focus, lack of action, and sometimes even lack of passion.
Thankfully, being self-aware of these aspects is the first step to recovery. The problem begins when entrepreneurs who have a creativity-first mindset circle around their ideas, continue creating and never actually push through. This is what Scott says we have to change; the mindset we have to cultivate. It is to have a relentless bias towards action.
An interesting way of putting it is the formula of number of ideas in relation to the ones you actually execute:
100 (creativity) x 0 (organization) = 0 impact.50 (creativity) x 2 (organization) = 100 impact.
This surfaces a very important point: the number of ideas you have don’t matter. It’s the ones you actually make happen.
Even though the first edition of the book came out in 2007, it’s amazing how everything still applies. In fact, Belsky names how he interviewed and talked to many successful entrepreneurs, analyzing how they implement their own versions of the action method and how this enabled them to become more successful.
So, here’s my 3 most important takeaways, which I plan to use and be accountable for.
1. Setting up a culture of action
Our startup Stereotheque is currently part of the NYU Accelerator. Fortunately for us, we’ve been able to make meaningful progress in certain areas. However, there is still too much noise and we have yet to find a way to focus in the stuff that matters. Thinking 24/7 in your startup doesn’t make it more or less successful. We can’t do just for the sake of doing. In fact, our most important resource is time, so we need to know how to spend it.
Following Belsky’s advice, everyone on the team needs to be empowered by writing down their own action steps. Here are the highlights:
- Capture Action Steps everywhere. Think expansively to include anything you should do (or delegate) to advance a project, whether personal or professional.
- Keep recording resources readily available. Write short statements that begin with a verb.
- Promote individual ownership to facilitate accountability. Delegated tasks ultimately fall on the Delegator.
- Foster an action-oriented culture to capitalize on creativity.
- Select personally pleasing recording materials to encourage usage.
2. Delegate action even if it leads to unpredictable change
Inspired from the first bullet point above, this is key, but still something we have to be careful with. As entrepreneurs, we’re biased towards our own ideas. Putting them in an untouchable pedestal. But for the sake of the startup, it’s the worse. We have to let go of our ideas, by letting other team members take the reins of the idea and make it their own. Delegating is a tough task, but a necessary one which also applies to every single discipline.
Music for instance is a great example. The moment where the bass player starts meddling with the guitar or the drums is when a new song or rhythm begins to surface. Or when the singer starts to hum a guitar lick for the song’s hook. As entrepreneurs, we have to embrace these moments. Embrace the process, not the event. There’s a note on how Alicia Keys became the global creative director for Blackberry. Not for the music, but because of her way to channel creativity and impact of her action.
3. Keep tabs on your actions through your own system
Having a system in place is key to hold yourself accountable for the actions you must take.
We currently use Trello to keep an coherent overview of our projects. Others like to use Asana because it may be more task-oriented. No matter the system you use, be sure to make it your own. But balance this with a team-centric place where your tasks can be seen or reviewed by other team members. This is the most important part.
When my pedalboard company was running, the issue I came across most often was the fact that the color of the pedalboard was very important for musicians. Not necessarily the weight or features, but the color. Why? Because they knew this visual cue would not only make them feel theirs was a unique pedalboard, but also motivate them to play and use it.
So for instance, I use only blue ink. Keep two separate notebooks. Use Trello to keep tabs of my own projects. I also use Streak for email and I’ve also tried to stop emailing myself stuff or links. This is useless and does not suggest a bias towards action.
Here’s to the next 5 weeks of startup acceleration with a relentless bias towards action.