My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Enjoyable read with some good ideas. A couple of the parts that really ‘stuck’ were:
– the danger of focusing too much on idea generation at the expense of the execution phase (becoming addicted to the ‘brain-spinning indulgence of idea generation’)
– the three types of people (dreamers, doers and incrementalists)
– importance of follow up and persistence
– need to share ideas (‘the more people who lie awake in bed thinking about your idea, the better’)
The book also goes into detail about the Action Method (personal productivity/project management/to-do system) which I found quite interesting, but it’s not a system that I’ve implemented or that I think could work for me (at least not at this point in time).
My notes from Making Ideas Happen
[Disclaimer: The notes below are rough, and may be a mixture of direct quotes, paraphrasing, and my own thoughts/ideas/reminders. They’re written here primarily for me (so they may not make much sense out of context, especially for those who haven’t read the book)].
(13) Two creative phases: ideation and execution. Need to be comfortable alternating between the two.
(14) Making ideas happen = the idea + organisation and execution + forces of community + leadership capability.
(31) Surplus of ideas is dangerous. Jumping from idea to idea spreads energy horizontally rather than vertically. Without structure – can become addict of ‘brain spinning indulgence of idea generation’. Recognise the tendency to bask in idea generation.
Brainstorming should start with a question and the goal of capturing something specific.
The Action Method:
- everything is project
- action steps: specific, concrete tasks that inch you forward
- references: project related notes, minutes, sketches, websites that you may want to refer to. not actionable.
- backburner items: not actionable now, but may be someday.
(38) The more clear and concrete an action step is, the less friction you will encounter trying to do it. Start each action step with a verb.
(40) Action steps – anything you should do (or delegate). Capture them all. Choose method that is readily available. Types of action steps for leaders: delegated, ‘ensure’, ‘awaiting’. Starting step with the word ‘ensure’ or ‘awaiting’ means it’s easy to search/retrieve electronically.
(42) Culture – take time out of every meeting to go around table and allow each person to recite the steps they captured.
(45) Backburner system – draw box on bottom of every note page, full will items over course of meeting, at end of day place items into folder/running text document. Need to periodically revisit – ritualise. Make calendar appointment.
(47) We seldom refer back to static documentation that clutters our lives. References obstruct bias toward action – miss opportunity to capture valuable action steps.
(48) Making references easily accessible – question it (what’s the relevance?), label it, file it.
(56) Capture – try to separate action steps from references and backburner items. Place in in-box for processing. Identify collective inbox and consolidate. Process – devote time to processing.
(64) Prioritisation. Keep two lists – one for urgent/one for important. Preserve different time for each. Don’t hoard urgent items. Challenge yourself to delegate when you’re in a position to do so.
Responsibility grid – names across top, common issues/circumstances on y-axis. Check (tick) for which team member responsible for which item.
(72) For the creative mind, the cost of waiting for conviction can be too great to bear. Waiting builds apathy and increases likelihood that another idea will capture fancy and energy.
(75-76) Disney. Three rooms. Move from idea generation -> critical review/evaluation.
Need to say ‘no’, more than you say ‘yes’.
- end with review of actions captured
- call out non actionable meetings
- standing meetings
Leaving a meeting without anything actionable signifies it was just an information exchange. Don’t call meetings out of own insecurity.
(83) Lizard brain.
(84) Big part of execution is persistence. When we rely on others to drive momentum, our projects are at their mercy. Follow up.
(88) Seek constraints.
(91) ‘Done walls’ – covered with old action steps. Need to see incremental progress in order to feel confident in creative journeys. Keeping things in sight – use wall for actionable items, sketches, ideas. Use your workspace to induce attention where you need it most.
(102) Physical workspace.
(104) Insecurity work. Seek information to make anxiety go away. Stuff that has no intended outcome does not move the ball forward.
(113) Dreamers, doers and incrementalists.
Dreamers – jump from one idea to another. Less likely to follow through.
Doers – focused on logistics of execution.
Incrementalist – Play both roles. Shift between phases.
Importance of partnerships.
(122) Sharing ideas. Geek dads – had the project not attracted viable team within 6 weeks, project would have been shelved.
Give all ideas away for free – will be improved by community. Share ideas liberally – if not for sake of own success then for the sake of society.
(131) Writers circles. Collaborative circles.
- 15 members or less. Accountable to each other as individuals rather than collective.
- Clear and consistent schedule.
- Meet frequently and stay accountable.
- Assign a leader.
- Extend circle online. Use online tools.
(138) Commit yourself in order to commit others.
(150) Difference between deplorable and sensational self-marketing is the intentions. Marketing should not be seen as fake. At its best marketing is about building relationships and learning.
Opportunity to communicate your objectives by seeking to understand those of others.
Marketing strengths – own responsibility.
(153) Monetization doesn’t happen directly.
Self-marketing strategy: start with intrinsic interests that can become person projects – projects that demonstrate strengths. 1) identify differentiating attributes, 2) communications strategy, 3) execute communications strategy.
(156) Frequency theory. We all emit our own unique frequency in our everyday lives. Creative mind w/particular idea emits a stronger but narrower signal. Our frequency determines the other people to whom we are most receptive and connected to.
(158) Visionary’s tendency to focus on what fellow open-minded early-adopting visionaries value. Creative people make stuff for creative people.
(173) Ji Lee. Search for element of fun and make it central to project overall. Games, fun, play.
(179) “T” people. Breadth of experience/skills to support collaboration and good chemistry and deep expertise in single area.
(180 – 181) Flexibility for productivity. Factory like culture. Measuring work by time spent – easy and objective, but defies realities of the creative work-flow. ROWE.
(184) Balance between ideas generation and focus. Bias toward considering ideas during brainstorming and killing when they come up during execution. Great ideas come up – but bias should be to stay focused.
(185) Conflict is good. Apathy must be avoided. Maintain engagement. When notice shortness or impatience confront with a question about the process – ‘how can we keep all options on the table?’.
(186) Don’t become burdened by consensus. Draw on best input without settling. Early and complete consensus is comfortable but almost always unremarkable. Sacred extremes – preserve extremes and seek common ground on the rest. Empower Department Head to make final call [see HBR podcast about Pixar].
(191) The more people who lie awake in bed thinking about your idea, the better.
Chris Anderson, Wired – ‘here’s an idea, who’s interested?’
(195) Story telling. Appreciations – feedback technique, focuses just on developing strengths.
“if our eyes are always looking for weakness, we begin to lose the intuition to notice the beauty”
Share 3 things you like about the piece of work (all positive). Next version is dramatically improved.
‘Go-to’ people. Survey of employees where they go for help. Reveals ‘nodes’. Hot spots are people with social power.
(203) Battle against natural tendencies – forces of organisation, community etc evade us because natural tendencies (to generate more ideas, to isolate ourselves) get in the way.
Personal commitment to psychological growth – circles, personal advisory boards.
(206) When something goes wrong:
- what external conditions may explain the failure?
- what internal factors may for compromised your judgement? what would you have done differently?
- any gems in unintended consequences?
(209) Practice of ‘contrarianism’ – act of purposely thinking against the grain when approaching problems and brainstorming new ideas.