Making Ideas Happen


About 6 months ago I took Gallup’s StrengthsFinder. It is a self-discovery test and, as the name suggests, it focuses on strengths. According to StrengthsFinder my number 1 strength is Ideation. I am the guy to bring to your brainstorming meeting and the one who can come up with a meal to make when there is nothing in the fridge.

The problem is that an idea is inherently worthless. The only value that comes from an idea is in it’s execution. I’m not suggesting my strength is of no value, on the contrary I am exuberant to have Ideation as my top strength! What I have realized is that I need to focus on making my ideas reality.

Making Ideas Happen

Knowing my top strength is Ideation, a friend gave me Scott Belsky’s Making Ideas Happen. I just finished reading the book and was able to take away a lot to apply to my life.

Overall, I really enjoyed the first and last section of the book: Organization + Execution and Leadership Capability. The middle section The Forces of Community didn’t resound with me nearly as much, but maybe it would have in a different season.

An exquisite concept from Organization + Execution is the idea that one’s impact is a function of their level of Creativity multiplied by their level of organization, simply put Creativity x Organization = Impact. You may know someone who had extraordinary ideas and creativity, but no organization (100 x 0 = 0). You may also know someone who is half as talented, but is able to create a huge impact (50 x 5 = 250). Belsky creates this illustration to help us overcome the fear that structure will hamper our creativity.

Working in a start-up, I can identify with the fear of structure. I enjoy the freedom that comes with not having a set schedule and I feel that it boosts my creativity. However, this book made me realize that sacrificing a small amount of creativity to increase my organization can really affect my impact. In the middle of reading this book I started to use Asana to organize everything I am working on. At first it is overwhelming to see all the projects I have going on and the effort of organization can seem like a hassle, but now I can be confident that they are all written down so I won’t miss anything and when I am focused on working I have a prioritized list of what I need to do.

Leadership Capability

The last section of the book focused on leadership. My experience with leadership has been hard! I’ve had people at my company who have really bought in to what we are working on and others that didn’t seem to get it. This book showed me a new perspective of leadership.

StrengthFinder says that someone with Ideation as one of their strengths likes simple words or phrases that encapsulate a deeper concept. This rang true with me when the book quotes Dwight D. Eisenhower:

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

I really chewed on this quote for a while. At first I thought the quote made leadership sound a lot like manipulation! The definition of manipulation is actually pretty similar in some ways:

Manipulation: exerting shrewd or devious influence especially for one’s own advantage.

As I thought more about the Eisenhower quote I realized that the most essential part of what he said related to the person wanting to do it. I admit that when I lead (at home and at work) I easily focus too much on getting someone to do something rather than making them want to do it. And “making them want to do it” isn’t manipulation. The best leaders are able to get people to do something because it benefits both parties. From now on I want to focus my energy on showing others how my vision benefits them. I am confident if I can inspire them in that way, they will accomplish more for my cause than I could ever expect otherwise.

As I reflect on the people that have been the best to work with I realize that they bought into my vision. They would say things about projects we were working on that sounded like something I would say and they brought an energy and enthusiasm that matched my own.

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