Making Ideas Happen: Book review

Photo of book, Making Ideas Happen

Scott Belsky is the founder and CEO of Behance, with some wise words to share in his book Making Ideas Happen. The book is exactly what the title says. It’s a collection of information and instruction you can use to make your ideas happen.

Overcoming obstacles between vision and reality (the book’s tagline) requires a sort of process to follow, says Belsky. But he also notes:

“When a process is imposed on you externally, it can weigh you down and diminish your energy.”

Amen! The solution, he says, is to customize a process to your own personal preference.

If you’re someone who doesn’t like process, read this book to discover why you need one and how to follow a process that doesn’t have to be painful.

If you’re someone who loves process (hello, Six Sigmas!) and makes a living instilling process on others, read this book to humanize what you do more (and get buy-in from more coworkers). This book could open you up to a more simple way of doing things but still keep you process oriented.

For creatives, if you can get over being insulted over and over throughout the Introduction of this book (I’m not kidding), you will take away some very valuable tools.

The earliest and arguably most important one would be the Action Method. The Action Method is based on the idea that everything is a project. And for every “project,” you need a system to reach your goal.

Belsky has a nifty method that breaks down parts of your project into three categories:

  1. Action Steps – The actual steps you must take to move your project forward
  2. References – Project-related notes, sketches, websites, etc., that you may want to or need to refer back to
  3. Backburner Items – Tasks and ideas that come up that are not actionable now, but may be in the future

Simple, right? That’s the idea. If your process or way of organizing doesn’t suit you or isn’t simple enough, you won’t use it. Yet you need structure to move your ideas forward.

This structure works for almost anything. Test it out by using this method to organize your e-mail. At work, you can use it on most projects and jot down action steps, items of reference and backburner ideas during meetings.

Use it in your personal life to:

  • Plan a remodel of a room or home
  • Keep track of all you have to do when buying and/or selling a home
  • Set up a financial plan
  • Plan a long vacation trip
  • Create a “to do” list for the week

Possibilities are endless. If the process were more specific and lengthy, chances are uses for it would be specific and limited too.

Belsky doesn’t just talk about process though. He explains how to work smarter and manage better through the three sections of his book:

  1. Organization and Execution
  2. The Forces of Community
  3. Leadership Capability

For a guy who started off by insulting creative people, he sure did put a lot of effort into helping us as well. His ideas for creating and maintaining a productive workplace are easily doable and right on the money.

When you read this book, you might want to keep some paper nearby to keep track of action steps that come to mind, references, and backburner items. Here are just a few tidbits you’ll find yourself underlining:

“A fearless approach to sharing ideas is one of the most common attributes” among successful creative people.

“Smaller, more confined spaces may help us focus more intently, while wide-open spaces with higher ceilings foster a more unencumbered way of thinking.”

“Writing is a particularly labor-intensive exercise that calls for pure discipline and perspiration…Sheer perspiration will only come from organizing your energy and holding yourself accountable with some sort of routine.”

The book holds probably thousands more fresh ideas on conflict, apathy, leadership, productivity, skeptics, brainstorming, best practices and more. I wish I could list them all.

This is the type of book that excites you while you read it, because you feel like you can’t wait to put these ideas into practice.

So, what are you waiting for? Stop reading this review and go make your ideas happen!


Your experience doesn’t have to end when you finish the book. You can download a free template of an Action Pad (to help you create Action Steps), join the 99% community, and attend the 99% Conference. Also, I was not compensated in any way for writing this review. I just spotted the book online after hearing about and thought it sounded interesting. I was right.

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