Massive thanks to the 20SB Summit folks and BrandAboutTown for organizing a really cool blogger-focused conference event earlier this year. I spoke on a fun panel, but the highlight of the trip was hearing Scott Belsky (of the Behance Network) present.
He’s an absolutely fantastic speaker and I think we all got a brain full from this guy Here are some of his nuggets of awesome:
“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration” How can we defy the odds and make our ideas happen again and again?
Creativity / ideas + organization and execution + communal forces + leadership capability = Making Ideas Happen
Where is your sacred space for you to think? It is a competitive advantage — create windows of non-stimulation during the days. Time to shut down and focus on 2-3 things you really want to make an impact on. Sketch, read, think, process, do, grow. Repeat.
It’s worth spending energy on how you organize. Sure you can write and blog – but is your daily organization an afterthought? Take time to audit how you organize yourself. Creativity x organization = impact you make with your ideas.
“Organize with a bias to action” — attraction breeds loyalty in productivity systems too. Harvey Weinstein movie producer took copious amounts of notes during day, regular stuff in black and actionable stuff in red (at end, he and all of his crew would know exactly what to do with the notes. Productive and simple).
Apply the Action Method
The action method is 3 things:
- Action steps – immediate to-do’s
- References – these can cloud action steps (Moleskines full of notes, but actions and notes are combined and nothing gets done)
Google holds ‘standing only’ meetings (even phone calls) — to get through them, don’t commentate rather content-ate (pressure to avoid that)
Grow a culture of capturing action steps – are you capturing everything that’s actionable (‘did you capture that?’ is an important phrase for meetings to make sure stuff gets done). Be sure to also create a backburner ritual — go through list of back burner items (monthly beer and cross out) to keep things fresh and give your brain another place to go when you are hungry for a little bit of newness.
Let’s talk about email
On EMAIL! Scott’s big suggestion: emails less than 3 sentences have 60% faster response time than longer emails. Short and sweet — and communicate actions first, don’t lead with summary and non-actionable stuff. And never, ever forget to include a numbered list if you’ve got more than one topic to cover.
You can hack the subject line too, to make it easier for people to know how to respond to your email before even opening it. Every email subject should have an FYI or Action to increase responsiveness and productivity.
The typed word is easily ready into — be sure to take disagreements offline (or misunderstandings) – CALL THEM to straighten out, then reply all with decision / consensus. Act as quickly as possible to clear the air and keep the positive and productive vibes flowing.
Progress through prioritization
Progress begets progress – surround yourself with milestones, project updates (inspiration to come up with ideas is easy, inspiration to take action is much more actionable)
Prioritize your projects visually — try an energy line (extreme / high / medium / low) — on bulletin board to keep it public and in your sight.
- Only a select few things get to be in extreme and high – force yourself to make difficult decisions, teams always disagree so it’s debated
- People that miss deadlines on group projects usually do so NOT bc they don’t care, but because no one prioritized
Reduce your amount of insecurity work — this work are all of those little things that don’t move the ball forward, beyond assuring us that everything is okay (we fill our days with it because we can — not because it’s important).
Also be aware of “switching cost” – re-adjustment time to get back to what you were doing. Avoid it. Plan better.
Optimize to surpass your horizon of success — do individual ‘A / ME’ testing. Change one little thing in your workflow and see how it goes for a week. Works? Keep going. Doesn’t? Try something different. Implement and study t he impact of little optimizations – not too many at once.
Tap into the Communal Forces around you
Share ideas liberally — Seek competition — competitive forces can be your impetus to act, so be sure to pace yourself with other designers and folks in industry.
Tap the power of circles — Impressionists met to discuss progress, work, challenges. Create a SMALL circle with regular meetings, mandatory meetings (miss this many – you are out) and a leader to enforce accountability.
Fight your way to breakthroughs – apathy screws people over. Fighting is a good thing, if you care you are willing to fight it out. This is important to remember when working with a team. Don’t become burdened by consensus – the lowest common demoninator we all agree on isn’t too amazing.
Find your sacred extremes (polarizing elements, but the ones you really believe in) — ‘I will compromise on everything, but XX’. These will help guide you during heated debates and project work in all the best ways.
Lead your creative projects to the finish line
Leaders talk last – when Jack Welch walks into a room and says ‘here’s what I think – what do you think? no one speaks up. Silence your inner visionary long enough to hear what your team thinks and buy engagement from your team – fully utilize your team’s skills.
Find and empower the ‘hot spots’ on your team — they may not always be the leaders or loud people, find who really is the power house and focus on them.
Develop others through appreciation — how do you give feedback? How do you ensure to improve the outcome without being negative?
Act like a professional storyteller at a workshop — a Cape Cod workshop has each storyteller share a story they are working on and the other storytellers stand in circle and each share 2 things they appreciated. Then the storyteller re-tells the story again in middle of circle naturally emphasizing the elements that were given great feedback. This critical storyteller feedback circle continues in a 3rd or 4th round, improving each time through positive reinforcement.
Value the team’s immune system — your team’s ‘doers’ are the immune system (they kill off things that could dilute the project), but when solving a problem or retrying something new — you have to suppress that (like in an organ transplant) at first. You don’t want the rigid common sense to kill off a great idea or spirit of creativity.
Judge based on initiative (not experience) — this is how you hire and engage // most experienced person is often what we look for by default, but sometimes that’s not what you need. Instead, seek genuine interest, you want an initiator.
Gain confidence from doubt — if 99% of people don’t believe in it: you’re either crazy or you’re really on to something. Status quo oils the gear of society and keeps things going — nothing extraordinary is ever achieved through ordinary means. Be extraordinarily unique, bold and awesome. Great things will follow.