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By Scott Belsky, Making Ideas Happen. (2010). New York: Penguin. 231 pages.
Reviewed by Diane Byington, Ph.D.
This book might be for you if:
You have lots of ideas but have trouble getting them to actually happen
You tend to be disorganized and need help organizing your projects
You are excited and full of energy at the beginning of a project but get bored and distracted as time goes by, or you love starting projects but rarely complete them
Your job is to manage creative professionals
Scott Belsky, CEO and Founder of the online creative network, Behance, has spent his professional life working with creative people and helping them to make their ideas “happen.” His thesis is that great ideas abound, but getting them to completion is extraordinarily difficult and requires a different skill set than what is used to generate the idea. This book presents his ideas for what it takes to actualize an idea.
Daniel Pink, following up on his bestseller A Whole New Mind, picks up on another social trend that is growing in importance – a new way of motivating people. Here is his “cocktail party summary” of the book:
“When it comes to motivation, there’s a gap between what science knows and what business does. Our current business operating system – which is built around external, carrot-and-stick motivators – doesn’t work and often does harm. We need an upgrade. And the science shows the way. This new approach has three essential elements: (1) Autonomy – the desire to direct our own lives; (2) Mastery – the urge to get better and better at something that matters; and (3) Purpose – the yearning to do what we do in the service of something larger than ourselves.”
Everyone I’ve spoken with about this book relates an experience working for the two types of leaders discussed in these pages. Around some leaders (the Multipliers) they feel confident about their abilities and are willing to work their hardest, whereas around other leaders (the Diminishers) they feel inept and are unwilling to contribute more than the minimum required to keep the job. Unfortunately, I heard many more stories about the problems of working for a Diminisher than the joys of working for a Multiplier. The focus of this book is understanding the difference between these two leadership styles and learning how to move from being a Diminisher to a Multiplier.
A Multiplier is defined as a leader who is able to understand and solve hard problems rapidly, achieve goals, and adapt and increase the team’s capacity over time. A Diminisher is a leader whose team operates in silos, finds it hard to get things done, and despite having smart people, seems to not be able to do what is needed to reach goals.
Are you as tired of thinking about the dire economy, war casualties, and the oil spill as I am? Do you want to read something that is somewhat related to work, but easy and fun, and you won’t feel guilty about spending the time? If so, then I recommend anything by Malcolm Gladwell. This writer has an amazing ability to find patterns out of things that others miss, and his writing is entertaining and stimulating. He’s the guy who brought us the concept of the “tipping point,” which describes the point at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable. He’s written several books, all million sellers, and I chose to read Outliers for this review.
An outlier, according to Gladwell, is something that is markedly different in value from others in a statistical sample. He primarily focuses on the stories of people who have had great success, including Bill Gates. Gladwell looks underneath the stories to find that success is partially about individual striving, but it also includes luck, taking advantage of opportunities that are denied to others, talent and smarts, and lots and lots of practice.
Paul Osterman brings his academic perspective from the MIT Sloan School of Management to the issue of what is happening with middle managers today. Basically, he finds that middle managers are insecure in their jobs, more loyal to their teams than to the larger corporation, and like the work they do. None of these conclusions will be a surprise to people who work within corporations, but the data-driven analysis gives his words some weight.
One of the most intriguing discussions in his book is the history and perceptions of middle managers in the overall culture. Early in the twentieth century, advances in technology permitted cheap production on a very large scale. Middle management was the key actor that facilitated the remarkable growth and efficiency of the American economy. Without middle management’s coordination of production and distribution, firms could not grow big enough to take advantage of the technological potential of mass production and low unit cost. In other words, middle managers were heroes at first.
Daniel Pink opens our minds and shows us new possibilities in this entertaining book about how the right brain can contribute in a world that has long been devoted to left brain thinking. He begins by reviewing how the two halves of the brain work: the left hemisphere is sequential, analytical, verbal, and detail-oriented, while the right hemisphere processes information simultaneously, specializes in context, understands metaphor and nonverbal cues, and synthesizes the big picture. Pink’s thesis is that right-brain directed thinking, so often disdained and dismissed, will increasingly determine who soars and who stumbles.
He explains the reasons behind the shift from left to right brain dominance: abundance, Asia, and automation. In our abundance, we acknowledge that our left brains have made us rich. We can buy just about anything we want at a minimal price. This puts a premium on the aesthetic. For business, it’s no longer enough to create a product that’s reasonably priced and adequately functional. Now it must be beautiful, unique, and meaningful to be competitive.