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Generating ideas is easy. It’s executing them once they’re exposed, that’s challenging. For six years, creative industry guru and entrepreneur, Scott Belsky, studied prolific creative professionals. He found that those who were most successful followed similar procedures. Using formulas seems counter-productive to the freestyle image of creatives. Belsky details his findings in his new book entitled, “Making Ideas Happen: Overcoming The Obstacles Between Vision & Reality.”
Belsky says three elements are needed to realize your ideas: 1. Organization and Execution. 2. Engage the Community. 3. Develop your Leadership Skills.
In an ongoing series of articles highlighting Belsky’s message, forthcoming is the beginning needs of leadership. To qualify and scale your creative endeavors depends on your ability to lead. Start by examining the rewards system that governs your creative pursuits, realizing that long-term vision isn’t enough.
How we spend our energy is greatly influenced by our need for swift gratification and our circle of influence demands.
The drive to pursue long-term creative goals challenges the comfortable trickling stream of short-term rewards meant to maintain the status quo. To realize our ideas, we must repeatedly find ways to overpower our basic tendencies for short-term gratification. Following are three key points to achieve long-term goals:
Short-Circuiting the Rewards System. From an early age, formal education ingrains a short-term rewards system that impedes our ability to make things happen. We studied for tests to get an “A,” seldom taking time to review incorrect answers. In the workforce, the good grade became the paycheck, recognition, and potential for a raise or bonus.
These tendencies become destructive when pursuing long-term goals or attempting something extraordinary. It’s challenging to pursue bold ideas against all odds and build a system of incremental rewards to make them possible.
Regardless of how spectacular our ideas may be, short-term rewards- keeping our job, recognition, or garnering a raise, attract our energy.
As humans, we’re motivated by novelty. The honeymoon stage of any idea is the easy part. But when execution is needed, the harsh reality of actually making ideas happen is the need for long-term commitment. Without incremental rewards to guide us, we begin to question our progress and potential for success.
To lead your team (and yourself), through bold creative projects, you must short-circuit your focus on the short term. To do this, you need to hold two competing concepts in mind at once:
- Unplug from the traditional rewards system. To divert from short-term rewards, you must be willing to go without “success” as defined by others. It’s imperative to succeed in the long term. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to sustain your long-term projects amidst the desire to be validated by others.
- Stay engaged by setting up a system of incremental rewards. If you can’t completely overcome your obsession with short-term rewards, use it to your advantage and establish a series of near-term rewards (psychologically similar to grades, paychecks and affirmations). This could be appreciating the value of lessons learned, building games into your creative process, or earning gifts upon achieving certain milestones. Know what motivates you and then tweak your incentives to sustain your long-term pursuits.
- Happiness is its own reward. Zappos.com, the largest online shoe store, reveres customer service. Commitment and contentment of its employees is extremely important. CEO, Tony Hsieh, believes happiness can serve as an alternate form of compensation without limits or tangible costs. Company training programs, internal recognition award programs, other perks and all initiatives are designed to promote happiness. Utilize alternate rewards that keep you and your team engaged while pursuing long-term goals and advancing your ideas. During the early stages of making ideas happen, traditional methods for acknowledging progress (i.e. financial rewards, celebrity), will unlikely be available to you. Emphasizing happiness changes the type of goals you pursue and how you hire and manage people along the way.
The Motivational Reward of Play. Belskynotes the Bubble Project, in which blank thought -bubble stickers were placed on advertisements on New York City streets. Pedestrians were invited to fill them in. The project transformed dull corporate monologue into a public dialogue. It became a playful method for providing guerrilla commentary. The WTC Logo Preservation Project attempted to capture photos and signage of NYC depicting the city’s skyline, pre 9/11. Creative director, Ji Lee, designed both projects. “Games keep things simple and keep people engaged,” he says. Games promote learning, creativity and motivation. By valuing play and enjoyment, Lee is able to consistently create ideas; and stay engaged long enough to follow through.
The Reward of Recognition. Belsky highlights company leaders who subscribe to the “We, not me,” mentality, an atypical philosophy of the credit-hoarding executive. Often, in organizations, when great ideas are produced, the CEO exudes pride. In rough times, it becomes a blame game. Recognition for successfully completed projects is most powerful when it’s distributed. “Success is a valuable currency that can be distributed to the team. The only bank account that the shared credit depletes is the leader’s ego,” says Belsky.
To make your ideas happen, tap into the power of short-circuiting your short-term rewards system to realize your long-term desires.
To join the conversation with other creative professionals, visit the online think tank, The 99 Percent: Http://www.the99percent.com.
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