Recently, 350 business leaders and thinkers gathered in New York for Behance's first annual 99% conference, the first creative gathering focused NOT on ideas, but on how ideas are made to happen. The conference’s moniker comes, of course, from the famous Thomas Edison quote: "Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration."
In effect, the gathering exploded the Behance research lab onto a larger stage, as we heard insights from luminaries like Cheryl Dorsey, the president of Echoing Green; Ji Lee, the Creative Director at Google Creative Lab; and Michael Beirut, a partner at Pentagram.
As we listened to these luminaries speak, a few guiding principles for making ideas happen emerged. Over the course of this multi-part series of 99% posts, we'll be sharing some of those insights with you.
1. “Brutal prioritization, maniacal focus."
Jake Nickell and Jeffrey Kalmikoff started Threadless, a community-driven t-shirt company, in 2000. Today, Threadless is a multi-million dollar company that sells over 100,000 t-shirts a month and engages an active community of 900,000 members.
“Brutal prioritization, maniacal focus” is the 2009 Threadless mantra, and was a theme throughout the conference. Assuming you can’t do everything, prioritizing the right tasks and focusing in on accomplishing them as quickly as possible is requisite for success in business.
To illustrate the point, the duo showed a telling picture from the early days of the company: Jake’s mostly empty apartment with his computer and desk shoved in front of the entry door so that he couldn’t leave until he had finished his latest web development tasks.
2. “Surround yourself with people who motivate and push you."
Scott Thomas, Design Director of New Media, Obama for America, likened running all creative for what was arguably the most well-branded presidential campaign in history to building an airplane while in flight.
Thomas couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of surrounding oneself with a collaborative team filled with people who possess very different perspectives and that can motivate and push each other. In short, great minds don’t think alike – they think both differently and collaboratively, challenging each other to hone good ideas into great ideas.
3. The problem contains the solution.
Michael Beirut, partner at renowned design house Pentagram, spoke on another topic that was a recurring theme throughout the conference: the ability to view problems as opportunities rather than a source of frustration. Beirut talked about the challenges of creating a sign for the New York Times’s new Times Square headquarters.
The sign needed to simultaneously be 15 feet tall (and mounted on the building) while also not obscuring the view of the staffers inside the structure. The innovative solution embraced, rather than rejected, the restraints that defined the project – and, the result (which you can read about here) was all the more gratifying for it.
Link to Defining 99%: Part Two.
**Image courtesy of Jake and Jeffrey from Threadless.
***The Behance team researches productivity and leadership in the creative world. These entries are adapted and edited by Jocelyn K. Glei from the Behance team's past articles and research. Behance runs the Behance Creative Network, the Action Method project management application, the Creative Jobs List, and develops knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen.