In a recent interview that Scott Belsky (of Behance) and I conducted with cultural anthropologist and Internet storytelling pioneer Jonathan Harris, the creative mind behind such projects as We Feel Fine and The Whale Hunt, we talked about the romance of ideas. Having ideas is, of course, the easy part, while executing them is another matter entirely.
To Harris’ mind, “the depth of the disappointment [in executing an idea], directly correlates to the beauty of the original vision.” At first blush, his take can sound a bit tragic, but, in practice, it’s right on the mark. With all the talk of the power of ideas these days, it’s easy to forget that, by definition, an idea is Platonic. According to Merriam-Webster, the first definition of “idea” is: “a transcendent entity that is a real pattern of which existing things are imperfect representations.”
Harris gets at the imperfection that’s part and parcel of making any idea a reality. Once you take action, no idea, no business plan, ever plays out quite like you had expected. You try one approach, it fails; you refine your approach, try again. And so on and so on, until you get it right (or, more likely, right enough). Thus, what’s significantly more important than having a methodology for creating ideas is having a disciplined practice in place for executing them.
Merriam-Webster provides a better guide to success with its third definition, which calls an idea “a plan of action.” Taking such a pragmatic approach to idea generation requires a lot of elbow grease, but if we can learn to equate idea-making with action-taking, we’ll all be better off.
***This article is adapted from the research and writing of Jocelyn K. Glei, a creative strategist with expertise in editorial, design and publishing. She regularly collaborates with Scott Belsky and the Behance Team, who run the Behance Creative Network, the Action Method project management application, the Creative Jobs List, and develop knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen.