It’s not about the idea (or creativity)


This week, I am featuring favorite clips from my various interviews with Scott Belsky, a Cornell grad (OK, so he also has an MBA from Harvard…) who was recently named one of the 100 most creative people by Fast Company.    He’s also recently published his book, Making Ideas Happen.

Scott’s successes never surprise me.  I saw it all coming during his days as an undergraduate at Cornell.  Not only did he fashion his own major (creative!) through the Interdisciplinary Studies option, but he also shaped his own experiences at Cornell to be unique.  He ran a small startup, he was a leader in all kinds of activities, including the Cornell Entrepreneurship Organization, and he did creative independent study projects in place of standard coursework.

Scott always had the entrepreneurial bug, exploring new ideas, turning over options and thinking in a visionary way.  After graduation, he spent time at Goldman Sachs,  where he landed a position in their prestigious Pine Street Leadership program, but I just knew that the entrepreneurial itch would catch up with him.


Accordingly, I wasn’t at all surprised when in 2007 he started his business:  In the clip below, you can hear how he approached it in the early days, including his decision to pursue the company at the same time he was enrolled in the MBA program at Harvard!

One component of the business is the Behance Network for creatives, with a homepage so beautiful, I just go there once a day to browse the amazing photos and stunning artwork. I also love Behance’s product line, which includes, beautiful paper products, and a terrific online tool called the Action Method, that has helped my team organize projects and share to-do lists.

Here are some more of my favorite clips:

Scott talks about the components of a startup that can make or break its success:

In this clip, Scott provides a sense of the deep responsibility you feel when leading a company:

Here, Scott dispels the myth that entrepreneurial life is all about flexibility and autonomy.

I highly recommend Scott’s book.  Although focused on “creatives”, I find his advice a practical and challenging approach relevant to anyone struggling to go from ideas to action.  His somewhat surprising advice has little to do with creative techniques for brainstorming or methods for opening up the creative juices.  He sticks to the three things he says are needed to make any idea happen: “modify your organizational habits, engage a broader community, and develop your leadership capability.”

Scott lives this philosophy, making each idea a project, with clear action steps, managed carefully to create forward momentum.  In his entrepreneurial venture, he has modeled the use of collaboration, creating excitement around all his projects and taking the lead in moving them forward. His advice sounds simple, but I have found it challenging to follow in practice Nonetheless, the principles are effective when I succeed in applying them.    Well, Scott never promised it would be easy.

Once final piece of thought I’d like to share is from a clip, where Scott talks urges listeners to maintain a fundamental belief in their entrepreneurial vision, even while adapting and shaping the products and services along the way:

“I feel like every day is an investment in something …..You don’t necessarily know what will come of it. ….So we have to kind of have some faith in what we believe will be the right path but also some openness to whatever happens.”

That is both comforting and challenging.  Just like Scott.

2 thoughts on “It’s not about the idea (or creativity)

  1. Hi Deborah,

    We hope this finds you well. What a treat to read this and listen to the motivational videos. Thank you for taking the time to promote Scott’s work while you inspire students to follow their passions and believe that with hard work and guidance they can make their ideas happen.

    Warm regards,
    Nancy and Mark

  2. Great post Prof. Streeter…I’ve been reading it on the way to work. Lots of good examples in the book.

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