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Serial Entrepreneur: Solution Providers Need More Than Good Ideas To Reap The Fruits Of Innovation

Michael Novinson

Businesses need to focus more on productivity and execution and less on idea generation if they wish to consistently be innovative, according to serial entrepreneur Scott Belsky.

Companies tend to experience an infusion of energy and excitement when a new idea strikes, with many employees willing to burn the midnight oil to push the idea forward, said Belsky, who founded Behance, the world's largest online platform of creative professionals.

But as time passes and workers fall behind on other stuff, Belsky said organizations too often enter what he calls the "project plateau" and fail to see a quality idea through to its conclusion.

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"What we really want to do when we enter this zone is return to the energy and excitement that accompanied a new idea," Belsky said in a keynote Tuesday at CompTIA's ChannelCon 2017 event in Austin. "So we just come up with another idea."

But the infatuation with idea generation isn't the only thing holding back the execution of creative ideas, Belsky said. The so-called "gravitational force of operations" can also prevent leaders from pushing great ideas or projects forward within their teams, Belsky said.

"The urgent always seems to beat the important in terms of winning our time," Belsky said.

Most companies are made up of three types of people, Belsky said. The first are doers, who Belsky said are typically viewed within the organization as "Debbie Downers."

"The doer goes to bed at night really happy and satisfied when there are no new surprises the next day, when everything is on track, on budget and as planned," Belsky said.

Belsky views the doers as the immune system of an organization, meaning they need to be empowered on a daily basis to kill ideas that are off-track.

"Most of the ideas need to be killed in order for us to stay on track and under budget and be really productive," Belsky said.

On the other end of the spectrum are dreamers, who are typically thinking about what new ideas they can bring to their team even if a project deadline is breathing down the company's neck.

"The dreamer goes to bed happy when there is something new to introduce to his or her colleagues the next day," Belsky said. "The dreamer's Mecca is new stuff."

Dreamers need to be empowered when a business is transitioning into brainstorming mode, Belsky said. This typically happens when a company is trying to solve an old problem in a different way, or trying to create a brand new offering, or service a brand new type of customer.

Somewhere between those two extremes are the incrementalists, who Belsky said have the innate ability to rotate between dreamer and doer mode. Although this sounds good in theory, Belsky said this too often means that the incrementalist has moved on from a good idea before it has even seen the light of day.

"They create too many darn things, and none of them ever scale," Belsky said.

Belsky said it is essential that organizational leaders surround themselves with people of the opposite tendency. Companies are typically started by creative or passionate people, Belsky said, meaning that putting doers in senior leadership roles is critical for execution and gaining scale.

"You need to hire and empower those sober monitors, those designated drivers, who can make sure that you, in fact, are keeping a strong immune system when you need it," Belsky said. "Otherwise, it becomes this intoxicating orgy of idea generation, and nothing ever gets done."

Saddleback Communications has long been focused on keeping the good ideas flowing without stifling responsiveness, according to Paul Grimes, a senior sales and business executive.

The Scottsdale, Ariz.-based solution provider requires all 45 of its employees to take their core competencies and replicate their expertise across the entirety of the company, Grimes said. This has helped Saddleback Communications avoid silo-ization and remain open to new ideas.

"We don't just have one person doing one thing," Grimes said. "Everybody has to be good at doing lots of things."