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What Do you Do with your Ideas?

“It is a shame that most creative breakthroughs never materialize.”

That’s the philosophy behind Behance, a company dedicated to helping creative professionals turn their ideas into reality. The firm’s website provides networking opportunities, creative job listings, and articles and advice to enhance productivity.

That’s all useful stuff and certainly the positions on offer on the site, though few, are high quality. (There are only sixteen of them and none seem to be freelance, but Flickr is looking for a senior visual designer, and Apple wants someone to do design work on the iPhone.)

Behance’s main offering though is its Action Method.

This is a productivity approach designed specifically to help creative staff ensure that their plans aren’t lost somewhere between inspiration and implementation. It involves pulling three elements out of each creative process, whether that process is as formal as a brainstorming meeting in a lava lamp-lit room or as spontaneous as an article you’ve read on the MUNI or an idea that hits you on the head while sitting in the bath.

Each concept, Behance recommends, should leave you with Action Steps, Backburner Items and Reference Items.

The Action Steps are relatively clear. Behance gives examples that include “follow up with x, review y, meet with z.”

The Backburner is intended to be a place to hold ideas that “may someday require actions, or just to clear your mind of the little and non-urgent things.”

And Behance recommends that reference items should be kept sparingly to avoid clutter.

Burn your Ideas
None of these elements is particularly revolutionary. The BackBurner, for example, could be one of David Allen’s folders — a place where things go never to be seen again. (It’s not entirely clear why productivity systems think they need to tell us how to procrastinate but it does seem to be a vital — and probably the most popular — part of every work method.)

Reference Items are dismissed in one article on Action Method’s own website as being “generally pretty useless.” That’s likely to be an exaggeration. Most ideas will need some sort of research before the implementation process can begin, but it’s possible that Behance’s recommendation to keep that research to a minimum is one of the company’s most valuable suggestions. Collecting reference material can often be just another way of pushing an idea onto the backburner, replacing an action step with a procrastination step.

Reading about your project feels too much like you’re doing something to make it happen — even though you’re not.

It’s the Action Steps themselves though that are likely to be the element that brings the best results from the Behance’s system. Having an idea is nice. Describing that idea to other people and persuading them it’s the killer app that’s going to bring in the mega-bucks is even nicer.

But nothing is going to happen unless a course of action is clearly laid out right away.

Just being reminded of that simple truth is important. Remember to follow the Action Method and you should be able to drag a vision down to the ground and begin to put it in practical terms.

The Holy Grail of Creative Productivity
But the Action Method stops there, leaving any creative thinker with a whole bunch of vital unanswered questions. How do you organize the action steps? Which steps should be taken first and which put off until later? How do you prevent those later actions from disappearing over the edge of the backburner and never being acted on at all?

And most importantly, how do you extract practical steps from a creative vision? Is there a routine workflow that can turn any idea into a series of standard steps that need to be taken to reach the goal?

That’s really the Holy Grail of productivity systems and it’s one that, as far as we’re aware, no workplace guru has managed to track down.

It’s possible though that it is addressed in one of Behance’s advisory sessions, and it’s here that we can really begin to see the genius of the company’s system.

The ideas might be simple but as a marketing method designed to give potential clients a taste of what the company can do, Behance’s Action Method provides a great example. It attracts attention, outlines the benefits to clients and generates leads for its main product.

And it also provides sales for its long list of Action Method products — notebooks color-coded to match the system.

For any business looking to sell something as intangible as advice, it provides a great marketing model, even if it doesn’t do a great deal to increase creative productivity.

The Action Method does have its uses though. It can remind creative types that they need to get practical if they want to see results, and it tells them that it’s okay to put some things off and skimp on the research. But other than its lack of detail, it does have one major flaw: it isn’t a shame that most creative breakthroughs don’t materialize.

Most creative breakthroughs are worthless. Only a few will go on to generate money, and it’s those that tend to spark the enthusiasm and motivation to become real. It’s better that an idea withers away before it’s born than after months of effort have been put into its Action Steps and Reference Items.

Part of being successful involves knowing when not to take action — as well as which Action Steps to take.

Take a look at the Action Method here and tell us what you think.

[tags] gtd, productivity, creativity, behance [/tags]

One Comment

  1. twright Says:

    the buzz is that Action Method will soon be an online application that probably addresses a lot of the "then what?" questions...hoping this pans out...could REALLY use it.

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