99U Conference 2015: Six insights on making ideas happen

The only permission you need is your own.

Great ideas are not enough

“Genius”, said Thomas Edison, “is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”. Hard to disagree if you ask us, especially when the wonders of outstanding creative work come to life only through those who make things happen. That’s why, every year, Behance organises the 99U Conference – to help shift the focus from idea generation to idea execution. Great ideas are not enough if they can’t be brought to life through fantastic execution.

The premise of this conference is simple. By bringing together some of the world’s most productive creative visionaries, leading researchers and people who excel at executing their ideas, Behance aims to provide road-tested insights on making your ideas happen.

Making things happen in 2015

These last few years, we’ve had some amazing insights from world-renowned creatives coming out of the 99U Conference. Scott Belsky asked us to ask ourselves ‘what are you willing to be bad at?’. James Victore officially proclaimed that your work is a gift. Entrepreneur Marc Ecko shared thoughtful advice on how to take control of your creative career. Ink & Slide designer Robert Brunner explained what all great design companies know. Tina Roth Eisenberg simply asked us to stop complaining and instead start creating. Making ideas happen almost sounds easy when you’re armed with such valuable advice (spoiler alert: it’s still not easy).

So what happened in this year’s 99U Conference? Here are the six key insights we think are worth sharing.

1. Collaboration and innovation go hand in hand

This year’s 99U Conference kicked off with great thinking by serial idea executors such as entrepreneur Wil Reynolds, author Heidi Grant Halvorson and architect Clive Wilkinson.

While Wil explained the importance of delegating, planning before you perspiring and knowing the difference between checking something on your to-do list and making true impact, Heidi explored the well-known (and always important) subjects of trust, being instrumental and creating a community sense of ‘us’ in order to make ideas happen.’Community’ was also the key word to Clive, who talked about the importance of thoughtfully designing cities, making space for experimentation and play and always keeping in mind that transparent environments produce the best results when it comes to your well-being.

2. Change your perspective for optimal results

We all know that creativity lives and breeds new perspectives, but just how important are they to make things happen? In the second half of the first day in this year’s 99U Conference, we got to explore just that, with the contributions of entrepreneur Rohan Gunatillake and author/professor Kelly McGonigal.

They, of course did not disappoint: we talked about making with generosity in mind, prioritising human metrics and decoupling who we are from what we do, while keeping in mind that stress is an indicator of a purpose-driven life, which ultimately turns stressful moments into amazing opportunities for growth.

3. Know yourself first and foremost

The insight comes from entrepreneurs Anil Dash, Kimberly Bryant and Alex Blumberg – self-awareness is key if you want to make ideas happen.

That, of course, is easier said than done: first of all, we need to understand and acknowledge our biases and actively work to change them. Only then can we excel at telling our story, sharing our values and opening the doors for the next generation, because ultimately, when we lead, every message – and every idea we bring to life – counts. Knowing ourselves before creating for ourselves and others is essential when we’re aiming to make ideas happen.

4. Be open if you want to succeed in business

Building a business – especially a creative one – requires a simple idea but also the ability to scale it without losing your mind. In order to talk about that, in the second day of the 99U Conference we had the pleasure of listening to entrepreneurs Steward Butterfield, Rob Forbes and Chris Anderson. So what did they have to share?

Information hoarding, for starters, is bringing more damage than you may think, since it limits collaboration in a business environment. Getting rid of that requires of course that you recognise and optimise your own constraints, while seeking out empathy in who you hire to support your vision. Other things to keep in mind: value curiosity over cleverness, admit you’re a little crazy but remember – failure is always an option, and that’s ok. A few things help of course – choose the best community, not the best technology, to build your business on top on. Learn by doing. Stay ahead of the competition to make your ideas happen before they do.

5. Practice, practice, practice

Curator Paola Antonelli, designer Rochelle King and artist Christoph Niemann agreed on one thing – the best way to learn is by doing and that’s how you truly tap into your creative genius.

We’re usually afraid to shock and fail but we shouldn’t – rejection, after all, is a signal we can use to keep pushing to make your ideas happen in a different way. In that sense, conflict is actually an opportunity because it helps widen our perspectives and build relationships with your workplace enemies to properly solidify your idea against critics. If all else fails, remember that practice makes perfect… but make sure to create a safety zone for your work! An idea is a precious thing that requires a certain ‘creative life insurance’ if you want to make your ideas happen slowly, but steadily.

6. Fear is natural but changing the world is a responsibility

This year’s 99U Conference came to a close with some powerful insights on changing the world. Thanks to entrepreneurs Franklin Leonard and Casey Gerald and comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, we learned a few tricks to make that huge task a bit more feasible.

First, realise that you don’t have to know everything to change things, but you can start by trying to influence others to change their perspective. Second, make sure you lead with your heart, find your people, create a community you’ll always want to listen to and seek (just a little bit) your uncomfortable side. Third, we live in a world where the bariers to being an entrepreneur are lower than ever, so the only permission you need is your own. Define your purpose, that question burning in your mind, that problem you can’t just let go of, and go tackle it. The world will thank you later.

How do you make things happen?

What advice do you have to share? How do you bring your ideas to life? What does ‘change the world’ mean to you? Share your insights with the hashtag #MakeYourselfHappen.