THE BLOG
01/24/2013 04:02 pm ET | Updated Mar 26, 2013

How to Determine What to Focus on: Scott Belsky Interview (Part II)

Killing Your Darlings When Developing a Project

I asked Scott to address "killing your darlings" in the scope of developing a project. This is another thing that women have a more difficult time with than men because we want everyone to like us and all those sort of things, not that men don't, but really.

Scott shares an analogy using a bonsai tree. What you're trying to do with the bonsai tree is you're trying to make the trunk and the tree as strong as possible. And the way you do that is you actually cut all of the newest little leaves and branches in order to focus the strength of the needed growth of the tree and the trunk if need be. It's the hardest thing to do because these are the most beautiful, small, cute little branches and leaves that are sprouting out and it's really hard to kill them.

Scott says that authors always talk about these little pieces, those sentences and those little paragraphs that they had to cut even though they were so beautifully written and so elegant and sometimes they were little parts that they love, but they had to cut them in order to really make sure that the plot stay intact. Sometimes there are just some little pieces that are so hard to cut, but when you cut it, the story just makes more sense.

One of the most important challenges in the creative process is killing the little things that get in the way of the big things we're trying to achieve. And without the ability to do that, you're liable to miss out on the big opportunity.

Best practices for having focus

When we get heavy into the creative process, all too often, we stop remembering what the problem is that we're trying to solve. A lot of the greatest leaders of creative teams consistently anchor the discussion and the brainstorm back to, what is the problem. When you brainstorm, you're supposed to get lost a little bit, right? You're supposed to go down unexpected paths and see where it leads you. These are all very important things to do, it's a mistake to not do those things however, as you get on a different path, you have to consistently say, "What is the problem we're trying to solve?" "What is the problem for our customers?"

Pinpoint what is the question that the reader has. What are we trying to answer? It's one of those elemental structures that we often forget to apply to the creative process, that when not applied, can get us lost into oblivion.

Struggles of every small business

Creative enterprise is what's going to save our country. And having creative ideas is really what's going to make the difference between "Is your business going to strive?" or "Evaporate."
So the more we can have small business owners actually implement their ideas and the ideas that are most valuable, the more we can have a higher success rate in the small business community.

Scott believes that what all small business owners have in common is we are trying to be creative with limited resources. We're always trying to learn by doing. And one of the struggles that a lot of us have (we all have, to some degree) is taking action, really just actually taking action and innovation.

Trial and error

It really boils down to rapid iteration of trying something and failing and trying it a different way and failing and trying it the third way that actually works. So as we talk about being competitive in our market with larger companies and with other players and having to be innovative, really, that comes down to trying stuff which comes down to acting upon our ideas.

Waiting until things are perfect

One of the biggest mistakes we make is we feel like we shouldn't act until we're sure, we shouldn't do anything until it's absolute, and I think we're taught from our early days of childhood to always think before you act, think before you say, but in fact, I think sometimes we should act without conviction.

Solution: Take micro-action.

Scott says that as small business owners, we should become better, taking micro-action on little inklings, little ideas, pushing it out there, trying it. Now with these online tools at our finger tips, you can try a marketing campaign for $50 on Facebook targeting a certain demographic in your area.

You can try a lot of these things that five to 10 years ago were not available to try and act upon as a small business. So now is the time as a small business to take action consistently and with complete conviction to learn more quickly about what works and what doesn't work, and out-innovate our competitors that are often larger by being able to take action when they can't.
The one thing you have as a small business that large companies don't have is freedom and more agility. And that needs to be our competitive advantage more than ever before.

Many thanks to Scott Belsky for sharing his strategies for focus.