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Adobe's Scott Belsky On Balancing "Messy Middle" Execution While Still Fostering BIG Disruptive Ideas

Guest: Scott Belsky, Adobe’s Chief Strategy Officer and Executive Vice President of Design & Emerging Products. Scott co-founded the online creative community Behance, which was acquired by Adobe in 2012. He’s also an author whose works include the Implications newsletter and the book The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture.

Overview: The difference between a BIG idea fizzling out or becoming reality is execution. The CEO has to support innovation at every level of the company while also keeping that innovation organized around driving progress toward annual goals. Following creative ambitions without vision and focus could lead your business astray, or open the door for disruption from a nimble competitor.

On today’s show, Scott Belsky discusses how leaders can find the right balance of talent, tech, and innovation to make ideas — and BIG — happen.

Scott Belsky on follow-through:

“I don’t believe that the world is short on ideas. I think most incumbents, big companies, have the ideas of the things that are ultimately going to disrupt them. It’s the execution that is rare. And also all the forces at play that enable a great idea to see the light of day. Probably the greatest competitive advantages of any productive, creative individual or team in the world is simply sticking together or sticking with an idea long enough to figure it out, because the more creative you are, the more enamored you become with new ideas, and the more likely you are to dismount off an idea that isn’t yet pushed to completion. That’s really where the separation is between those who have ideas and those who make ideas happen.”

Scott Belsky on Dreamers” versus “Doers:

“There’s a chemistry to an excellent, creative, and accomplished team that balances out ‘the dreamers’ and ‘the doers.’ Dreamers get their energy from the next new and exciting thing on the horizon, and they will wake up every day thinking, ‘What new idea can I bring to the table? What new last-minute addition might make this a little bit better?’ And then you have the doers, who are the opposite. They want to wake up every morning thinking everything is on-track and on-budget. No surprises. ‘Let’s stay focused. Let’s stay structured to ensure seamless execution.’ And so you can imagine how these two types of people are often at odds because they are getting on each other’s nerves constantly. It’s important that they value each other’s roles and that they also recognize that occasionally you have to suppress the immune system of the very structured, execution-oriented machine to allow a new organ to take hold in the sense of a new idea being introduced to the system that changes things. And yet on an ordinary basis, you actually have to have a very strong immune system that extinguishes new ideas so that you can stay focused and execute consistently. And that’s the chemistry. I just summarized something that’s extraordinarily hard to accomplish, because you need to have a lot of factors at play to make that work.”

Scott Belsky on “merchandising progress”:

“As a leader going through any period of volatility, you are, in some ways, akin to driving a car across the country with the windows blacked out in the back seat. And all of your team is sitting back there. And if they don’t feel like they’re making progress, they will lose their motivation and they will fail to make progress. And your responsibility is to narrate this journey, to merchandise the progress that is being made to your team. Progress begets progress. The more you feel you’re making progress, the more progress you’re likely to make. So how do you keep a team motivated with progress, especially when progress is a little hard to distinguish? Progress is easy to distinguish when it’s revenue, when it’s growth metrics, when it’s notoriety in the industry, when those sorts of metrics are very motivating. But we have to sometimes hack our own short-term reward system when there aren’t short-term rewards that keep us going. Part of that is making little games, making incremental milestones that are directional, and helping our team achieve and celebrate them. We all have to merchandise the progress our teams are making to our teams.”

7 Strategies to Create a Culture of Innovation That Drives Growth and Profits – Some of the best companies in the world use these seven strategies to innovate, create, reset the bar, and Make BIG Happen.

Here’s How to Master New Product Development and Build a Culture of Innovation – CEO Coaching International’s Greg Coticchia shares his process for mastering new product development and building a culture of innovation that will Make BIG Happen.

About CEO Coaching International

CEO Coaching International works with CEOs and their leadership teams to achieve extraordinary results quarter after quarter, year after year. Known globally for its success in coaching growth-focused entrepreneurs to meaningful exits, CEO Coaching International has coached more than 1,000 CEOs and entrepreneurs in more than 60 countries and 45 industries. The coaches at CEO Coaching International are former CEOs, presidents, or executives who have made BIG happen. The firm’s coaches have led double-digit sales and profit growth in businesses ranging in size from startups to over $10 billion, and many are founders that have led their companies through successful eight, nine, and ten-figure exits. Companies working with CEO Coaching International for two years or more have experienced an average revenue CAGR of 31% (2.6X the U.S. average) and an average EBITDA CAGR of 52.3% (more than 5X the U.S. average).

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