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Influx interview- scott belsky- behance

February 25, 2008

Behance is a company that serves the needs of the growing network of independent creative professionals. It does everything from helping them find jobs, foster collaboration, generate new ways to think and delivers an engaging environment to view portfolios and creative samples.

I spent some time with Scott Belsky, the founder of Behance, to learn a little more.

1. What inspired you to make the leap from Wall Street to the creative world?

My work on Wall Street involved organizational and leadership development. I specialized in helping new, rapidly growing teams deal with the challenges that come along with growth. At night, I would try to leverage some of these skills for my friends in more creative and entrepreneurial roles. I found that, more than anyone else, creative leaders and teams struggle to push ideas forward. I became very interested in the leadership and organizational struggles of the creative world. I also believe that life is interesting because of the creative achievements around us. The music, art, design, and new businesses that start as ideas and ACTUALLY happen are the source of society’s advancement.

2. Briefly describe what Behance is all about?

Behance is relentlessly focused on developing knowledge, products, and services that help creative professionals make ideas happen. We believe that creative leaders and team are never short of ideas, but often lack the organizational skills, leadership capability, networks, and platform to push ideas forward.

Our model is very simple: Over the past two years, we have interviewed hundreds of especially productive creative teams. In each interview, we ask “how do you make ideas happen?” We zoom in on methods and tips for productivity, networking, leadership, and strategy.

Behance is NOT about idea generation or stimulating innovation. Rather, we are focused on boosting productivity and access to opportunity in the creative world.

Here are a few examples of how our products and services accomplish our mission:

Behance Network

The Behance Network was developed as a platform for efficient dissemination of creative work. If a member posts a new project that is “appreciated” by the community, then it is likely that tens of thousands of people will see the work. We’ve had nearly a million visitors in the past month or so, and many of the visitors come from top agencies, galleries, and other companies seeking creative talent. Members use the network as a tool for self-marketing, exchanging feedback with peers, staying accountable to goals, and building professional networks.

Action Method

There is a great, self-proclaimed shortage of productivity in the creative world. We have noticed that “office-centric” or lingo-intensive systems for productivity, including GTD, are not easily adopted among creatives. Rather, we discovered that creatives need a simple, design-centric system method for creative project management. We developed the Action Method in response to the best practices we observed. The Action Method has spawned an entire product line that is sold around the US and the Museum of Modern Art stores, including the critically acclaimed “Action Book.”

Behance Magazine

As we conduct interviews, we write up articles and also generate new “tips” for creative professionals. We have gathered them together in an online magazine.

Advisory Services

Our team is starting to do a lot of consulting work for creative teams within large companies. Surprisingly, creative teams suffer from many of the same inefficiencies as a designer or artist. We think that every creative company, agency, and project needs to consider a path to what we call “productive creativity.”

3. How do you see the Behance growing and developing in the future?

Our team hopes to continue developing products and services that address the needs of creative professionals. We are starting to develop some interesting web-based applications in response to suggestions we have received. We are also developing a whole pipeline of knowledge, mostly “tips,” that will help boost productivity in the creative workspace. The Behance Network is also an ongoing project that we believe is only in the “first inning.” Ultimately, we will feel successful if more ideas actually happen as a result of our work.

4. What are some of the biggest trends you see out there in the world of creative professionals?

There are two trends we talk about quite often:

(1) More than ever before, we are seeing “creative” as a trait actively sought by recruiters across industries. We’re also seeing the more self-described “creative” folks on teams getting promoted on the basis of their creative contributions. Of course, once creative people are empowered within a company/team, there is a great need for increased leadership capability and productivity.

(2) Creative professionals are feeling more empowered to represent themselves professionally, rather than depend on being found by a headhunter or working full-time for an agency. The “freelancer” is starting to act more like a business than an individual. We see the amount of work and opportunities that Behance Network members are getting.

5. What will it take for America to compete in the battle for creative talent?

It is really interesting to consider America’s “competitive advantages” over the past decades. Remember that big American companies like GE and Hewlett Packard used to compete on “efficiency.” GE’s development of Six Sigma and HP’s advances in plant efficiency were big selling points.

However, now GE has changed their tag line to “imagination at work” and HP is all about innovation. The change in brand is evidence of the fact that efficiency is now accomplished through off-shoring and is no longer a competitive advantage.

Our team believes that innovation is the grounds for competition going forward. We also believe that innovation is the result of PRODUCTIVE creativity. As companies hire more creative professionals to fuel innovation, they will recognize the need to design teams and workflow to achieve Productive Creativity.

To stay competitive, we think American business needs to bridge the gap between creative and other departments. There must be an emphasis on the components of “Productive Creativity,” and we’re hoping that Behance plays a critical role in this trend.

6. Where do you find your inspiration?

Most or our team’s inspirations come from our own frustrations as creative professionals. We’re in a unique business where the greatest “breakthroughs” are a response to the greatest frustrations we observe in our work and when we consult for others.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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