Exclusive: Scott Belsky on Liberating Creative Talent in a Tough Economy


Scott Belsky is a man who believes in perspiration. As the CEO of Behance, he helps organize creative individuals, teams, and networks; at the heart of his efforts lies the Behance Network, a Web site that allows creative professionals to broadcast their work to top agencies, fans, peers, and recruiters. In mid-April Behance is partnering with Cool Hunting to host The 99% Conference, a two-day event that will focus on how idea generation and organization come together to make big things happen. After the jump we talk to Belsky about how the current economy has affected what this year’s speakers will discuss, who they’re hoping to target, and what kinds of things have helped him turned his own ideas into reality.

Flavorwire: A lot of people say that the current economy inspires innovation. How have you seen it impacting the creative class? Are you noticing more innovation?

Scott Belsky: The current economic crisis presents an amazing opportunity to liberate creative talent from the traditional careers that we cling to in fear of going out on our own. The great opportunity cost of being brave and starting something new is now lower. For the first time in decades, the most talented people might actually follow their true interests rather than the masses. I believe that our economy will benefit in the long-term if we have the brightest minds taking the risks to make new and bold ideas happen.

I have noticed this in the data behind the Behance Network. More and more “full time” creative professionals are taking the plunge to go solo. Since salaries (and jobs) are being slashed anyways, the value of the experience in itself (not to mention to prospect of having control over your destiny) is more attractive.

FW: Did the economic climate change the way you went in putting together this year’s conference? Will it be reflected in the topics covered by the speakers?

SB: If there was ever a need for a conference on actually making ideas happen, now is the time. There are tons of conferences with the goal of “inspiration” or helping people generate ideas. The current climate warrants some serious discussion on how to do more with less, how to boost focus and productivity, and what mechanics are required to push ideas forward. All of the speakers have been told, “We don’t want to hear about how you generate ideas or what inspires you, we want to hear about your PROCESS in making ideas happen.”

FW: So how did you go about deciding who to invite to speak at 99%? Is there a common theme that unites them all?

SB: All speakers invited to speak at 99% have a track record of making bold ideas happen again and again — often times against the grain or despite the status quo. Whether it is Michael Bierut, Seth Godin, or Rachael Ray — they all have best practices to share on leading ideas to fruition.

FW: Are there specific people who you think this kind of conference appeals to more?

SB: The content is curated with the prototypical idea generator in mind. Creative professionals across industries — as well as any others with burning ideas that have never seen the light of day – will appreciate the conference experience. However, it is our hope that the conference also attracts the young and idealistic set of people that would benefit from more process. The mechanics for making ideas happen are especially critical for those with the most motivation and passion. For this reason, we have found sponsors that enabled us to provide discounted tickets to students and non-profit leaders.

FW: What kinds of things help you move from inspiration to execution — particularly in getting Behance off the ground?

SB: Behance has been a helpful “lab” for us to test methods for making ideas happen. One best practice for us is what we have come to call “acting without conviction.” Rather than always strive for consensus and develop multiples stages for idea refinement, we have the tendency to try things quickly and then build upon the outcome — whatever it may be. To do this, we need to be introspective and recognize when things aren’t working. We also need to be nimble. We also operate with a “bias-towards-action.” We tend to meet less often, and we send around action steps more than questions and ideas. When something screws up, we try to confront it head on. We are always learning, and we aspire to practice what we preach.