AuthorConnect Chat: Scott Belsky Talks ‘The Messy Middle’

Scott Belsky on the journey of volatility

Working at BookPal affords us many opportunities to meet and work with accomplished authors, speakers, and storytellers from a variety of industries and walks of life.  We not only get to learn more about the latest, trending books, but also the process each author takes in creating and curating their stories. Our AuthorConnect Chats help us (and you!) further connect, learn, and grow.  For this one, we spoke with Scott Belsky, author of The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture.

Scott Belsky is the founder of Behance, a leading online platform for the creative industry to showcase and discover creative work, and served as CEO until Adobe acquired Behance in 2012.  He is a Venture Partner with Benchmark and is an early advisor and investor in Pinterest, Uber, sweetgreen, and Periscope, among others. He is the author of the international bestselling book, Making Ideas Happen and is passionate about making the creative world more productive, connected, and adaptive to new technologies.

Scott uses this knowledge in his new book to provide a roadmap through some of the toughest parts of a project. So, when you’re in the ‘messy middle’ of a start-up or project, how do you optimize things that work and learn from things that don’t?  How do you help the team endure those lows?  How do you figure out what’s working and why, while hopefully establishing yourselves as a leader in the field? This is what we’re here to answer today.

One way to do this is to account for the laziness, vanity, and selfishness of your users. You have to appeal to people on these basic levels so that you reach them on a human level.  In doing so, the focus must be on prioritizing the first mile of your first customer’s user experience.  That first mile encompasses everything—the copy, the default experience (which are general default settings given at the beginning of the user experience), the onboarding, the video, and so on.

The journey of making the product is different than that of experiencing it.  “What should our first-mile user experience look like?  It’s crazy that we don’t think about this until the final mile of product development,” Scott explains.

The shortcut to staying simple is obsessing about your newest customers—figure out why they are your customers and what they are liking and expecting in their user experience with your products. New cohorts of users are all different.  They have different needs, wants, and desires. You have to merchandise your customers’ awesomeness and progress. They have to feel appreciated. We like to know that we are known and liked—we’re human after all.

In conclusion, what must we do to be good stewards of our products?

• Have faith in our customers

• Stay grounded by the newest customers’ experiences

• Scrutinize the defaults

• Innovate, but keep the core experiences familiar

• Be as human as you possibly can (and realize you are creating for other humans)

• And lastly, gain confidence from doubt!


If you haven’t had a chance to tune in, be sure to listen in to our full AuthorConnect Chat with Scott Belsky  – and be sure to purchase your copies of The Messy Middle: Finding Your Way Through the Hardest and Most Crucial Part of Any Bold Venture to learn more about navigating the “messy middle”.


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This post was written by Karlyn Hixson, Marketing Director at BookPal.  She is currently reading Becoming by Michelle Obama.

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