We don't know who discovered water, but we're certain it wasn't a fish.|
Your programs are like an oasis in the desert.|
Laura Harvell, OXY USA
Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing,
Awake at the Wheel is for you.
Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
Enjoy a 7-minute interview with Mitch at the Ethical Sourcing Forum in NYC:
Guy Kawasaki's Alltop "online magazine rack" has recognized
Idea Champions' blog
as one of the leading innovation blogs on the web. Check
out The Heart of Innovation, and subscribe!
Here's your one-stop shopping for everything you need (but forgot to ask for) in order to jump start innovation.
A totally unique brainstorming salon.
Great food. Great food for thought. Great people. Collaborate, have fun,
get out of the box.
"Inno-waiters With Whine Lists" – The Breakthrough Cafe featured in January 2006 issue of
Idea Champions' "rent a brain" network of visionaries, wizards, and
creative thinkers ready and able to conjure up breakthrough ideas,
products and services on your behalf.
| Frequently Asked Questions
- Daddy, when are we gonna get there?
Oh... in about 15 minutes or so.
- What is the sound of one hand clapping?
- What is Idea Champions' mission?
To unleash extraordinary brilliance.
- What are your core competencies?
Creative thinking, innovation, teambuilding, and leadership.
- What kind of industries have you worked with?
Pharmaceutical, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, retail, manufacturing, public utilities, high tech, education, packaging, construction, transportation, entertainment, fashion, chemicals, and interactive media.
- What is the process of engaging your services?
- Call us at 845.679.1066 or fill out a virtual interview
- Tell us about your needs and desired outcomes
- Invite us to submit a proposal
- Review our proposal and say "yes"
- Sign the Letter of Engagement
- Why did you start Idea Champions?
Two reasons: First, the two founding partners both had a strong fascination for innovation, creative thinking and team development. Secondly, we both realized that most organizations had very little in place to help their workforce "get out of the box" and become more innovative on the job. Bottom line, we saw a need that was going unmet and jumped at the chance to make a difference in a way that was consistent with our own skills, dreams, and passions.
- How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
We have recently signed a confidentiality agreement on this one and are not at liberty to divulge any further information on this subject at this time.
- How many people in your organization?
Fifteen. Some of us are full time. Some are part-time. All of us are easy to work with, committed to your satisfaction, and are very good at what we do.
- If the moon gets its light from the sun, where does the sun get its light from?
The same place you do.
- What differentiates you from your competition?
Here's what our clients tell us: a) We're more fun and engaging than our competitors; b) Relative to the BIG consulting firms, we are more responsive and more customer focused; c) The Idea Champions consultants you talk with on the phone are the ones who do the work. We do not send in freshly minted MBAs after the deal is signed; d) Our work is more experiential. (It's more about transformation than it is about information. e) While our work is based on sound research, theory, and time-tested models, our sessions are not top-heavy with "consultant-speak." Our processes, tools, and methods are accessible to all participants. f) Our tools and techniques are actually used on the job; 8) Graduates of our sessions take individual responsibility to own the innovation/teambuilding effort, rather than pawn it off on R&D or Senior Leadership.
- To what do you owe your success?
Our integrity, fascination for our work, adaptability, commitment to lifelong learning, teamwork, perseverance, gratitude, and sense of humor.
- What companies have you worked with?
GE, Genworth, Autozone, Michelin. Goodyear, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Ernst & Young, AT&T, Lucent Technologies, General Mills, Scotia Capital, MTV Networks, Champion International, ADP, ATMI, Gap, Dominos, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, BSMG, Met Life, ERC, Houston Lighting & Power, general Roofing, Centimark, Inroads, European American Bank, First Chicago, Nynex, Deloitte & Touche, National Westminster Bank, Hewlett Packard, CPW, AtlantiCare, MBooth, NIH, Merck, Con Edison, Allied Signal.
- How well do you understand my specific industry?
Enough to be able to make a difference. Idea Champions is operating on the level of "core principles" that apply to all human beings and all organizations. We do not need to become experts in your particular field in order to have an impact, though we do make significant effort to understand the nuances and challenges of your industry and specific company culture.
- Where is Osama bin Laden?
Hmmm… Probably somewhere in Afghanistan. We have not seen him in Woodstock, though we have not been looking all that carefully.
- What is your definition of innovation?
"The ability to adapt, alter, or adjust that which already exists for the purpose of adding value." "Creativity commercialized." The word "innovation" comes from the Latin "innovatus" meaning "to make new."
- What successes have you had?
Many. See our case studies.
- Can you provide us with references?
Sure. Click here.
- How much does it cost?
First we need to define what "it" means. There are a number of variables that affect the pricing of our work. These include: the depth of our needs assessment process, custom design, complexity of a given intervention, duration of our various interventions/sessions, number of participants, number of facilitators, and participant materials. Once we are clear on what you are asking for, we can provide you with an itemization of fees within 24 — 48 hours.
- What kind of results can we expect?
Increased personal ownership of the innovation effort, origination of powerful new business growth ideas, development of the competency of innovation in your organization, resolution of specific business challenges, enhanced teamwork, heightened morale, renewed commitment, decreased stress, application of creative thinking tools and techniques on-the- job, and improvement of your company's overall culture of innovation.
- How can we you measure your results?
Four ways: periodic "Innovation Audits," post-session evaluations, anecdotal feedback, and the tracking of new product, service and process ideas originated in our sessions.
- Can we do the whole thing in 90 minutes?
Well, we can do something in 90 minutes. Once we are clear about your needs, we will be very straight forward with you about what results you can expect in the time you have available. We not going to promise you the sky when all you have time for is a couple of lightning bolts.
- Can you train our trainers?
Yes. We can train them to facilitate four of our programs: Banking on Innovation, Free the Genie, and Conducting Genius, and Culture of Innovation 101.
- Why did you name your company "Idea Champions?"
Because we realized that everything starts as an idea — and that it takes a committed "champion" to turn that idea into a reality.
- Why are you headquartered in Woodstock, NY?
Because it's a beautiful place with a great community of soulful people who are passionate about life and fun to be with. It's also close to two airports — Stewart and Albany — and only two hours from NYC.
- What about follow-up?
We offer our clients a number of follow up options: advanced courses, phone coaching, web conference calls, Executive Coaching, virtual creativity tools, Innovation Assurance, and Blue Pearl retreats.
- How can I convince my boss that you guys are for real?
You have several choices: 1) Set up a face to face meeting; 2) Set up a conference call; 3) Invite him/her to talk with some of our clients; 4) Show him/her our client list and testimonies; 5) Tell us what his/her main concerns are and we will send you the appropriate materials to help address their concerns.
- Does your approach work with people from other countries?
Yes, it does, though we sometimes need to adapt our approach to dovetail with the specific cultural profile of participants — especially if English is their second language. The "Innovation and Business Growth" class we taught (28 times) at GE's Crotonville facility was attended by people from more than 15 countries.
- Who do you think will win the World Series?
The St. Louis Cardinals.
- What's the next big thing after the internet?
Low fat nanotechnology.
- Do you need to fly first class?
- What's the funniest thing that's happened to you in a session?
Once when Mitch was teaching "Innovation and Business Growth" at GE, he forgot to turn off his lavaliere mike when he went to the bathroom. Upon his return to the amphitheater, all 75 participants turned around, looked at him, and started laughing hysterically. He had no idea what was going on until two of his colleagues — who were auditing the session — frantically motioned to him. Mitch made a feeble attempt to tell everyone that it was all part of the "creative process" but no one would buy it. Some of them are still laughing.
- What is the biggest obstacle to innovation?
Limiting assumptions — the lines humans beings draw in the sand that separate the "possible" from the "impossible."
- Have you guys written any books?
Yes. Banking on Innovation, Island of the Fireflies, Beggar for Your Love, and Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your Big Ideas Rolling (in an uphill world).
- Can you send us your bio?
They're all on the website. Click here.
- Can you send us a proposal?
Absolutely. Usually within 48 hours after talking with you.
- What do you think of power point?
Useful, but overused. Although our entire Innovation Assurance series is on power point, we rarely use power point in our sessions. We find that people enter into a weird kind of trance state when they look at power point shows. Also it's so expected and we like to do the unexpected.
- What kind of clients do you prefer?
Committed clients who are thinking long-term. Clients with a sense of humor. Clients who love their work. Clients who honor their word.
- Where is Idea Champions heading, five years from now?
More edutainment. More virtual tools. Empowering our clients to more skillfully internalize our various offerings. More cool, self-paced products. Better blend of virtual and real-time. Italy. Bali. Our own prime time TV show.
- What's this about Face the Music?
Yup. We've co-created an interactive business blues band that gets our clients writing and performing original blues songs, real time. It's a fun way to get audiences out of their head, beyond complaint, and focused on their pressing business challenges. Hailed by CNN as "in touch with corporate America." (PS: you can listen to some of our songs on this website.)
- Do you travel internationally?
Yes. We've worked in Singapore, Canada, Africa, England, India and a number of other exotic places. We do charge a per diem, however, for travel outside of the U.S.
- Do you think Elvis is still alive?
Costello or Presley?
- What do women really want?
See answer to FAQ #102.
- How do you change a company's culture of innovation?
You don't. Company's change their own culture. But usually only after the individuals within that company feel the urgency to change. There's lots of things Idea Champions can do to move the culture change process forward, but our success is intimately tied to the depth of our client's commitment.
- What's the biggest mistake you ever made in business?
Once agreeing to work with a company who we intuitively knew was coming from a totally different point of view than we were. It was not a pleasant experience and we'll never do it again.
- How do I order a set of Free the Genie cards, Idea Champions latest breakthrough product that enables just about anybody to take a quantum leap forward in their efforts to originate and manifest brilliant ideas?
Great! We thought you'd never ask. Click here.
- Is Bill Gates really a shareholder in Idea Champions?
No. That's just another urban legend. We have no idea how this legend started.
- Did you really write the original code for Microsoft Word?
Don't believe everything you read (except for this FAQ section).
- How can I buy a landscape or portrait from Evelyne Pouget (wife of Idea Champions founder)?
Click here. BTW, we are now offering a 15% discount to everyone who has made it to question #49 of the FAQ section. Just mention the code word "49" when you inquire about Evelyne's paintings.
- Can I get a discount at your Blue Pearl executive retreat?
Absolutely. If you have made it to question #50, you have the kind of tenacity (or madness) that makes it highly likely that you really need a weekend retreat. The Blue Pearl is a gorgeous Bed & Breakfast in Woodstock, NY. Perfect for busy executives who need to get away from it all. It's also a perfect place for a small (3 — 10) team retreat.
- What happens when we die?
Hmmmm…. Let's see….We're guessing that the people closest to you will be very sad, some of whom will cry a lot. There will be some frantic looking through your files for the appropriate will, insurance forms, and other paperwork (which you have probably misfiled). Your secretary will eventually change the message on your voice mail. As far as what happens to your "soul" or "spirit," we don't feel qualified to speak authoritatively on that subject, though we have heard through the grapevine that past clients of Idea Champions are given some kind of special privileges in the "afterlife."
- What are your favorite movies of all time?
Life Is Beautiful, Blues Brothers, School of Rock, All of Me, Schindler's List, Tootsie, Overboard, Somewhere In Time, Wild Strawberries, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Matrix, Wizard of Oz, West Side Story, Shakespeare in Love, It's a Wonderful Life, Casablanca, The Godfather, Love and Death, Annie Hall, Avatar.
- Can I tithe 10% of my income to Idea Champions?
Sure. Contact Accounting for Success, in Boulder, Colorado. They've been our accountants since 1986 and they are terrific
- Why aren't people more happy?
They identify too much with what they do, rather than who they are. This lack of connection to their "real self" results in an endless series of attempts to find happiness in external sources — none of which are ever enough. Thus begins the illusion — seeking well-being in relationships, accomplishments, possessions, and the fulfillment of desire. Ultimately, we all need to find our way back to the simple part of ourselves where appreciation, gratitude, and contentment already are. This is not something to be attained, merely remembered on a day-to-day, breath-by-breath basis. Next question, please.
- What is shareholder value, really?
It depends on what the shareholder values. From what we can tell, most shareholders value money. But as they say, "Money can never buy happiness." (see #54).
- What's your sign?
- Why did Thomas Edison and Salvidore Dali take naps during the day?
Because both of them knew they got their best ideas in the "hypnogogic state" (i.e. right upon waking or just before sleep, when their logical, linear, analytical mind was most at rest.) So, instead of only waking up once a day, they decided to wake up several times a day, which greatly increased their access to their fertile imagination. (BTW, we let people nap in our workshops if they really want to, but they have to tell the rest of the class what they were dreaming about upon waking.)
- Who said "Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana."
- What's your favorite quote? And why?
"Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted counts" by Albert Einstein. We like it because it's the simplest way to convince engineers and other left-brain dominant people to let go of their addiction to rationality — and consider the brilliance that resides in the other side of their brain.
- How can you help us make our intranet more sticky?
License our suite of virtual Free the Genie tools.
- What is Innovation Assurance?
A series of 12 highly engaging power point shows on creative thinking and innovation. A simple way to help your workforce stay on top of its game.
- Aren't ideas just a dime a dozen?
Well…..ordinary ideas are a dime a dozen…..as are ideas with no one championing them enough to break through the inevitable barriers that will surface along the way. But original ideas that are really owned by committed innovators are priceless.
- What books on innovation and creative thinking do you recommend?
Leading the Revolution (Hamel), Re-Imagine (Peters), Serious Creativity (de Bono), Thinker Toys (Michalko), Jamming (Kao), Whack on the Side of the Head (Van Oech), Orbiting the Giant Hairball (McKenzie), Tao the Ching (Lao Tzu), Awake at the Wheel (Ditkoff), Circle of Innovation (Peters), The Heart of Change (Kotter), The Art of the Start (Kawasaki).
- Are you hiring?
Not at the moment. But feel free to email us your resume.
- How's your wife?
- Your kids?
- What would you like for lunch? The tuna or the turkey?
Usually, the turkey, because you never know how long the tuna has been sitting around.
- Can I call you a cab?
Absolutely. As long as the driver knows his way to your site and/or our hotel. It's astounding how many times we get in a cab and the driver doesn't have a clue where to go. So there we are, in the back seat, reading our complementary copy of USA Today, while the cabbie thumbs through his 200 page "Street Atlas" madly looking for our destination. Please make sure the cab driver knows where he's going. Ask him. Or her. Fax them a map if you have to!
- Would you be willing to stay at a Holiday Inn?
Oh… so now we're into the existential questions, eh? If we say "no," you may assume that we are just a bunch of arrogant consultants who are going to load you up with a lot of unnecessary charges. Really, we are not that kind of company. We have stayed at plenty of Holiday Inns. We do, prefer, however, more comfortable accommodations — or at least a hotel with a restaurant on the premises. Do you know what its like to travel all day only to find out that you have to take a cab (see #68) to fetch dinner. Ouch!
- What is Jack Welch really like?
We really don't know.
- What famous people have you met?
Wilt Chamberlain, Bobby Kennedy, William Shatner, Spaulding Gray, Melanie Griffith, Mario Cuomo, Bill Cosby, Marshall Crenshaw, Keith Jarrett, Wallace Shawn, Paul Winter, Pat Boone, Cyril Ritchard, Judge Reinhold, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Swami Sachitananda, Dustin Hoffman, Isabella Rosellini, Maharaji, Gurumayi.
- How much do you want for your company?
How much you got?
- What do you think of Six Sigma?
Over rated. Does it have value? Of course it does. But too many people treat it like the Holy Grail. It's not enough to know at what rate the deck chairs on the Titanic are sliding into the ocean. You shouldn't be on the ship! (BTW, we once taught a two-hour "Breakthrough Thinking" module as part of GE's Six Sigma Black Belt program. GE realized that they needed a way to help their black belts think more creatively before applying all the left-brained, analytical tools to their standard fare of business challenges.
- Isn't innovation just a buzz word?
All too often, it is. Sometimes, it's just a word in an elegantly framed mission statement. But it doesn't have to be that way. Innovation can be nurtured, sparked, massaged, encouraged, elicited, invoked, provoked, supported, quickened, and sustained.
- Is it true you were in the same college fraternity with Steve Jobs?
We love Steve Jobs! We love the Mac! We love the fact that he flew the pirate flag over Apple Headquarters and took on IBM. Who told you we were in the same fraternity with him? Not true. One of us, however, was in the same fraternity with Barry Birnbaum, Louie Freeman, Kenny Covelman, Brent Glass, Billy Mandel, and George Samuels.
- Do you have any cool modules or teambuilding processes we can plug into our upcoming conference?
Yes, indeed. Click here.
- I've just been drafted to design and organize a very big deal conference for my company. Can you make me look like a hero?
Yes, indeed. Heroes 'R Us.
- Is it true that Jim Hendrix lived across the street from your corporate headquarters?
Yup, though several years before we moved to Woodstock
- Will you come out for dinner with us after the session?
Maybe. It all depends on how much work we have to do preparing for the next day's session.
- Can you divide your invoice into three separate payments?
Whatever it takes to get paid on time
- Do engineers take to your work?
Engineers — and others with a strong analytical bent — are one of our specialties. We love engineers. Although they are often the most skeptical of participants, they are also often the most focused (that is, if they can let go of their tendency to judge). Do you know what the root of the word engineer is? Engine. And do you know what the root of the word "engine" is? Gin from the Arabic "jinn" which is one of the origins of the words "genie," "genius," and "ingenuity" — all of which are embedded deep within the engineer (and the rest of us.) Idea Champions work is all about "freeing the genie."
- How can I order a copy of your book, Awake at the Wheel?
Log onto Amazon. Or, for bulk orders, call 845.679.1066.
- How much do you charge for keynote presentations?
$7,500 — $10,000
- Can we have the magic pill?
Sure. As long as you can find someone who can give it to you. In our experience, there is no magic pill, though we would probably make a whole lot more money if we starting promising it to our clients. Fortunately for you, our integrity prevents us from making such false promises.
- Will there be a Rocky VII?
- Who are your favorite poets?
Rilke, Roethke, Hafiz, Rumi, and Billy Collins.
- How do you stay so youthful?
Fresh air, fresh ideas, good genes, and not taking ourselves too seriously.
- Who designed your website? We love it!
Melanie McLaughlin. She's great. Easy to work with. Creative. And very customer focused. We love Melanie! Steve Wehr from Tunedin Web Design implemented the site and the programming. The man is totally customer focused. Amazingly detail oriented. Fair. Honest. Organized. Easy to work with. Dependable. With an IQ of about 300. Steve's the best!
- Do creative thinking tools actually work?
Yes, but only if you use them wisely. At the right time. In the right frame of mind. Applied to the right problem or challenge. Tools and techniques are meaningless unless the user of the tools and techniques is coming from the right place. Metaphorically speaking, they are similar to jumper cables. Jumper cables are great to have, but only if you have a car. In this particular case, YOU are the car.
- How can we have better brainstorming sessions?
- Invite people who are committed and really want to be there.
- Make sure you are working on the right question/challenge.
- Make sure the facilitator knows their stuff.
- Don't leave the room until you have a clear picture of next steps and who's doing what.
- Can I get you a Sprite or something?
Water is fine.
- Where do deer sleep at night?
Although our collective gardens and flower beds have been routinely devoured by several generations of East Coast deer, we actually have never seen deer sleep. Our best guess is that deer never sleep, content to simply bound on over to the next available garden — once they're done with ours — and continue their obsessive chowing down process. Sure, you sometimes see a deer laying down by the side of a road (or even smack dab in the middle of the road), but it's our guess that the deer in question have simply fallen down from overeating-- and aren't actually sleeping.
- In high school, were any of you scared of things going on your "permanent record?"
Occasionally. But we're over it now.
- Who designed your very cool brochure — and your Free the Genie deck?
The fabulous MaryJane Fahey. MaryJane and company also redesigned BusinessWeek, the Boston Globe, and a ton of other publications. Hire her immediately!
- What are your protocols for getting paid?
The usual. 30 days net, though sometimes — depending on the complexity of the project — we require a 33% deposit. NOTE: Whenever bills are outstanding for more than 30 days we call our good friend, Vinny, to contact your accounts receivable department.
- What do you guys think of 14th Century Zen Master Huang Po's doctrine of "no nothingness"?
Highly overrated. First of all, when anything becomes a "doctrine" it's lost some of its original shine to us. Second of all, in a non-dualistic universe, there is no first of all. Thirdly, "nothingness" neither "is" nor "is not" — which makes any attempt to say "something" about it either a pathetic show of academic knowledge or a misguided spiritual attempt to gain favor with one's Zen Master. In either case, you lose, which is actually the point of all this, anyway. Because when you lose, you win (as long as you subscribe to the non-dualistic notion that real winning means letting go of the there being anything to win or lose). And so having lost, you either write a blues song OR you return to the monastery for another 10 years until you stop worrying about winning and losing.
- What is your cancellation policy?
We completely understand that sometimes our client's plans change — in ways that are often beyond their control. Nevertheless, we would go out of business if we didn't ask our clients to accept some responsibility for the cancellation of their contract with us — especially since we begin working on a new engagement almost as soon as the contract is signed. When you cancel, we not only lose the revenues promised by your company, there's also a good chance that we'll lose out on revenues we would have received from other companies — the ones we had to turn down because we committed to you. All the info you need you need about cancellation policy will be included in our standard Engagement Letter.
- Do you actually think anyone is going to read all of these FAQs??
Yes. Like you, for example. Unless you bail out on the next three questions — the answers to which may reveal the secret of life, help you become extremely rich, and/or find out how to win fabulous prizes. BTW, because you have been so persevering in reading these FAQs (or are simply procrastinating on a very important project), you hereby qualify to enter into Idea Champions annual "I READ UP TO FAQ #97" Contest. Click here to enter your name in our fabulous drawing. Be sure to mention the code name "Otis Redding" somewhere in the body of your email.
- Can you send me more information?
Yes, we can. But the real question is why you want more information — and what kind? If it's to convince your boss (or other key stakeholders) that Idea Champions is worthy of considering, we're not sure that sending more information is the way to go. Perhaps a conference call would be more useful. Or a face to face meeting. Or a chance for key stakeholders to interview some of our satisfied customers. (BTW, if you really need more information, we will be happy to send it. But please be aware of the fact that, for some people, there is never enough information. All the data in the world may not be enough to convince someone to bring us in to the mix — if they are not already convinced of the need for "something different.") Kapish?
- How do your clients describe the benefit of your work?
- Will we have to sing Kumbaya?
No, unless you really want to (but please give us enough warning so we can leave the room).