July 29, 2008
50 Ways to Foster a Culture of Innovation

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I hear a lot of talk, these days, about how important it is for organizations to establish a sustainable culture of innovation. I agree. It is important.

The key is to close the gap between the hot talk on the topic and execution. It's easy to wax poetic about "culture change." It's quite another thing to effect it. Cultures take years to form... and they take years to change.

That being said, the effort to do so is a noble one and worth your time.

And so, to help you focus your efforts, here's Idea Champions' list of 50 things you can do to foster a culture of innovation. We're sure you have other "ways" that that work for you. Feel free to add them to our list of 50 and when we get enough, we'll post them here.

As you read the list, you'll notice selected words are hyperlinked. They will take you to pages on our website or blog that elaborate on a specific point or introduce you to a service or product we have that may be of useful to you.

But enough about us...

1. Remember that innovation requires no fixed rules or templates -- only guiding principles. Creating a more innovative culture is an organic and creative act.

2. Wherever you can, whenever you can, always drive fear out of the workplace. Fear is "Public Enemy #1" of an innovative culture.

3. Have more fun. If you're not having fun (or at least enjoying the process) something is off.

4. Always question authority, especially the authority of your own longstanding beliefs.

5. Make new mistakes.

6. As far as the future is concerned, don't speculate on what might happen, but imagine what you can make happen.

7. Increase the visual stimuli of your organization's physical space. Replace gray and white walls with color. Add inspiring photos and art, especially visuals that inspire people to think differently. Reconfigure space whenever possible.

8. Help people broaden their perspective by creating diverse teams and rotating employees into new projects -- especially ones they are fascinated by.

9. Ask questions about everything. After asking questions, ask different questions. After asking different questions, ask them in a different way.

10. Ensure a high level of personal freedom and trust.

11. Encourage everyone to communicate. Provide user-friendly systems to make this happen.

12. Instead of seeing creativity training as a way to pour knowledge into people’s heads, see it as a way to grind new glasses for people so they can see the world in a different way.

13. Learn to tolerate ambiguity and cope with soft data. It is impossible to get all the facts about anything. "Not everything that counts can be counted. Not everything that can be counted counts," said Einstein.

14. Embrace and celebrate failure. 50 to 70 per cent of all new product innovations fail at even the most successful companies. The main difference between companies who succeed at innovation and those who don't isn't their rate of success -- it's the fact that successful companies have a LOT of ideas, pilots, and product innovations in the pipeline.

15. Notice innovation efforts. Nurture them wherever they crop up. Reward them.

16. When you're promoting innovation in-house, always promote the benefits of a new idea or project, not the features.

17. Don't focus so much on taking risks, per se, but on taking the risks OUT of big and bold ideas.

18. Encourage people to get out of their offices and silos. Encourage people to meet informally, one-on-one, and in small groups.

19. Think long term. Since the average successful "spin-off" takes about 7.5 years, the commitment to innovation initiatives need to be well beyond "next quarter."

20. Create a portfolio of opportunities: short-term, long-term, incremental, and discontinuous. Just like an investment portfolio, balance is critical.

21. Involve as many people as you can in the development of your innovation initiative so you get upfront buy-in. This is the "go-slow now to go-fast later" approach. (The opposite approach of having a few people go off to a desert island and come back with their concept is almost always doomed to failure).

22. Improve the way brainstorming sessions and meetings are facilitated in your organization. Create higher standards and practices.

23. Make sure people are working on the right issues. Identify specific business challenges to focus on. Be able to frame these issues as questions that start with the words, "How can we?"

24. Communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate, communicate and then communicate again. Deliver each important message at least six times.

25. Select and install idea management software for your intranet.

26. Don't focus on growth. Growth is a product of successful innovation. Focus on the process of becoming adept at taking ideas from the generation stage to the marketplace.

27. Make customers your innovation partners, while realizing that customers are often limited to incremental innovations, not breakthrough ones.

28. Understand that the best innovations are initiated by individuals acting on their own at the periphery of your organization. Don't make your innovation processes so rigid that they get in the way of informal and spontaneous innovation efforts. Build flexibility into your design. Think "self-organizing" innovation, not "command and control" innovation.

29. Find new ways to capture learnings throughout your organization and new ways to share these learnings with everyone. Use real-life stories to transfer the learnings.

30. Stimulate interaction between segments of the company that traditionally don't connect or collaborate with each other.

31. Develop a process of trying out new concepts quickly and on the cheap. Learn quickly what's working and what's not.

32. Avoid analysis paralysis. Chaotic action is preferable to orderly inaction.

33. Before reaching closure on any course of action, seek alternatives. Make it a discipline to seek the idea after the "best" idea emerges.

34. Know that attacking costs as a root problem solves nothing. Unreasonable costs are almost always a sign of more profound problems (e.g. inefficient structures, processes or training).

35. A great source of new ideas are people that are new to the company. Get new hires together and tap their brainpower and imagination.

36. Get customer feedback before committing resources to a product's development.

37. Seek diversity of viewpoints. Get people together across functions. A diversity of views sparks more than conflict -- it sparks innovation.

38. Invite outside partners early on when exploring new opportunities. Find ways for your company to partner with others and actively share ideas, technologies, and other capabilities.

39. Avoid extreme time pressures.

40. Don't make the center of your efforts to help people be more creative a physical "creativity center." Fold your innovation resources into your business units.

41. Don't make innovation the responsibility of a few. Make innovation the responsibility of each and every employee with performance goals for each and every functional area.

42. Give your people specific, compelling, and measurable innovation goals.

43. Try to get as much buy-in and support from senior leadership as you can while realizing that true change NEVER starts at the top. How often does the revolution start with the King?

44. Realize that "resource allocation" is the last bastion of Soviet-style central planning. Think of new innovation opportunities as "resource attractors."

45. Pay particular attention to alignment. Ensure that the interests and actions of all employees are directed toward key company goals, so that any employee will recognize and respond positively to a potentially useful idea.

46. Reward collective, not only individual successes, but also maintain clear individual accountabilities and keep innovation heroes visible.

47. Do your best to ensure that linear processes give way to networks of collaboration.

48. Remove whatever organizational obstacles are in the way of people communicating bold, new ideas to top management.

49. Systematize. Find problems (not only with products, but with processes, customer service, and business models) and solve them.

50. Drive authority downwards. Make decisions quickly at the lowest level possible.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:28 PM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2008
The First Annual Last Words Contest

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"I wish I had drunk more champagne."

With these last words, John Maynard Keynes, the famous British economist, passed into the Great Beyond. Way to go Johnny!

Conrad Hilton, grandfather of Paris and founder of one of the world's most acclaimed hotel empires, left us with a slightly different message. "Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub."

Thank you, Conrad. I will do my best to remember that.

What about you? What do you imagine your last words will be? Or better yet, what would you like them to be? Oh sure, you may have lots of emails to answer, spreadsheets to read, and meetings to attend... but it's never too soon to get your legacy in gear.

Setting a clear intention is not only important for business, it's also important for LIFE.

Got it? Good! Now share it with the rest of us. When four or more submissions are received I'll post them here for everyone to read.

And soon thereafter, Idea Champions' esteemed panel of imperfect judges will bestow one lucky reader of this blog with the FIRST ANNUAL LAST WORDS prize (a copy of the book from whence these quotes were quoted). Should be interesting.

If you need some inspiration to get you going, click below to see what Mata Hari, P.T. Barnum, Oscar Wilde and a host of others had to say just before they left their mortal coil...

"I am in a duel to the death with this wallpaper. One of us has to go." - Oscar Wilde

"Why not? After all, it belongs to Him." - Charlie Chaplin

"How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Garden?" - P.T. Barnum

"Death is nothing, nor life either, for that matter. To die, to sleep, to pass into nothingness, what does it matter? Everything is an illusion." - Mata Hari

"I've had a hellava lot of fun and have enjoyed every minute of it." - Erroll Flynn

"That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted." - Lou Costello

"Die, I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him." - John Barrymore

"Don't pull down the blinds. I feel fine. I want the sunlight to greet me." - Rudolf Valentino

"More light!" - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"That was a great game of golf, fellers." - Bing Crosby

"God, don't let me die. I have so much to do." - Huey Long

"I shall hear in heaven!" - Ludwig Van Beethoven

"I have just had 18 whiskeys in a row. I do believe that is a record." - Dylan Thomas

"Go on. Get out! Last words are for fools that haven't said enough!" - Karl Marx

"Wait a second." - Madame de Pompadour

"Don't let it end this way. Tell them I said something." - Pancho Villa

OK. Your turn...

Excepted from Famous Last Words by Ray Robinson (Workman Publishing, 2003)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:57 PM | Comments (1)

July 13, 2008
Need a Breakthrough?

ftg-deck-photo-large.jpgTired of rubbing that magic lamp you bought on ebay, hoping for a genie to appear? Need a big breakthrough on a project of yours? Look no further. You've come to the right place. And you won't need to rub a single thing.

All you need to do is click.But first you'll need to think of a venture or idea you really want to get off the ground. Got it? Good. Now click here and let our online genie help you on your way.

(If you like the results, you can order the off-line genie here.)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2008
Ideas for Other People

I have an odd ability to come up with ideas for other people when I'm not really trying. Book and song titles are my specialties.

Often the ideas are so intriguing, I try to convince myself to do something with them, but eventually I realize they belong to someone else. The question, of course, is WHO?

Usually I don't know and the ideas end up orphans. But now that I've got this blog thing going, I've got a way to share the wealth -- or at least a few chuckles. So, here goes:Book title for a psychic: I Thought I Was a Small, But I'm a Medium. Book title for a psychologist with an Eastern bent: Yin, Yang and Jung. Title for a song for a recovering alcoholic: 50 Ways to Love Your Liver.Go ahead. Take 'em. They're free.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:51 PM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2008
The 30 Second Summer Blog for People on the Go

78% of all people who log onto the Idea Champions website spend less than 30 seconds there. It's probably the same for this blog. Short and sweet is the name of the game these days.

And so... for the rest of the summer, all our blog postings will take you less than 30 seconds to read. The one you're reading now has taken you about 23 seconds so far. Which means I have another 7 seconds or so to say something meaningful.

To be continued...

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:42 PM | Comments (1)

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Idea Champions is a consulting and training company dedicated to awakening and nurturing the spirit of innovation. We help individuals, teams and entire organizations tap into their innate ability to create, develop and implement ideas that make a difference.

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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.
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