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"What is now proved was once only imagined." - William BlakeJuly 24, 2010
The Fine Art of Blue Sky Thinking
In 1989, Gary Kasparov, the Soviet Union Grand Chess Master, played a two game match against "Deep Blue," the reigning supercomputer of the time.
Kasparov won easily.
When asked by the media what his competitive advantage was, he cited two things: intuition and the ability to fantasize.
Einstein, too, was a big fan of fantasizing. "The ability to fantasize," he said, "is more important to me than my ability to absorb positive knowledge."
Few of us, in the workplace, are ever encouraged to fantasize -- a behavior most commonly associated with children, flakes, or perverts.
And yet, fantasizing is exactly how many breakthrough ideas get their start -- a quantum leap of thought by some "dreamer" entertaining the seemingly impossible.
A SIMPLE BLUE SKY THINKING TECHNIQUE:
1. Make a wish for the successful resolution of your most pressing business challenge. (i.e. "I wish it was easier... faster... cheaper.")
2. Extend this wish further by making a wild wish -- something less likely than your wish, but still in the realm of possibility.
3. Stretch your wild wish even further by thinking of a fantasy solution to your challenge -- a seemingly impossible way to get a result. (If your fantasy solution makes you laugh or whistle, you're on the right track).
4. Distill your fantasy solution down to it's core principle -- the essence or gist hidden within it.
5. Using this core principle as a catalyze, conjure up -- and write down -- at least five new ideas to help you meet your goal.
Blue Sky Thinking guidebook
Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel
Give Your Workforce More Time to Innovate!
During the past few years I've noticed a curious paradox heading its ugly rear among business leaders tooting the horn for innovation.
On one hand they want the rank and file to step up to the plate and own the effort to innovate.
On the other hand, they are unwilling to grant the people they are exhorting any more TIME to innovate.
Somehow, magically, they expect aspiring innovators to not only generate game-changing ideas in their spare time, but do all the research, data collection, business case building, piloting, project management, idea development, testing, report generation, and troubleshooting in between their other assignments.
Tooth fairy alert!
This is not the way it happens, folks!
Not only is this approach unreasonable, it's unfair, unbalanced, and unworkable. You cannot shoehorn game-changing innovation projects into the already overcommitted schedules of your overworked workforce.
If you do, it won't be innovation you'll get, only half-finished projects and a whole lot of cranky people complaining to you in between meetings.
Aspiring innovators don't need pep talks. They need TIME. Time to think. And time to dream. Time to collaborate. And time to plan. Time to pilot. And time to test. Time to tinker. And time to tinker again.
(Yes, I know there are always a select few fire-in-the-belly mavericks who will innovate under any circumstance, but I am NOT talking about these people. I'm talking about the other 95% who would greatly benefit from more time to explore, noodle, and immerse.)
That's why Google and 3M give its workforce 20% of their time to work on projects not immediately connected to its core business. That's why W.L. Gore gives its workforce a half day a week to follow their fascinations. That's why Corel instituted it's virtual garage program.
"Dig where the oil is," Edward deBono once said.
Indeed! And where is the oil? Right beneath the feet of each and every employee who is fascinated by the work they do, aligned with their company's mission, and given enough time to make magic happen.
Need proof? 50% of Google's newly launched features were birthed during this so-called "free time" -- midwived by engineers, programmers, and other assorted wizards happily following their muse.
The fear? If you give people "freedom" they'll end up playing video games and taking 3-hour lunches. Alas, when fear takes over, folks, (the same fear Peter Drucker asked us all many years ago to remove from the workplace), vision is supplanted by supervision and all his micromanaging cousins.
Time to innovate is not time wasted. It is time invested. Freedom does not necessarily lead to anarchy. It can lead to breakthrough just as easily.
Remember, organizations do not innovate. People do.
And people need time to innovate. Time = freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom to explore. Freedom to express. And yes, even freedom to fail.
If you've hired the right people, communicated a compelling vision, and established the kind of culture that brings out the best in a human being, you are 80% there.
Now all you need to do is find a way to give your people the time they need to innovate -- or at least MORE time than they have now.July 21, 2010
Top 100 Amazon Reviewer Favorably Compares "Awake at the Wheel" to "Who Moved My Cheese?"
Nice review of my book from Thomas Duff, Top 100 Amazon reviewer:
Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your Great Ideas Rolling (in an Uphill World) can, in my opinion, be compared to the classic "Who Moved My Cheese?".
Ditkoff does for creativity what Johnson and Blanchard did for living with change... It gives the reader a short, humorous story loaded with meaning and concepts that hit the reader right where they live.
Ditkoff explores the world of ideas and creativity though the story of Og. Og is a caveman who spends more time thinking than the average Neanderthal.
He stumbles upon the concept of a circle, and becomes obsessed with what it could mean to the group. Of course, most of his fellow cavemen are more concerned about maintaining the status quo... hunting, eating, staying warm.
Og takes a journey to talk with a wise one, and from that trip the wheel is born.
But even then, others in his clan are more interested in shooting it down as something that will never work. But one person does figure out the practical application, and pretty soon everyone is "rolling along" with the greatest thing since dried mammoth...
I really did like this book.
Taking the concept of ideas and putting them in caveman terms freshens up what could be just another book on creativity.
At the end of the book are 35 "tools" you can use to spur your own idea machine, as well as how best to make sure these fleeting thoughts don't disappear like smoke from a campfire.
Like many companies have done with "Cheese", this should be a mass purchase, handed out to all employees, and then discussed in team meetings.
Those who are into this genre will love it, and the Neanderthals who are cynical will likely spend the 30 minutes or so it should take to read it.
And they might even come out of that experience as the new Og of your organization.July 12, 2010
Thought Leaders Now Being Replaced By Feeling Leaders
A few weeks ago I attended the World Innovation Forum in NYC.
My big insight? Thought leaders will soon be a thing of the past.
In their place? Feeling leaders -- business savants who have made the journey from head to heart and aren't afraid to let the rest of us know what they've learned along the way.
I'm not talking warm and fuzzy. Nor am I diminishing the thoughtfulness of the presenters at the World Innovation Forum. They were. Thoughtful, that is. Very.
But it wasn't so much their thinking that moved me -- as it was the feeling behind their thinking.
No matter what business you're in, the engine of innovation is really about being moved. That's what movements are made of -- the heartfelt, intrinsically motivated effort to get off of dead center and accomplish something meaningful.
This is the crossroads all of us are standing at these days -- the intersection between this and that. What the newspaper industry is going through. And the music industry. And the television industry -- just to name a few.
My heroes, these days, are the people who don't just stand at the crossroads, but dance -- inspired individuals who find great delight in the paradoxes, get juiced by the challenges, and realize that "innovation" is not a program, initiative, or model, but a way of life.
That's the main reason why I enjoyed the World Innovation Forum so much.
Because that was precisely the mindset of the presenters -- and the people who attended -- no matter what industry, pedigree, or astrological sign.
As I watched the WIF presenters do their conference thang, I got some unexpected insights into the art and science of delivering a memorable presentation to a global audience of innovation-hungry patrons.
So, for all of you conference kick ass wannabees out there, take note. Here's part 1 of your tutorial.
1. Be in tune with your purpose: If you're going to hold an audience's attention for more than 10 minutes, you've got to begin by holding firm to your purpose... your calling... what gets you out of bed in the morning. If it's missing, all you could ever hope to deliver is a speech -- which is NOT what people want to hear.
If your purpose is clear, you're home free and won't need a single note card.
Mark Twain said it best: "If you speak the truth, you don't need to remember a thing."
2. Be passionate: Realize you are on the stage to let it rip. Completely. People are sitting in the audience because they want an experience, not just information. They want to feel something, not just hear something.
So play full out. Pull the rip cord. Jump!
3. Connect with the audience: You may know a lot of stuff. You may have a double Ph.D, but unless you know how to connect with the audience, your knowledge ain't worth squat.
If you were a tree falling in a conference room, no one would hear it.
So tune in! Establish rapport! Connect! And that begins by respecting your audience and realizing you are there to serve, not preach.
4. Tell stories: That's how great teachers have communicated since the beginning of time. Storytelling is the most effective way to disarm the skeptic and deliver meaning in a memorable way.
"The world is not made of atoms," explained poet, Muriel Rukyser. "It's made of stories."
No bull. Parable!
5. Have a sense of humor: There's a reason why HAHA and AHA are almost spelled the same. Both are about the experience of breakthrough. And both are sparked when the known is replaced by the unknown, when continuity is replaced by discontinuity.
Hey, admit it. At the end of the day, if you can't find the humor in business, you're screwed. So, why wait for the end of the day. Find the humor now.
6. Get visual: It's become a corporate sport to make fun of power point, but power point can be a thrill if done right. A picture really is worth a thousand words.
If you want to spark people's imagination, use images more than words. The root of the word imagination is image.
7. Have confidence: Do you know what the root of the word "confidence" is? It comes from the Latin "con-fide" -- meaning "to have faith." Have faith in what? Yourself.
That's not ego. It's the natural expression of a human being coming from the place of being called.
So, if you're about to walk out on stage and are feeling the impostor syndrome coming on, stop and get in touch with what is calling you.
Let that guy/gal speak.
8. Trim the Fat: When Michelangelo was asked how he made the David, he said it was simple -- that he merely took away "everything that wasn't."
The same holds for you, oh aspiring-kick ass-presenter-at-some-future high-profile-conference (or, at the very least, pep-talk-giver to your kid's Junior High School soccer team).
Keep it simple. Or, as Patti LaBarre, the delightful MC at the World Innovation Forum put it, "Minimize your jargon footprint."
9. Celebrate what works: If you want to raise healthy kids, reinforce their positive behaviors -- don't obsess on the negative. The same holds true for conference kick asss.
If you want to raise a healthy audience, give them examples of what's working out there in the marketplace. Feature the "bright spots," as Chip Heath likes to say. Share victories, best practices, and lessons learned.
Save the bitching and moaning for your therapist.
10. Walk the Talk: Good presenters are genuinely moved. Being genuinely moved, it's natural for them come out from behind the podium and actually move around the stage -- as in, walking the talk.
Big thanks to Michael Porter, Michael Howe, Jeff Kindler, Chip Heath, Andreas Weigend, Biz Stone, Seth Godin, Brian Shawn Cohen, Wendy Kopp, Ursula Burns, Joel Makower, Jeffrey Hollender and Robert Brunner for their presentations at the World Innovation Forum.
Special thanks to Seth Godin for his bold effort to remind people that "there is no map, not even a fictional map" -- and that all he could do was point the way there. Lucid. (Start walking, people!)
DVDs from past World Innovation Forums, are available here.
To subscribe to HSM's Inspiring Ideas Newsletter, click here.
For articles, interviews, videos and podcasts featuring leading business experts, thought leaders, and the latest management training, do not move to Montana. Click here, instead.
And last, but not least, a big thank you to Patricia Meier, Santiago Muro, George Levy, Becky Gee, Sebastian Mackinlay, Kelsey Woods, and the entire HSM team for all their hard work, good cheer, and vision to make this year's WIF such a delight.July 03, 2010
INTENTION: The Root of Creativity
If creativity is the flower of a human life, then intention is the root.
Indeed, there are many bipeds among us who believe that without intention, there can be no creativity.
More than its second cousins -- hope, wish, dream, and desire -- intention is the ground from which creativity springs.
One of the main reasons why creativity is so flaccid in most people (and by extension, most organizations) is that there is very little intention -- and the intention that does exist is often a simulation of the real thing -- upwardly mobile fast trackers inheriting someone else's vision, strategy or idea, but not sufficiently in touch with their own reason for being to really break through...
And so, if you want to create something new and meaningful, you will need to get more deeply in touch with your intention.
The force. The mojo. What truly moves you.
Intention, of course, can take many forms: the intention to change, the intention to improve, the intention to manifest miracles.
Whatever form it takes, your effort will need to be more than mental. More than emotional, psychological, or astrological. It will need to be primal -- in the same way that the moon affects the tides.
Well then, what is moving you these days? What is in your bones? What is calling you from within?
(Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel)