September 30, 2011
Go After What You Want

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Here's to the Crazy Ones
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:57 PM | Comments (1)

Everyone's a Genius, But....

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If you want to create a culture of innovation in your organization, make sure you are matching people to projects that have passion for and have enough competence to succeed in.

If you're sensing that "things" aren't going all that well, it may be due to the fact that you've got fish climbing trees. Your task? Find a pond for the fish... and find some lovers of tree-climbing to pick the fruit or swing from the branches. Problem solved.

Idea Champions
Thanks to Lee Alter for the heads up.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

How Many of Your Thoughts Are Original?

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2011
The Creative Adult...

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Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:06 PM | Comments (1)

September 26, 2011
The Six Sigma Blues

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One of my favorite clients of all time was a key manager in a prominent Fortune 500 company.

She was smart. She was funny. She was creative. And she was kind.

Then her company adopted Six Sigma.

I couldn't help but notice that soon after this she started becoming very cranky, not unlike the way an artist gets upon filling out a tax form.

When I asked her how the Six Sigma initiative was going, she rolled her eyes and mumbled something about "going through the motions."

In a lucid online Business Week posting, Brian Hindo deconstructs some of the flawed assumptions of the Six Sigma approach.

"The very factors that make Six Sigma effective in one context," explains Hindo, "can make it ineffective in another. Traditionally, it uses rigorous statistical analysis to produce unambiguous data that help produce better quality, lower costs, and more efficiency. That all sounds great when you know what outcomes you'd like to control. But what about when there are few facts to go on -- or you don't even know the nature of the problem you're trying to define?

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"New things look very bad on this scale," says MIT Sloan School of Management professor Eric von Hippel, who has worked with 3M on innovation projects that he says 'took a backseat' once Six Sigma settled in.

"The more you hardwire a company on total quality management, the more it is going to hurt breakthrough innovation," adds Vijay Govindarajan, a management professor at Dartmouth's Tuck School of Business. "The mindset that is needed, the capabilities that are needed, the metrics that are needed, the whole culture that is needed for discontinuous innovation, are fundamentally different."

And so, dear Heart of Innovation readers, in honor of all people who have ever questioned the long-term value of Six Sigma... in honor of all the people who have understood that increasing -- not decreasing -- variability is often the key to success, it is my utmost pleasure to make my graceful exit from this latest blog posting with the immortal, finger-snapping, toe-tapping, knee-slapping, put-on-your-blues-hat-and-sunglasses lyrics to....

THE GOTTA HAVE A PROCESS BLUES

I woke up this morning,
put both feet on the floor,
but I didn't have a process
to find the bathroom door,
so all I did was shuffle,
first the left foot, then the right,
forgot to count the tiles,
(hey boss, I ain't too bright.)

We got green belts, black belts,
corporate karate,
and soon we'll need a process
for going to the potty.
Lord, I need a chart and graph to help me choose
just what to name this song about the Six Sigma blues.

Back when we were kids
the only processed thing was cheese,
now we need a process
every single time we sneeze,
I say "achoo," I blow my nose,
I try to get it right,
my Black Belt says my charts don't flow,
not once a gesundheit.

I make no mistakes,
I do everything right --
to make sure nothing breaks,
I stay up all night,
I'm a Six Sigma cowboy
cutting cycle time in half,
I measure every joke
and the way it makes me laugh.

We got green belts, black belts,
corporate karate,
and soon we'll need a process
for going to the potty,
a fishbone diagram would be so cool to help me choose
just what to name this song about the Six Sigma blues.

I barely make a boo boo, I rarely blow a deal,
you might call it voo doo, but that's just how I feel,
I'm one in a million
though my defects number three,
I log on while I'm sleeping
and I've changed my name to "E."

We got green belts, black belts,
corporate karate,
and soon we'll need a process
for going to the potty.

-- Blind Willy Nilly (aka "Mitch Ditkoff")

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Face the Music
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:10 PM | Comments (2)

Even Michelangelo's David Started Out as a Block

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Stuck? Confused? Blocked?

Get over it by printing out this posting, filling in the blanks, and then reading your story aloud. Works wonders! Better than therapy! Cheaper than Prozac!

"Boy, am I blocked! I haven't felt this bad since ___________. I've tried __________________ and ____________________, but nothing seems to work. It's almost laughable the way I'm spending all my time ___________________.

I feel so frustrated I could _________________________.

I hate it when _____________________________. It makes me feel like a ________________ without a ____________.

I'm so tired of ___________________________. Just yesterday, I felt so ___________________ I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

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But now... it feels like the tunnel is filled with ___________________ and the light has turned to ___________________.

Uh oh! What if I stay stuck like this forever?

I can see the writing on my tombstone now: '__________________________ _______________________.' What an epitaph! That would really make me feel like a _________________________________________.

I wish there was someone I could blame besides myself!

Hmmm... Maybe ________________ would make a good person to dump on. If he/she was here with me now, I'd _________________________________________.

How did I get into this situation anyhow? I never really intended to _____________________________________________.

All I wanted was ____________________________.

Why does it have to be so unbelievably difficult? If only I could stop feeling so ________________________________.

Hey! Just last week I got tons of great ideas about my project -- ideas like ____________________ and ____________________ and ______________________.

Any one of those brainstorms could easily be the key. And even if they weren't, I could always ________________________________________.

I could even call ________________ and _______________. They're tuned into my project! Maybe they'd have a clue about how to proceed.

Actually, this is all pretty funny.

I seem to love focusing on my problems instead of possible solutions. Talk about creative! I must have ________ ways to avoid taking the next step.

Which reminds me.... I guess the next thing I need to do is ___________________________. And after that I'll _____________________.

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Isn't it fascinating how this stuff works? In a little while, I'll probably look back at this crazy time and realize _____________________
_______________________.

Go beyond confusion

More support for you

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:30 AM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2011
More to Live For

More to Live For is a wonderfully inspiring new documentary, just shown at the Woodstock Film Festival, on a topic that is too little understood: bone marrow donation. Directed by Noah Hutton, a brilliant 24-year old filmmaker, More to Live For is more than a movie -- it's a project dedicated to saving lives. See it. The life you save may be your own -- or someone very close to you.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:32 PM | Comments (0)

Bill Gates on Failure

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Well, if this is true for Microsoft, with all of its deep pockets, think about your own business for a moment. Ouch! What can you do this week to ensure that your venture doesn't crap out in two years?

Rethinking Failure
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:57 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2011
22 Reasons Why We Love Lists

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1. Lists simplify.

2. Lists promise instant knowledge.

3. Lists provide choices.

4. We are all victims of information overload. Lists help us make sense of the world.

5. Lists make it seem as if the list maker knows something that list readers don't.

6. Lists appeal to an ever expanding population of ADD sufferers.

7. Lists appeal to the left brain need for order and linearity.

8. Lists are made of soundbytes. Soundbytes 'R Us.

9. Lists are familiar. We grew up making them: laundry lists, grocery lists, and Christmas lists.

10. Lists can be updated, added to, or subtracted from easily.

11. Lists give us an instant opportunity to disagree.

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12. Lists, with their declarative headlines, make list readers feel like they are just about to get a crash course on a topic of great significance.

13. Lists, when forwarded to friends or clients, position the list forwarder as a knowledgeable resource.

14. Lists include items that are numbered -- and most readers assume that an item that's numbered must be more true than an item that's merely bulleted.

15. Lists can be printed quickly, folded up, and put into one's pocket -- as opposed to New Yorker articles, the collected works of Henry Miller, or Sunday's New York Times.

16. Items on lists can be easily crossed off, giving the list maker an instant feeling of accomplishment

17. Lists are great ways for list makers, especially in the hyperlinked blogosphere, to plug their own books, products, and services.

18. Lists are easily scanned.

19. Numbered lists provide a sense of progression (either forward or backward).

20. Lists build suspense and excitement.

21. Lists provide bite sized facts and insights.

22. Lists make it easy to refer back to individual points or facts during a conversation ("Let's review point 10 again, it's relevant to what we're talking about right now.... ")

Thanks to Mark Dykeman for #18-22.
Can you think of any others?

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2011
Catalyze This!

Every once in a while one of our clients really gets it. And when I say "it", I am not referring to stock options, narcolepsy, or the Nobel Prize.

The "it" I am referring to is the meme, the mojo -- the main meaning of our message -- a message, I am happy to say, that is not really OUR message, but the message of a billion aspiring innovators since the beginning of time.

Lo, I say unto you, the extraordinarily perspicacious Ken Mendelkern, Senior Account Supervisor of Catalyst Public Relations, in New Yawk City -- has just published this fine looking blog specimen on the Catalyst blog -- giving heartfelt props to Idea Champions (that's us, folks) in response to a four-hour ideation session we facilitated, last Friday, in Catalyst's finely appointed Empire State Building offices.

Read it and leap!

We like Catalyst. We think they're smart, funny, focused, and have exceedingly good taste.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:16 PM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2011
Humor in the Workplace

Wonderful video about the power of humor in the workplace, featuring a (possible) new client of ours, Peppercom.

What's in a name?
Consultant outsources sleep
Quotes on play, humor, and creativity
Our clients speak

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:51 PM | Comments (1)

September 19, 2011
Intuit! Then Do It!

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What is your intuition telling you about your most fascinating project?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:47 PM | Comments (1)

September 15, 2011
Picasso on the Act of Creation

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Yes, sometimes things have to fall apart before they can reform themselves into something new and sustainable.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:43 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2011
THANK Tanks, Not THINK Tanks

I'd like your feedback on a new idea of mine which I have playfully named THANK TANKS (with the help of one of my FB friends).

The idea, still rough, is for organizations to provide their employees with a practical way to express their appreciation (of each other and the business) -- instead of always harping on what's wrong.

In the same way that Quality Circles were a big hit in the 80's, THANK TANKS (i.e. "Appreciation Circles"), might be exactly what the doctor ordered for these difficult times.

The idea is related to the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, but is not focused on improving organizational processes. Rather, it focuses on the all-too-rare moment of people appreciating each other.

I realize that some business leaders will consider this a trivial pursuit. So be it.

I'm betting there are many forward thinking leaders who will be open to the idea -- especially if the execution of it is simple, engaging, low cost, and raises morale.

At the very least, consider devoting 10 minutes, in some of your meetings, for people to acknowledge each other for all the good stuff that is going on.

Your thoughts? Ideas? Feedback? How do you see this working in your company?

Keynote
Idea Champions

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

September 12, 2011
Go Beyond Logic and Analysis

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Idea Champions
More Einstein quotes

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

The Case for Laughter

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There's a reason why AHA and HAHA are almost spelled the same...

Clarence Darrow
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:43 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2011
Out of the Ashes, Breakthrough!

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I am thrilled to publish the following article by Steve Cronin, a brilliant inventor who attended one of my innovation trainings ten years ago to the day. Thanks, Steve, for stepping up and speaking your truth. Keep on innovating!

"Almost everyone knows what 911 represents. Emergency! Help! Chaos! After September 11th, 2001, nine-one-one became nine-eleven and those numbers took on a whole new meaning.

Without a doubt, it was a day that changed the course of history -- a day that woke up an entire generation of Americans to a very real threat of terror at any time, any place.

I certainly remember where I was ten years ago on September 11th, 2001. The day was so vivid for me, in such a unique way, though I was nowhere near New York City or Washington.

I was in Akron, Ohio, at a Hilton Hotel, attending a one-day innovation training being facilitated by Idea Champions.

A couple of hours into the course we were on a break, at the hotel lounge, when the news flashed on a huge TV screen -- news of a plane hitting the World Trade Center, and then, a few minutes later, news of a second. All of us stood there in disbelief, shocked and confused.

What had just happened?

Our instructor, Mitch, was calm, but like most of us, in a bit in shock himself. It was much more personal for him, as he lived near New York City and had to make a couple of calls to make sure everything was OK.

The more I thought about what I had just seen; an unexpected determination began to grow inside of me. As the training progressed, those images stayed in my mind. I was determined to do... something. But what? What could I do?

At that time in my career, I was working in product development at Goodyear Tire and Rubber, with a focus on aircraft tires. I was what they call a "compounder", a person who created compounds to make aircraft tires better.

So there I was, watching planes crash into skyscrapers, destruction everywhere, while I was in a class devoted to creation, innovating something new, making things better, not worse.

That day changed me forever.

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It was the day I knew I was meant to innovate something extraordinary. I knew that if I focused, something good would come out of something so evil.

So began my journey to develop a completely new aircraft tire tread compound.

It was not easy, and I surely didn't do it alone, but with time, hard work, and persistence, it happened.

When all was said and done, I had created a new tread compound, one of the best in the world for landing performance -- a product composed of materials that many people, including a high ranking official at NASA, said could not possibly work.

But I persisted. I knew, in my gut, that with a creative approach, it had to be possible. The feelings of that day, 9/11/01 stayed with me. I remained focused on the core principles of innovation, and I let the inspiration flow from the spirit within me.

In recognition of my efforts, I was named -- along with a few other collaborators -- Corporate Inventor of the Year in 2008. Yes, a little bit of good did come out of that day known as 9-11.

As Einstein so rightly stated: "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity".

It's up to each of us to find that hidden opportunity and make it real!

It's difficult to say why we become who we become. Is it our genetics? Is it our life experience? Is it all predetermined?

I often ask myself why I was at Mitch's innovation class on 9-11, but looking back it's pretty obvious why. But regardless of the why, I can say without a doubt that I am hopelessly and passionately in love with innovation -- maybe even addicted to it. I can't think of anything nobler than to simply create, to innovate.

It's what I chose to do for the rest of my life.

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Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:10 AM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2011
Steve Martin on Presentation Skills

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Now... if we can only get Steve Martin to facilitate our new presentation skills course.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:48 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2011
Be Glad Your Ideas Are Foolish

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Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2011
The Beauty of Invisible Labor

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What is work, anyway? Too many of us devote ourselves to looking busy when, in fact, the breakthroughs often come when nothing seems to be happening.

Victor Hugo
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:25 PM | Comments (1)

September 06, 2011
Innovators Don't Only Dream, They Remember Their Dreams

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Many great breakthroughs have come in dreams.

Rene Descartes got the concept for the Scientific Method in a dream. Elias Howe came up with the final design for the lock stitch sewing machine in a dream. August Kekule arrived at the formulation of the Benzene molecule in a dream.

In the dream state, the subconscious mind arrives at solutions that the conscious mind is unlikely to discover during the daily grind -- no matter much it obsesses, gathers data, or blames the "organization."

That's why Thomas Edison and Salvadore Dali used to take naps during the day. They knew they got their best ideas in dreams, so they decided to wake up more than once a day. Yes!

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

1. Before going to bed tonight, bring to mind a compelling question, challenge, or opportunity that you've been wrestling with.

2. As you fall asleep, stay focused on it.

3. When you awake, write your dream down, even if it makes no sense.

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4. Stay in bed for a few minutes and reflect on each element of your dream. See if you can make any connections to the question you asked before going to sleep. If so... write them down.

PS: I once asked a group of chemical engineers to remember their dreams after the first day of a two-day creative thinking training I was leading.

Before the session started on the second day, one of the engineers -- with a huge grin on his face -- asked if he could address the full group and proceeded to explain that, the night before, he dreamed the solution to an engineering problem he'd been wrestling with for two years.

With great excitement, he then drew the solution on a flipchart, complete with detailed schematics. His collaborator, also attending the training, just sat there, completely speechless. Then they both started laughing.

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny!'" - Isaac Asimov

Technique excerpted from Awake at the Wheel.

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Picasso
Idea Champions University

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:18 PM | Comments (1)

I Don't Just Write This Blog, I Talk, Too -- As in Keynote Presentations

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I am happy to announce that Core Speaker's Agency has stepped up to the plate and taken me on as one of their featured keynote speakers in the field of innovation.

I am also very ably represented by Speaker's Platform.

This is good news because both of these savvy bureaus are way better at representing me than I am at representing myself.

In the past 9 months, I've delivered keynotes for National Institutes of Health (twice), EXL, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Inpex, Intertek and, in October, BASF.

Here is a link to the topics I am currently offering.

Here's my approach to keynote speaking.

Idea Champions
My bio

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2011
99% of Success is Built on Failure

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Or as Thomas Watson, former CEO of IBM once said, "Hurry up and make your first 500 mistakes." Your move...

Charles Kettering
Idea Champions
Rethinking Failure

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

September 04, 2011
Steve Jobs' Large Vision

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What is your large vision? What difference do you want to make?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:29 AM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2011
Express Your Ideas!

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BTW, Rollo May wrote one of the best books on the roots of creativity that I have ever read. Very compelling. It's a classic: The Courage to Create.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 02, 2011
Building Innovation Capabilities

Most Heart of Innovation readers only know about Idea Champions from what they read on this blog. They do not necessarily know what we DO when we're not writing this blog.

If this describes you, here -- in the words of one of our newest clients (Highmark) -- is a clue.

"Idea Champions did a fantastic job conducting training for our leadership team! They have a very pragmatic approach to building innovation capabilities -- one that leaders can really connect with. The training was entertaining and hit the key points home. They are highly recommended and we plan to continue having them as a partner."

- Darcy Smith, VP, Subsidiary HR

What our other clients say

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

The Wisdom of Insecurity

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What a perfect quote for these insecure times! Last week Hurricane Irene blew through the Catskill Mountains, where I live. Whole towns were washed away. One day your house is standing. The next day it's not. Same goes for your business... your job... and your entire industry. The question, of course, is how to maintain your sanity and your mojo even though everything around you is changing.

Helen Keller

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:30 AM | Comments (0)

Who Are We?

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.

Top 5 Speaker
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.
Workshops & Trainings
Highly engaging learning experiences that increase each participant's ability to become a creative force for positive change
Brainstorm Facilitation
High impact certification training that teaches committed change agents how to lead groundbreaking ideation sessions
Cultivating Innovation
Your "best and brightest" are the future leaders of your company, but unless they know how to foster a culture of innovation, their impact will be limited. A one-day workshop with us is all they need to begin this journey.
Our Blog Cabin
Our Heart of Innovation blog is a daily destination for movers and shakers everywhere — gleefully produced by our President, Mitch Ditkoff, voted "best innovation blogger in the world" two years running.
What's the Problem
Einstein once said that if he had 60 minutes to solve a problem, he'd spend the first 55 thinking about the problem, and the next 5 solving it. This is the workshop he would have invented if time wasn't so relative.
Team Innovation
Innovation is a team sport. Brilliant ideas go nowhere unless your people are aligned, collaborative, and team-oriented. That doesn't happen automatically, however. It takes intention, clarity, selflessness, and a new way of operating.
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