All Hands on Deck!
Look around you. This is not the time for lone wolves, closet geniuses, unaffiliated mavericks, out-of-orbit freelancers, hidden agendas, sole proprietors, superstars, cranky collaborators, or hyper independent dreamers. Sorry. Wrong decade. Now is the time for alliances, partnerships, collaborations, and team chemistry. If you are trying (heroically) to "get something done" and it just ain't happening, pause for a moment and take a good look at how you are operating. If you don't have a team of committed collaborators, allies, and partners in place, it will be very challenging to get the inspired results you are imagining. Make sense?The Glowing Ember of Your Heart
Everybody I know has something within them -- ember-like and glowing -- that is completely capable of flaming up at any given moment.
This "something" has been called many things by many people throughout the ages, but it does not need a name to give off light.
Primal, elemental, and pure, it is the innate potential every human being has to be fully alive.
What fans the flame of this unnameable ember varies from person to person, but its essence is the same: the power to ignite a transcendental sense of wholeness, goodness, and joy. Some people have this moment once in their lives. Some have it every day.
Here's my wish for you: Find that which fans the glowing ember of your heart. And when you do, give thanks.
Illustration: Sara Shafer
Business As Usual? November 26, 2011
The Danger of a Single Idea
November 23, 2011
Seeing What Doesn't Seem to Be There
The above image is a very good metaphor for business. There's something hidden in it that most people don't see at first glance. Looking at it the same way you always look at things won't help.
TEN WAYS TO SEE DIFFERENTLY
1. Soften your focus
2. Sneak up on it
3. Look at things from a different angle
4. Don't try so hard
5. Notice new patterns
6. Stop staring
7. Ask someone else to look on your behalf
8. Look away, then look back
9. Shrink or expand the image
10.Change the lighting
What would you add to this list?November 22, 2011
The Upturn Is Upon Us!
Let me be the first to declare that, despite the gloomy pronouncements of the naysaying media, there is a glorious upturn upon us. Yes, it's true. That is, IF you are willing to shift your focus just a bit and let the joy and happiness inside of you come out.The Architecture of Great Speeches
Very interesting presentation. Nancy Duarte has demystified the hidden structure of great speeches, using Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King speeches as examples. If you are a public speaker or aspire to deliver keynote presentations, this is a very useful tutorial. (Hint: Start with the current reality, build to the compelling vision of the possible).I Am Asking for Your Vote
Dear Heart of Innovation Readers:
If you believe I have added any value to the field of innovation/creativity this year, I humbly ask for your support. I have just been nominated by a leading speakers bureau as a "Top Speaker" in the field of innovation/creativity -- and am asking for your vote.
Simply click here, and click the box next to my name (Mitchell Ditkoff) in the Innovation/Creativity category.
The whole thing should take you less than a minute. Maybe 30 seconds if you've just had your morning coffee.
Thanks for your support!November 21, 2011
Creativity Rated #1 Leadership Quality in Global IBM Poll
Creativity is now considered the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking, according to a much-referenced recent study by IBM.
The study is the largest known sample of one-on-one CEO interviews, with over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today's world.
What is YOUR organization doing to help it's senior leaders unleash their creativity?November 20, 2011
Henry Miller on Confusion
November 19, 2011
Your Message For the Day
November 17, 2011
The Perfect Woodstock Getaway
Need a break? Want to get away for the weekend? Interested in visiting Woodstock, NY? Then stay at our fabulous Blue Pearl Guest Cottage. Just a 12 minute walk from town. Renew! Refresh! Revitalize!November 16, 2011
The Democratization of Creativity
Virtual Brainstorm Facilitation Training
Let me take a wild guess:
The brainstorming sessions you attend (or lead) leave something to be desired. You keep hoping they'll get better, but they don't. There's too much idea killing. Too much wheel spinning. Too much sound and fury, but not enough results.
You've thought about bringing in an outside training company, but they all seem a bit odd -- not to mention the fact that you can't find the budget -- or the time.
Not to worry. That's why we've created a new, flexible, virtual training program that makes it profoundly easy for you (and others) to learn the art and science of facilitating brainstorm sessions that work.
WHY HIRE US?
1. We've been facilitating brainstorming sessions since 1986.
2. We've worked with just about every industry (and mindset) on Planet Earth.
3. Our clients get tons of value.
4. We know how to bring out the best in aspiring facilitators.
5. We can customize the training for your specific needs.
6. We love what we do and are really good at it.
7. Our training materials are top-of-the-line.
8. We've created really cool online tools you can use in your sessions (live or virtual).
9. The co-designer of the training is the author of an award-winning book on the creative process.
Intrigued? Contact us today. Or if not today, tomorrow. Or if not tomorrow, the day after.November 14, 2011
"I have learned,
that if one
in the direction
of his dreams,
and endeavors to
live the life
he has imagined,
he will meet
with a success
in common hours."
-- Henry David Thoreau
Obvious to You, Amazing to Others
Derek Sivers, Founder of CD Baby, used to live one street away from me in Woodstock, NY. I saw him only once, walking on the road. Now here he is on YouTube. Yo, Derek! Thanks for this! So true...November 12, 2011
What Would You Like to See Here?
November 08, 2011
John Cleese on Creativity
Fabulous 10 minute video by John Cleese on the optimal conditions for creativity. Inspired. Lucid. Entertaining.
More about the subconsciousNovember 07, 2011
Culture of Innovation Rule #1
If you want to create a sustainable culture of innovation, you will first need to find a way to animate the buoyant energy lurking within each member of your workforce. If you skip this step, you will never hit the critical mass of mojo needed to turn theory into practice. In other words, you need to spark more of the feeling that moves someone to dance, than the thought that moves someone to create the next spreadsheet.November 06, 2011
10 Tips for Giving a Great Keynote
Actors want to direct. Directors want to produce. And consultants want to be kick ass speakers. And why not? The pay is good. It doesn't take much time. And it's a lot less heavy lifting than most consulting gigs.
Easier said that done, however. Delivering a kick ass keynote is not as easy as it looks. If you want to get into the game, begin by reviewing the following guidelines to see if you have what it takes.
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.
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 last year's 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.
Don't hide behind the podium. Screw your notes. If you have to depend on notes to give your presentation, guess what? You're not being present.
People aren't sitting in the audience to watch you read from your notes. They're sitting there to watch you blast off and inspire them to get out from behind their podium and accomplish the extraordinary.Going Beyond Digital Distraction
NOTE: The following piece is authored by Sarah Jacob, a new member of the Heart of Innovation blogging team. Sarah will be focusing on all things digital and the launching of Idea Champions new Virtual Innovation University -- a series of webinars and other online experiences that will make our work available to millions of people around the world. Welcome, Sarah!
Last night I read an article about the benefits of unplugging from the constant stream of information and data spew coming our way. The main message? Our addiction to distraction has made "human connection" unlikely, uncommon, and all too often, unavailable.
Forget "to be or not to be." The question these days is "To connect or not connect?"
At any given moment, any one of us is sitting in front of a computer with a seemingly infinite variety of social media options before us: e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Skype, Klout, and Google Plus just to name a few -- our cell phone just inches away ready to deliver the next text message (and the ever-more-rare phone call).
These days, it is easier than ever to connect with people -- a primordial urge that can be traced all the way back to our Neanderthalic roots and the ancient need to be accepted by our tribe.
Indeed, to the amygdala, the number of Likes we get on our latest Facebook status update is really just another form of survival!
"Am I accepted?" we wonder. "Do I belong?" Am I going to get booted from -- or worse, ignored by -- my virtual tribe if my status updates aren't interesting, profound, or funny enough?
Smart phones aside, we're really not all that different from our pre-Industrial Revolution ancestors who had to rely on family, neighbors, and community to harvest crops, raise barns, and fix roofs.
Skyscrapers have replaced farms, but our need to survive is as real as ever -- a need that is no longer satisfied by "job security". Why? There is none these days. It is gone, along with most of our seemingly unshakable economic structures.
Making a living these days is no longer about "getting a job" -- it's about creating work.
The good news? People are getting really creative towards that end. People are becoming their own brand. They are marketing their own unique skills, passions, and value to anyone and everyone who will listen.
They're doing it via social media in ways that blur the line between casual socializing and cunning marketing.
Was your friend's post about her exciting client meeting an enthusiastic desire to share, or was it "creating buzz"? Or both? These days, friends, acquaintances, and business contacts are all swirling around in the same human connection soup -- a soup that seems to be feeding most of us.
And yet, many of us share a gnawing sense that something about this recipe doesn't taste quite right. Something is missing. The mouth goes dry. No amount of drinking quenches our thirst. We are hungry all the time.
Today, for example, I communicated with 40 people and another 200 of my FB friends now know how I feel about the guy in high heels on the subway. But was there even the slightest hint of a sincere connection? A single authentic human exchange?
I'm being asked out on dates via text message and the most contact I've had, in the past three years, with my oldest friend is that she likes my Facebook status updates.
The constant tick of text bytes coming our way has become the digital equivalent of a strange clock ticking high on the wall in an empty room no one ever enters.
What are we really hungry for? What do we really want?
The answer is simple: Meaning. Beauty. Authentic connection. Soul. Experiences like seeing sunlight across a honey-colored wood floor. Like the sound of the wind scattering dry leaves. Like the perfect roundness of your dog's brown eye framed by a crescent of white.
In these all-too-rare moments of stillness come a surprise, an insight, an idea -- something brand new and utterly genius. Something worth sharing with another.
In this moment, without even thinking, you walk across the street to tell your neighbor. The animation in your gestures as you describe your idea is an act of creation. The aliveness you feel as you share your never-before-uttered thought is intoxicating. Your friend listens, really listens.
And if you're like me, you dance.
30 Ways to Know If You Have What It Really Takes to Innovate
Do you have what it takes to innovate? I'm not talking IQ, degree, or job title. No. I'm talking the curious confluence of behaviors that come with the territory of being the kind of person who turns top of the line ideas into bottom line realities. And while these behaviors don't guarantee a single thing, they do increase the odds of you actually manifesting something wonderful in this world.
1. You often come up with great ideas in the shower and car
2. You like to stay up late... or get up early... or both
3. You're comfortable with ambiguity and chaos
4. You've invited at least one friend into your personal think thank
5. You test out your ideas on just about anyone who will listen
6. You're not worried about failing
7. You know what you don't know, but can't always explain it
8. While your ducks are rarely in a row, they all seem to be happy
9. You like making connections between things that don't really go together.
10. You're open to feedback and, at the same time, don't care what anybody thinks
11. Some of your friends think you are out of balance
12. You find yourself laughing in the middle of the day for no reason
13. People get inspired around you
14. You've been known to wear two different socks
15. You feel like you're on the cusp of a breakthrough most of the time
16. You are flooded with ideas
17. You write notes in the margins of books
18. You like to conduct little experiments
19. You have a game plan, but it keeps changing
20. You love to immerse
21. When your day job dominates, you still find a way to "work in the cracks"
21. You wish there were more hours in the day
22. Your passion to make a difference exceeds your doubt
23. You find yourself getting clues about your project in odd places
24. You feel like you're having a spiritual experience
25. You are far more organized than anyone thinks
26. You know you need a collaborator, but are picky about who
27. You have a bold vision of what success looks like
28. Your project has little to do with what your college major was
29. You're looking for someone to head up marketing and sales
30. You can think of another ten items that should be on this list
The Incremental Improvement Trap
In today's nano-second, downsized, caffeine-buzzed business world, corporations are increasingly demanding that "their people" redouble their efforts to find new and better ways of getting the job done.
If this were the 1950's, an efficiency expert might be called in, a bespectacled, uncharismatic gentleman with a fascination for predictability, order, and control. His motto? "A place for everything and everything in its place."
It wasn't a great leap of faith for upwardly mobile managers to buy into this trendy "consulting service" since it seemed like such a safe way to yield increased productivity and reduced costs.
And yes, sometimes it did...
Eventually, this tidy little service matured into a full blown "organizational intervention" and was renamed and repriced.
The name? "Reengineering." The price? A lot.
The theory upon which this was based was difficult to find fault with -- that most company's processes were sadly misconfigured and, like the average American city, had grown to incredibly convoluted proportions without much thought for elegance, orderliness, or efficiency.
Systems, as the story went, were often disconnected from organizational needs, bringing with it an extraordinary amount of confusion, frustration, and a few too many martinis.
But let's dig a bit deeper.
It's interesting to note that the root of the word "reengineer" is "engine" (as in the machine that drives movement forward) and the root of the word engine is "gine" -- from the Latin "ingenum", meaning "genie," the spirit that drives the engine (from the same root as the word "genius").
What reengineering enthusiasts have forgotten is the fact that it is the "genie/genius" that drives the engine -- the very same genie being routinely excised from our organizations for the sake of efficiency.
The result? Organizational "solutions" have become overly systems- driven and do not give proper due to the collective intelligence, imagination, and creativity of the workforce.
If you are a Lean Management aficionado or a Six Sigma fan, relax. I am not making fun of you. You are smart. You are committed. And you do good work. Yes, I understand that root cause analyses, histograms, fishbone diagrams and the like do have an important role to play in an organization's effort to operate optimally. Indeed, when predictability, control and measures are the key drivers, continuous improvement tools can be extremely useful.
However, (dramatic pause here, folks... drum roll...and a paradigm shift to go), predictability, control, and measures are not the only forces that guide a company's success.
Invention, innovation, ingenuity, and creativity are not merely "processes" that can be replicated by getting everyone to follow the dots drawn by some reductionist-driven consultant. For that, something else is needed -- something beyond business as usual -- something that embraces discontinuity, ambiguity, serendipity, spontaneity, surprise, paradox, mystery, and chaos.
(Sounds like an upstart law firm from the future, eh?)
The invention of penicillin? A surprise to the inventor. A complete accident in the lab. The invention of Teflon? An experiment gone awry. Vulcanized rubber? A big overnight boo boo. The discovery of Velcro? Certainly not a function of a fishbone diagram.
Time and again the literature speaks of breakthrough moments and breakthrough ideas being preceded by a breakdown of the existing order. "You can't get there from here", could be their motto. Logic is replaced by a-logic, analysis by intuition, fixed laws by mutable laws. Is light a wave or a particle? Both and neither, depending, of course, on who the experimenter is.
And what about the Theory of Dissipative Structures which posits that everything in this universe eventually falls apart only to reorganize itself at a higher level? ("The act of creation begins, first of all, as an act of destruction" noted Picasso).
Business leaders beating the drums of double digit growth need to wean themselves from their addiction to incremental improvement and allow more discontinuity in their lives. Lots more. In fact, I'd venture to say several standard deviations more.
At the very least, our fearless leaders (and the people they lead) would be well-served to contemplate this pearl by Albert Einstein: "Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts."
Indeed, honoring the laws of discontinuity is one of the most responsible things forward thinking business leaders can do. Otherwise they are merely moving the chairs around on the deck of the Titanic. (The boat is sinking, but they know exactly at what rate the chairs are sliding into the ocean.)
How then, does a company introduce "discontinuous improvement" into its culture? How does a company stir the soup, challenge the status quo, think more creatively, go beyond business as usual, explore blue sky, get disruptive, and otherwise foster a dynamic culture of innovation without the whole "thing" devolving into some kind of corporate Lord of the Flies?
Stay tuned, folks. We'll be tackling these and other vital questions in the weeks and months to come. (If you really can't wait, contact us).
Until then... some food for thought to tide you over.
"Don't be afraid to take a big step when one is indicated. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps." -- David Lloyd George
"After years of telling corporate citizens to 'trust the system,' many companies must relearn instead to trust their people -- and encourage them to use neglected creative capacities in order to tap the most potent economic stimulus of all: idea power." -- Rosabeth Moss Kanter
"Systems die; instincts remain." -- Oliver Wendell Holmes
"You can only be as good as you dare to be bad." -- John Barrymore
"There's always an element of chance and you must be willing to live with that element. If you insist on certainty, you will paralyze yourself." -- J. P. Getty
"If you do not express your own original ideas, if you do not listen to your own being, you will have betrayed yourself." -- Rollo May
"The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge." -- Albert Einstein
"The best way to predict the future is to create it." -- Alan Kay
"You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new." -- Steve Jobs
"We've reached the end of incrementalism. Only those companies that are capable of creating industry revolutions will prosper in the new economy." -- Gary HamelNovember 01, 2011
The Last Words of Steve Jobs
a touching tribute
to Steve Jobs,
a eulogy, beautifully written,
by his sister, Mona Simpson.
It is deep, moving, and inspiring.
I was especially intrigued
by Steve's last words.
What was he seeing?
What was he feeling?
What moved him to say
what he said?
We will ALL
get the same chance one day.