What Our Clients Say About Us
February 25, 2012
of this blog
all we do is write
Our main thing is
helping organizations innovate.
What we write about
is the fruit
of our experience.
Better to hear
what our clients say about us
than what we say.
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15 Great Quotes on the Importance of Asking the Right Question
As an innovation consultant and a facilitator of the creative process, I continue to be astounded by how few organizations have any kind of process is place to PAUSE, reflect, and make sure they are coming up with the right questions. Apparently, I'm not alone...
1. "It's not that they can't see the solution. They can't see the problem." - G.K. Chesterton
2. "There are no right answers to wrong questions." - Ursula K. Le Guin
3. "We thought that we had the answers, it was the questions we had wrong." - Bono
4. "Ask the right questions if you're going to find the right answers." - Vanessa Redgrave
5. "Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers." - Robert Half
6. "What people think of as the moment of discovery is really the discovery of the question." - Jonas Salk
7. "What we observe is not nature itself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning." - Werner Heisenberg
8. "The uncreative mind can spot wrong answers, but it takes a very creative mind to spot wrong questions." - Antony Jay
9. "In school, we're rewarded for having the answer, not for asking a good question." - Richard Saul Wurman
10. "In all affairs, it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted." - Bertrand Russell
11. "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." - Pablo Picasso
12. "Judge a man by his questions rather than his answers." - Voltaire
13. "We hear only those questions for which we are in a position to find answers." - Friedrich Nietszche
14. "My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions." - Peter Drucker
15. "He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever." - Chinese proverbFebruary 24, 2012
Creative Thinking Technique #6
Some years ago, as the story goes, a large truck got stuck in a New York City tunnel. (Apparently the driver did not notice the maximum height sign and wedged his vehicle against the roof of the tunnel.)
Traffic backed up for miles while angry motorists honked their horns and waited impatiently for police to arrive.
Just as the authorities were about to weld the top off the truck, a five-year old girl, watching from the backseat of her parents' car, calmly asked why the grown ups didn't just let some air out of the tires to lower the height of the truck so it could continue through the tunnel.
Her father, tickled by his daughter's suggestion, got out of his car and shared the idea with the powers that be. Problem solved.
1. Think of a challenge you have been struggling with.
2. Present it to a child.
3. Listen carefully to their suggestions.
4. Even if no brilliant ideas emerge, look for the wisdom hidden within their most interesting approach.
PS: Psychologists claim that a human being is most creative at the age of five.February 23, 2012
The Five Regrets of the Dying
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives.
Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom.
"When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."
THE FIVE REGRETS OF THE DYING
1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
"This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it."
2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.
"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."
3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
"Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."
Thanks to David Passes for the heads up
Got a Big Idea? Speak Up!
You have a BIG idea. A HOT idea. An INSPIRED idea -- one that will make a difference. Maybe it's an idea for a new product... or a new service... or a process improvement. Or maybe you just want to move away and join the circus.
You cannot shake this idea. It shakes you. But you have not told anyone about it. At least not recently. I'm not sure why. Maybe you think you'll be ridiculed... or there's no budget for it... or you don't have the time. So what? If you don't speak up, nothing will happen and you'll only end up cranky and wondering "What if?"
Tell someone! Let go of your doubts! Get the ball rolling! "If not you, WHO? If not now, WHEN?"February 18, 2012
The Romance of Creativity
If you are trying to bring something new into the world, know this:
The creative process is very much like a relationship.
And like most relationships, it usually begins with fascination -- that curious state of mind that keeps you spellbound, charmed, and aroused.
Whenever someone gets a new idea, a kind of romance begins.
For many of us, just thinking about a new idea is an aphrodisiac. It turns us on, psyches us up, and otherwise makes it hard to eat, sleep, or obsess about cash flow.
While some people involved in a new relationship are able to sustain this excitement for months, most of us are less fortunate. It's the rare person who knows how to savor and expand upon this feeling for years.
After the intoxication of the initial encounter wears off, a less-than-incredible reality sets in.
Where once we saw only beauty, now we see blemishes.
To make matters worse, a werid kind performance anxiety enters the picture.
"Will I be good enough to achieve my goal?" we ask. "Do I have what it takes?"
Call it doubt if you like, but any way you slice it, the honeymoon is over.
What follows is a painful period of re-evaluation.
Long-buried fears of being consumed by the "other" surface, driving us into withdrawal. Instead of enjoying the outpouring of creative energy that accompanies a new idea, we study it. We dissect about it. We doubt it. Anything but let go to it.
Before you know it, the approach/avoidance game is upon us. On Monday we're totally absorbed in our new venture. On Friday, we're sure it's a waste of time.
The plot soon thickens.
Instead of maintaining our commitment to our HOT new idea, we begin having flings.
We flirt with other ideas, other possibilities, other new loves. We get into everything and anything -- whatever it takes not to sustain our ongoing relationship with our original inspiration.
Is there any hope?
Yes, there is. And something a lot more powerful than hope -- awareness.
Simply by being aware of the mind games you play will go a long way towards making magic happen.
To begin with, understand that all romances, no matter how inspiring, are temporary. The trivial ones end. The good ones mature, often growing into committed relationships -- even marriages.
If you are serious about your current hot idea, be willing to get closer to it. Be willing to go from the romance stage to an intimate relationship.
Understand what the creative process is -- an impossible-to-deny encounter with yourself -- your fears, your power, your vision, and what drives you to play the game of life.
Know that you will have your falling out periods and your disagreements. Know that you will sometimes feel like a fraud. And know that the fuel for many creative breakthroughs has not only been passion, purpose, and power, but confusion, conflict, and collapse.
It's normal. It's human. It's part of the process.February 17, 2012
Stick Your Neck Out
the status quo
make best use
stick your neck out,
a really good
What Makes a High Performing Innovation Council?
During the past 25 years I've seen a lot of innovation councils (aka "innovation task forces") come and go.
Some of them looked good at the beginning and died a slow death. Some of them looked bad at the beginning and died a quick death.
And some of them actually succeeded.
Before diving in, pause, take a breath, and consider the following guidelines.
They will save you time. They will save you headaches. And they may even save your company.
20 TIPS FOR LAUNCHING AN INNOVATION COUNCIL
1. Quit now if you're not really into it.
2. Be mindful of who you invite to participate. Just because someone is a "senior leader" doesn't automatically mean they should be on the Innovation Council. If they don't have the time, passion, or willingness to push the envelope, there's no reason for them to participate.
3. Create a charter. Define tasks. Make sure everyone knows exactly what's expected of them.
4. Establish clear agreements at your first meeting. Otherwise, prepare for chaos, wheel spinning, indecision, and the corporate hoky poky.
5. Build accountability into the process. Innovation Council members, no matter how high up they are on the corporate food chain, need to keep their word to each other. No slacking.
6. Clarify the lines of communication to key stakeholders who are not Innovation Council members. Do not fall prey to the Ivory Tower Syndrome.
7. Feel free to include senior leaders on the council, but only if they really want to do the work. This is NOT a committee or a plum ambassadorship to a fictitious country called "innovation." This is a working group that really needs to be on top of its game, honor its commitments, and model the very best of what real innovation is all about.
8. Meet more often than you want to. (If you only meet once a quarter, fuggedaboutit.)
9. Make sure the person who facilitates your meetings knows what they're doing -- and is prepared for each meeting.
10. Limit the size of your Innovation Council to seven. Any more than ten and you'll have an Innovation Swamp.
11. Have a sense of urgency, not panic.
12. Celebrate your successes, even if they're small.
13. Honor confidentiality.
14. Be lifelong learners about innovation. Put together a reading list. Teach each other.
15. If an Innovation Council member starts to flake out, ask them to either step up or step out.
16. Take notes at each meeting and distribute them within 24 hours.
17. Invite non-Council members to participate in your meetings every once in a while. Don't become a cult.
18. Speak your truth to your "executive sponsors", or whoever the Innovation Council reports to. If they're not holding up their end of the bargain, you're wasting your time.
19. Communicate what you're doing to the rest of the company. Don't keep it a secret. Transparency is the name of the game.
20. Do whatever is necessary to stay inspired. All too often Innovation Councils implode under the collective weight of their own busyness, ridiculous work loads, and stress. PS: Have fun with this!
February 15, 2012
What have I forgotten? Please add to this list, oh esteemed present and former Innovation Council members. Let it rip!
The Three Dimensions of Client Mix
One of the biggest business challenges for any entrepreneur or organization is "client mix" -- how many of what kind of client or customer to have.
Years ago, a good friend and former client of mine, Edwin Tanaka, clarified this challenge for me with a story about how he managed his world-wide client base for Mitsui Manufacturing.
"I use an agricultural model called Radishes, Wheat, and Trees," he explained.
Puzzled, I asked him to tell me what he meant.
He responded by asking me three questions:
"Have you ever met a guy with a 100 million dollar deal who can't pay for lunch?"
I answered, "Yes, I happen to be working with someone like that right now."
Then he said, "He may not be a bad guy with a bad deal. He is just a tree farmer who has nothing to eat while he waits for his trees to bear fruit."
Then he asked, "Have you ever met a guy with a lot of money and then, soon after that, has no money -- again and again?"
I answered, "Yes, in fact, this describes me quite well."
Edwin went on. "This is not a bad guy. He's just a wheat farmer who goes from feast to famine."
Then he asked, "Have you ever met a guy who is caught up in a lot of small projects, but never seems to do anything big?"
"Yes," I said again, "I know a lot of people like that."
It's simple," Edwin continued. "They are just radish farmers with lots to eat, but not much to show for it."
I asked him what this all meant.
"The smart farmer," he explained, "plants all three. He plants some radishes that harvest every two to four weeks. He also plants wheat, at the same time, and waits six months to a year for it to come to harvest. He also plants trees, at the same time, and eats wheat and radishes while he waits for his trees to bear fruit in 15 to 30 years. The smart farmer plants all three and always has something to eat."
I asked him how this applied to his client base.
"It's all about cultivation and timing," he said. "Smaller clients are radishes and don't need a lot of cultivation. Some clients are wheat and need more cultivation. Some are trees and need a lot of cultivation."
"Cultivation requires time, energy, conversation, materials, expenditures, presentations, and the like. If you gave a tree the same cultivation you gave a radish, you would starve it. If you gave a radish the same cultivation you gave a tree you would drown it."
"You have to have the patience of a farmer," he said. "Farmers don't go into their fields and yank on the plants to get them to grow faster. They cultivate them. They let them germinate and grow. For major clients that brought a big return, it would take us a year or two just to get in the door. Smaller clients take much less time, energy, and effort."
"I always made sure," he explained, "that I had a good balance of radishes, wheat, and trees in my portfolio of clients. Most importantly, I never gave them too much of what they didn't need or too little of what they did need."
I never forgot Edwin's words and have applied them in my business for over 20 years. I have shared this story with clients more times that I can count.
In my consulting business, I make sure my bills are paid by the radish clients -- clients that are very regular, but tend to be smaller. They get me to my financial floor and pure survival.
My wheat clients are more project oriented. They take care of the unforeseen financial obstacles and opportunities that inevitably emerge. They come and go on a recurring basis and ensure a level of sufficiency.
My tree clients are the big clients. They take longer to acquire, but they bring abundance.
Each person or business has to define, for themselves, their own profile of a radish, wheat, or tree. There are no rules except one that I learned from Edwin, keep all three in balance.
-- by Paul Roth (Idea Champions' Chief Collaboration Officer
The Arc of a Good Presentation February 13, 2012
The Bitter Fruit of Unresolved Executive Conflict
Unresolved conflict at the top of an organization invariably produces chaos at the middle and bottom.
When senior leaders avoid conflict among themselves and let key issues go unresolved because of this avoidance, the unresolved conflict ripples throughout the organization and paralyzes action at every level.
Followers of executives in power must constantly strive to show that they are loyal to their sponsors -- and so they must scrutinize everything they do to ensure they are not perceived as violating the party line. Not exactly a formula for authentic action.
To make matters worse, well-meaning members of the workforce are often enlisted to participate in task forces to deal with the various by-products of the unresolved issues at the top.
These efforts are guaranteed to fail, since any recommendations for resolution will undoubtedly compromise at least one of the contending senior managers who will usually wield their power to veto the idea, leaving the task force frustrated and progress hindered.
And the results? Pure irony -- because members of the task force will have attempted to remain loyal to their constituency throughout the proceedings and will usually end up feeling they have salvaged the most important interests of their group in the negotiation process.
The still misaligned senior managers, however -- having delegated their unresolved conflict -- will generally respond by taking an all-or-nothing posture on the outcome.
The only true resolution of this all-too-common phenomenon requires the direct participation of the protagonists -- a gathering that will usually only take place at the behest of someone even higher in the hierarchy.
- Barry GruenbergFebruary 09, 2012
The Perfect Woodstock Getaway
When it's time to get away to fabulous Woodstock, NY, consider staying at the Blue Pearl. This extraordinary guest cottage is the perfect retreat for anyone looking to chill (especially this winter.) Located less than a mile from the center of town, the Blue Pearl is gorgeous, cozy, and warm. Mention the phrase Idea Champions when you book your stay and get a free copy of Awake at the Wheel and a year's subscription to Free the Genie.
Consultant Outsources Sleep!
In an extraordinary move, destined to be emulated by forward thinking business leaders everywhere, I've just outsourced all my sleep to a guy named Namdev in New Delhi.
Yes, it's true. I no longer need to sleep. Namdev does it for me. It's astounding how much more productive I've been this week.
And, as if my sleep breakthrough wasn't enough, I've also outsourced all my exercise to a guy named Sung Lee in Malaysia. God bless Sung Lee! He's been on the Stairmaster three hours today and will be working on our delts and pecs tomorrow. Needless to say, I'm feeling totally buff at the moment.
I was just about to have a big piece of cherry cheesecake to celebrate my innovative, time-saving enhancements, but I've outsourced all my eating to a woman named Min Yung in Taiwan. I'm down to 145. Hallelujah! All my pants fit!
The only thing I didn't outsource this week was this blog posting and a visit to my dentist. (Do any of you know someone willing to get a root canal on my behalf?)February 07, 2012
Creative Thinking Technique #5
THE THIRD EYE OF THE STORM
At the center of every storm is total stillness. No matter how much swirling, flooding, and high winds are happening on the periphery, at the core of every storm is complete quiet.
The same holds true for the creative process.
At the edges of your Big Idea, there is a great swirling: bills to pay, ovens to clean, cars to repair -- the kind of stuff that can easily occupy all your time and attention. That is, if you let it.
A true innovator will find a way to deal with the high winds and still have enough time to hatch their big idea. And they will do so in a way that does not judge the stuff on the seeming "periphery" to be any less important than the quiet at the center of the storm.
1. Make a list of your three biggest responsibilities.
2. Create a plan for handling them. Today.
3. Whenever one of these responsibilities competes with time you have to develop your Big Idea, take a few, deep breaths. Remember how lucky you are to be alive.
4. Acknowledge the peripheral task that needs to be done. Acknowledge the person who is reminding you to do it. Remember how lucky you are to be alive.
5. As you begin handling your responsibilities, remain at the center of the storm, concentrating on your breathing with the full realization that you will be returning to your "creative space" at just the right time.
6. Stop bitching and moaning. It's a waste of time.February 05, 2012
A Message for Dads Who Travel
Thirteen years ago I found myself standing in my closet, madly searching for clean clothes in a last minute attempt to pack before yet another business trip, when I noticed my 4-year old son standing at the entrance.
In one hand, he held a small blue wand, in the other -- a plastic bottle of soapy water.
"Dada," he said, looking up at me. "Do you have time to catch my bubbles?"
Time? It stopped. And so did I.
At that moment, it suddenly made no difference whether or not I caught my plane -- I could barely catch my breath. The only thing that existed was him and that soulful look of longing in his eyes.
For the next ten minutes, all we did was play -- him blowing bubbles and laughing. Me catching and laughing, too.
His need was completely satisfied. His need for connection. His need for love. His need for knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that absolutely everything was perfect just the way it was.
Next time you're rushing out of your house for your next business trip, remember to STOP and catch the bubbles. Thirteen years later you won't remember the trip, but you will remember the bubbles.February 03, 2012
The Top 10 Reasons Why The 10 Top Reasons Don't Matter
1. If you need more data to prove your point, you'll never have enough data to prove your point.
2. Being unreasonable is often an innovator's biggest advantage.
3. Analysis paralysis.
4. You already know what to do.
5. You're going to follow your gut, anyway.
6. "Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted counts." (Einstein)
7. By the time you put your business plan together, the market has already passed you by.
8. "Conclusions arrived at through reasoning have very little or no influence in altering the course of our lives." (Carlos Casteneda)
9. The scientific method came to Rene Descartes in a dream!
10. "Reason" is your clever little strategy for explaining the decisions you've already made with your gut. Not that there's anything wrong with "reason," mind you -- it's just highly overrated. Like Six Sigma, for example. Or having been afraid of doing something risky in high school because others kept telling you it was going to end up on your "permanent record."February 02, 2012
Creative Thinking Technique #4
In India, spiritual adepts who give up sex to pursue God are known as "brahmacharyas."
They believe that their vital power (i.e. kundalini) needs to be completely intact in order for them to have the ultimate experience. They celebrate by being celibate.
What does this have to do with you, oh sexually active seeker of the Big Idea? Plenty -- especially when you consider that one of the main reasons why many new ideas never see the light of day is because their originators have a tendency to "prematurely articulate."
Indeed, the act of talking about one's idea often takes the place of doing anything about it -- and the idea, regrettably, ends up merely a fantasy.
1. In the beginning stages of your idea, don't talk about it.
2. If you get the urge to talk about your idea, abstain.
3. If someone asks you about your idea, thank them for asking, but explain it's still too early to talk about it.February 01, 2012
ANNOUNCING: "National Get Your Ducks Out of the Row Month!"
Time to celebrate!
Get Your Ducks
Out of the Damn
I know you
can do this!
Get those ducks
out of order.
Turn them around.
Put sunglasses on them.
See what happens
when you let yourself
just a little
for a change.