March 29, 2012
What Lens Are You Looking Through?

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Holmes and Watson are on a camping trip. In the middle of the night Holmes wakes up and gives Dr. Watson a nudge. "Watson," he says, "look up in the sky and tell me what you see."

"I see millions of stars, Holmes," says Watson.

"And what do you conclude from that, Watson?"

Watson thinks for a moment, "Well," he says, "astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, I observe that Saturn is in Leo. Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful, and we are small and insignificant. Uh, what does that tell you, Holmes?"

"Watson, you idiot! Someone has stolen our tent!"

Right on, Holmes!

For those of you trying to figure out why your business isn't more innovative, consider the above joke. The answer is in the punchline.

Your CEO looks up and sees the Board. Your CFO looks up and sees Wall Street. Your CIO looks up and sees Blackberries. Your HR Director looks up and sees diversity. And your workforce? They don't look up -- overwhelmed as they are with the tasks they've been given to deliver on next quarter's results.

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The beauty of the Holmes/Watson joke (excerpted from Thomas Cathcart's and Daniel Klein's delightful book, Plato and a Platypus Walk Into a Bar...) is that it cuts to the core of the issue in very few words.

Humor does that. Which is why the Court Jester was the one who had the King's ear.

HAHA and AHA are two sides of the same coin. The same thing that triggers laughter triggers insight.

It's all about a momentary shock to the system -- the unexpected...a surprise... delightful discontinuity. And when that happens -- when we are momentarily boggled by an input that does not fit with our logical expectations, VOILA! Breakthrough! And along with it, a jolly good time.

Unfortunately, the sound of laughter in the workplace is often interpreted by managers as proof of a slacker workforce -- as if laughing and working were mutually exclusive.

Nothing could be further from the truth. "If you lose the power to laugh, you lose the power to think" explained Clarence Darrow.

Or how about this from Carl Jung? "The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect, but by the play instinct arising from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the object it loves."

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

OK. These two innovation consultants walk into a bar...

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March 28, 2012
The Joy of Outlandishness

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Does Laughter Enable Thinking?

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March 27, 2012
The Beauty of Bad

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Our new webinar series

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March 23, 2012
Thomas Edison on Making Mistakes

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"I make
more
mistakes
than anyone
else
I know,
and sooner
or later,
I patent
most of them."

- Thomas Edison

Rethinking Failure

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March 21, 2012
Don't Let This Happen to You!

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This poor guy just read
the next game changing
business book:
"The Six Habits of the Five Principles
of the Ten Ways
to Be 300% More Effective
While Doing Less
and Having More."

Is it just me, or do you also think
there are way too many
FREAKING BUSINESS BOOKS
these days,
pawning themselves off
as the 12 Irrefutable Laws
about saying the same thing
over and over again
in order for the ghost written author
to one day,
get hefty keynote speaking fees.

Idea Champions

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March 20, 2012
Why Good Leaders Pause

It's often the case that people expect their leaders to be decisive -- able to make difficult decisions quickly. Indeed, this kind of behavior is interpreted as one of the hallmarks of good leadership.

The reality is different, however.

The "rush to judgment" mindset creates undue pressure on leaders -- the kind of pressure that causes them to prematurely choose a path forward even when confronting a complex problem.

To be truly effective, leaders need to balance the need to quickly converge on a single solution with the conflicting requirement that multiple perspectives be considered.

Yes, spending time to gain an understanding of the thought processes behind conflicting perspectives slows down the decision-making process. But it also creates a rich opportunity for much more robust solutions.

Slowing down is not necessarily a sign of procrastination or indecision. More accurately, it is a sign of impending wisdom about to be applied.

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Tolerating this period of pause requires leaders to exhibit two qualities that seem to be in short supply these days:

1. Self-confidence (not bravado).
2. Patience (not procrastination).

Unfortunately, as external pressures from above and below increase, leaders experience an increasing tendency to internalize these pressures, causing self-doubt, stress, and a relentless need to prove their worth.

The result? Leaders end up adopting pre-existing solutions not well-suited to the challenges at hand. They decide fast, but the decisions they make are all too often fatally flawed.

Being able to resist mounting pressures to act quickly requires great intestinal fortitude. It requires leaders to keep themselves and others passionately engaged in the process of finding a way through the uncertainty instead of grasping at known "solutions" which only make the problem worse.

This phenomenon is similar to the classic story of the drunkard looking for his car keys under a streetlight even though he knows it's not where he dropped them.

"I know my keys aren't there," he confesses, "but that's where the light is."

It's not easy searching in the dark. Nor is it easy convincing others to join you in the search.

Which is precisely why being an authentic leader is so difficult these days.

- Barry Gruenberg
Here's another one of Barry's fine articles.


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March 19, 2012
iPhone, Therefore I Am?

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I just had a realization. Well, maybe "realization" is too fancy a word. Make that more of an insight. Nah... "insight" sounds just a tad too self-congratulatory.

For want of a better word, let's call my little moment a semi-embarrassing wake up call -- the kind of learning experience I claim is good for me, but I really don't want to have.

It's a moment I've had a hundred times before, but not until two days ago, in Newark Airport, as I was exiting Flight #1140 from LA, did the whole thing really dawn on me.

There I was, merrily walking through Terminal "C", glad to be heading home after a three-day business trip, when I reached into my pocket for my trusty iPhone only to discover it wasn't there.

My iPhone wasn't there! Gone. It was gone. My iPhone was gone!

Gone, as in missing. Gone, as in not in my pocket. Gone, as in WHERE IN THE WORLD WAS MY FREAKING IPHONE with all those apps and appointments and contacts?

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No, I wasn't in Kansas anymore. Neither was I in New Jersey. I was in a sudden state of panic -- as far away from samadhi as a person could be, Woody Allen on steroids -- my former digital life flashing before my eyes.

Where just a minute ago I was a conscious human being firmly rooted in a deep experience of peace, now I was wildly slapping every pocket I could find like some kind of poster boy for Tourette's Syndrome

This ridiculous outtake from a movie that will never be made took less than five seconds (me having blissfully located the "missing iPhone" in my suit jacket pocket), but those five seconds were very revealing -- me (Mr. Been-On-The-Path-For-40-Years) so easily discombobulated by a (temporarily) missing phone.

Which, I guess, is a good thing -- as it popped, once again, the bubble of my own pitiful self-image of being so together -- that shiny golden calf I all-too-often worship at.


My little airport experience reminds me of that classic Zen story of the young monk who -- after ten years of deep practice in the mountain monastery -- is invited by his Master to give the morning talk at the local village temple.

The young monk's discourse was impeccable that day, his Master astounded by his protege's ability to quote from the most esoteric of Zen doctrine.

But when the talk was over and it was time for the young monk to begin his long trek back up the mountain, he could not find his sandals.

Apparently, in his excitement at having been asked to speak, he'd forgotten where he put them.

Unsmiling, his Master shot him a stern glance and pointed to the mountain top.

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"Ten more years, young friend. Ten more years."

And that's exactly how long it took the monk to be asked again to give the morning talk at the village temple.

The good news? On that day he remembered exactly where his sandals were.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:34 AM | Comments (0)

March 18, 2012
Einstein on Stupidity

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"Everybody
is a genius.
But if you
judge a fish
by its ability
to climb a tree,
it will live
its whole life believing
that it is stupid."

- Albert Einstein

Idea Champions

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50 Awesome Quotes on the Power of Your Ideas

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1. "If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." - Albert Einstein

2. "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

3. "An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all." - Oscar Wilde

4. "Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen." - John Steinbeck

5. "The way to get good ideas is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away." - Linus Pauling

6. "There is one thing stronger than all the armies in the world, and that is an idea whose time has come." - Victor Hugo

7. "Ideas won't keep. Something must be done about them." - Alfred North Whitehead

8. "A new idea is delicate. It can be killed by a sneer or a yawn; it can be stabbed to death by a quip and worried to death by a frown on the right man's brow." - Ovid

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9. "All achievements, all earned riches, have their beginning in an idea." - Napoleon Hill

10. "You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere." - Lee Iacocca

11. "No grand idea was ever born in a conference, but a lot of foolish ideas have died there." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

12. "Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That's not the place to become discouraged." - Thomas Edison

13. "It is the essence of genius to make use of the simplest ideas."
- Charles Peguy

14. "Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it is the only one you have." - Emile Chartier

15. "I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't like it." - Samuel Goldwyn

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16. "An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself." - Charles Dickens

17. "Everyone is in love with their own ideas." - Carl Jung

18. "Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?" - Albert Einstein

19. "One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." - Oliver Wendell Holmes

20. "The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time." - Henry Ford

21. "Everything begins with an idea." - Earl Nightengale

22. "Capital isn't that important in business. Experience isn't that important. You can get both of these things. What is important is ideas." - Harvey Firestone

23. "A mediocre idea that generates enthusiasm will go further than a great idea that inspires no one." - Mary Kay Ash

24. "We often refuse to accept an idea merely because the tone of voice in which it has been expressed is unsympathetic to us."- Friedrich Nietzche

25. "I know quite certainly that I myself have no special talent. Curiosity, obsession and dogged endurance, combined with self-criticism, have brought me to my ideas." - Albert Einstein

26. "A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind." - Antoine St. Exupery

27. "If you want to kill any idea in the world, get a committee working on it." - Charles Kettering

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28. "Right now it's only a notion, but I think I can get the money to make it into a concept, and later turn it into an idea." - Woody Allen

29. "Just because you're a musician doesn't mean all your ideas are about music. So every once in a while I get an idea about plumbing, I get an idea about city government, and they come the way they come." - Jerry Garcia

30. "I begin with an idea and then it becomes something else." - Pablo Picasso

31. "New ideas pass through three periods: 1) It can't be done; 2) It probably can be done, but it's not worth doing; 3) I knew it was a good idea all along!" - Arthur C. Clarke

32. "Almost all really new ideas have a certain aspect of foolishness when they are just produced." - Alfred North Whitehead

33. "Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they're looking for ideas." - Paula Poundstone

34. "You do things when the opportunities come along. I've had periods in my life when I've had a bundle of ideas come along, and I've had long dry spells. If I get an idea next week, I'll do something. If not, I won't do a damn thing." - Warren Buffet

35. "If I have a thousand ideas and only one turns out to be good, I am satisfied." - Alfred Noble

36. "Take up one idea. Make that one idea your life. Think of it, dream of it, live on that idea. Let the brain, muscles, nerves, every part of your body, be full of that idea, and just leave every other idea alone. This is the way to success. That is way great spiritual giants are produced." - Swami Vivekananda

37. "Money never starts an idea; it is the idea that starts the money." - William J. Cameron

38. "No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered."
- Winston Churchill

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39. "If you are possessed by an idea, you find it expressed everywhere, you even smell it." - Thomas Mann

40. "The ability to express an idea is well nigh as important as the idea itself." - Bernard Baruch

41. "You can kill a man, but you can't kill an idea." - Medgar Evers

42. "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

43. "The man with a new idea is a crank -- until the idea succeeds." - Mark Twain

44. "To turn really interesting ideas and fledgling technologies into a company that can continue to innovate for years, requires a lot of discipline." - Steve Jobs

45. "An idea is salvation by imagination." - Frank Lloyd Wright

46. "I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones." - John Cage

47. "The great accomplishments of man have resulted from the
transmission of ideas of enthusiasm." - Thomas Watson

48. "The new idea either finds a champion or it dies. No ordinary involvement with a new idea provides the energy required to cope with the indifference and resistance that change provokes." - Tom Peters

49. "Our best ideas come from clerks and stockboys." - Sam Walton

50. "Daring ideas are like chessmen moved forward: they may be beaten, but they may start a winning game." - Goethe

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March 14, 2012
20 Qualities of an Innovator

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The word "innovate" can be traced all the way back to 1440. It comes from the Middle French word "innovacyon," meaning "renewal" or "new way of doing things".

Exactly what innovations actually happened in 1440 (rounder oxcart wheels?) is anybody's guess, but whatever they were, it's likely they improved the quality of life for more than a few people.

These days, the "innovation thing" is something of a no-brainer. Every company worth its low-salt lunch has identified innovation as a core competency needing to be developed.

Who in their right mind (or is it right brain?) can deny the value of improving things? Isn't this what human beings, those grand inventors of the microchip and the chocolate chip, are supposed to do?

True. But who has time?

And so begins the search for the magic pill -- the system, formula, or blueprint that will make innovation a done deal.

Innovation, unfortunately -- unlike audits, re-engineering, or your high school penmanship teacher -- is not given to systems, formulas, and blueprints. It is given to people -- restless, inspired, fascinated people with an almost cellular need to change things for the better.

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And while it can certainly be supported by systems, it can never be reduced to systems.

If you want to ignite innovation in your organization, forget about slick formulas for a minute and pay attention to what's happening on the inside. Because that's where innovation starts. With the innovator -- the inspired individual, compelled to make a difference.

And the key to the innovator? The special blend of qualities that allows him or her to succeed while their co-workers are bitching and moaning on their way to their next unnecessary meeting?

Is it tools? Techniques? Metrics?

Sure, they're useful. But without the user of them having the right stuff, they're merely decoration -- like having a shiny set of new jumper cables, but no car.

And so... if you are one of the self-chosen few who are willing to stop blaming your organization, the economy, your boss, your industry, the government, HR, your mother, your astrological sign, the Board, and the bored, now's the time to start taking personal responsibility for innovating.

Now's your chance to kick things in high gear.

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Now's the time to get the lead out -- to lead the revolution wherever you happen to be working at the time and make some magic.

Yes, it begins with you. But where does it begin with you?

With awareness.

In the words of the great psychologist, Fritz Perls, "awareness cures." Yes, it does.

Still with me?

If so, take a few minutes now to try the following exercise to get the party started.

All you need to do is rate yourself, on a scale of 1-10, for how much you manifest the following qualities in the workplace. Note which ones are your strengths -- and how can you build on them. Then note which ones are your weaknesses -- and how can you strengthen them.

You might even give them to your team and ask them to rate themselves. Then get together and talk about what you've all come up with.

And don't forget to floss.

20 Qualities of an Innovator

1. Challenges the status quo

2. Curious

3. Self-motivated

4. Visionary

5. Entertains the fantastic

6. Takes risks

7. Peripatetic (moves about)

8. Playful/humorous

9. Self-accepting

10. Flexible/adaptive

11. Makes new connections

12. Reflective

13. Recognizes patterns

14. Tolerates ambiguity

15. Committed to learning

16. Balances intuition and analysis

17. Situationally collaborative

18. Formally articulate

19. Resilient

20. Persevering

This posting is excerpted from It's AHAppening, a series of five, 16-page creative thinking guidebooks.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

March 12, 2012
POLL: Why Do You Want to Innovate?

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If you read this blog, I know you want to innovate -- but I don't know WHY. Click here to take the poll. Results posted here in a few weeks.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:19 AM | Comments (1)

March 11, 2012
Where Einstein Got His Great Ideas

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Einstein would have loved this guy
The patron saint of our webinar
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March 10, 2012
Going Viral on the Cutting Edge

This is fabulous. Totally refreshing. And since it's all about razor blades, appropriately "edgy". Oh, it's already gotten more then 2.4 million views on YouTube. PS: How can you create a cool viral video that promotes your product or service?

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Get the juices flowing

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:54 AM | Comments (0)

March 08, 2012
The Secret Realm of Great Ideas

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Why you don't get your best ideas at work
Tapping into dreams
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Where AHAs come from

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March 07, 2012
How to Capture the Wisdom of Your Organization's Elders

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What do Clint Eastwood, Madeline Albright, Willie Nelson, Alan Alda, Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Ravi Shankar, Edward Kennedy, Andrew Wyeth, Frank Gehry and a host of other creative movers and shakers have in common beside fame?

Wisdom!

Click here to see what they've learned in their long and very diverse lives... and get a glimpse of the fabulous Wisdom Project produced by Andrew Zuckerman.

If you work in an organization and are looking for a simple way to capture the wisdom of your senior people before they move on, here's a clue how to do it.

Honor the past, live in the present, be open to the future...

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)

March 06, 2012
ANNOUNCING! National Good Idea Day

Let me be the first to inform you that today is National Good Idea Day -- a day I am officially declaring without any approval from our dysfunctional government or any slick lobbying group attempting to hustle other people's products or services for a hefty commission.

As the official invoker of this fabulous new holiday, it is my honor to explain that the purpose of this way-better-than-groundhog-day extravaganza is for YOU to pitch your hottest new idea to someone you trust in the next 60 minutes. Got it? Good! Go! (And if anything comes of it, please let us know).

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:11 AM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2012
Innovation from the Inside Out

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These days, almost all of Idea Champions' clients are talking about the need to establish a culture of innovation.

Some, I'm happy to report, are actually doing something about it. Hallelujah! They are taking bold steps forward to turn theory into action.

The challenge for them is the same as it's always been -- to find a simple, authentic way to address the challenge from the inside out -- to water the root of the tree, not just the branches.

External systems and protocols, no matter how seductive they are to create, are simply not sufficient to guarantee real innovation. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Systems die. Instinct remains."

This is not to say that organizations should ignore systems and structures in their effort to establish a culture of innovation. They shouldn't.

But systems and structures all too often become the Holy Grail -- much in the same way that Six Sigma has become the Holy Grail.

Unfortunately, when the addiction to systems and structures rules the day, an organization's quest for a culture of innovation degenerates into nothing much more than a cult of innovation.

Organizations do not innovate. People innovate. Inspired people. Fascinated people. Creative people. Committed people. That's where innovation originates -- from deep within the inspired individual who understands that his/her sustained effort is what's required to go beyond the status quo.

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The organization's role -- just like the individual manager's role -- is to get out of the way. And while this "getting out of the way" will undoubtedly include the effort to formulate supportive systems, processes, and protocols, it is important to remember that systems, processes, and protocols are never the answer.

They are the context, not the content. They are the husk, not kernel. They are the menu, not the meal.

Ultimately, organizations are faced with the same challenge that religions are faced with. Religious leaders may speak passionately about the virtues their congregation needs to abide by, but sermons only name the challenge and remind people to experience something -- they don't necessarily change behavior.

Change comes from within the heart and mind of each individual. It cannot be legislated or evangelized into reality.

What's needed in organizations who aspire to a culture of innovation, is an inner change. People need to experience something within themselves that will spark and sustain their effort to innovate -- and when they experience this "something," they will be self-sustaining.

They will think about their projects in the shower, in their car, and in their dreams. They will need very little "management" from the outside. Inside out will rule the day -- not outside in. Intrinsic motivation will flourish.

People will innovate not because they are told to, but because they want to. Open Space Technology is a good metaphor for this. When people are inspired, share a common, compelling goal and have the time and space to collaborate, the results become self-organizing.

You can create all the reward systems you want. You can reinvent your workspace until you're blue in the face. You can license the latest and greatest idea management tool, but unless each person in your organization OWNS the need to innovate and finds a way to tap into their own innate brilliance, all you'll end up with is a mixed bag of systems, processes, and protocols -- the husk, not the kernel -- the innovation flotsam and jetsam that the next administration or next CEO or next key stakeholder will mock, reject or change at the drop of a hat if the ROI doesn't show up in the next 20 minutes.

You want culture change? You want a culture of innovation?

Great. Then find a way to help each and every person in your organization come from the inside out. Deeply consider how you can awaken, nurture, and develop the primal need all people have to create something extraordinary.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:58 AM | Comments (10)

March 03, 2012
WEBINAR #1: Ideation Jump Start

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Idea Champions is happy to announce the launch of its new webinar curriculum for 2012 -- a series of high value 60-minute tutorials for companies wanting to foster innovation in a way that is encouraging, empowering, and enlightening.

Here's a brief description of the first one -- a webinar that has already been delivered nine times to Chubb Insurance.

IDEATION JUMP START is a powerful way to catalyze brilliance, creativity, and new ideas for individuals and teams at every level of your organization. It is especially beneficial for people who are committed to going beyond the status quo and originating elegant, new approaches to meeting pressing business challenges.

Prior to the webinar, we will help you define 1-3 challenges you want participants to address in the webinar.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN:

1. How to access breakthrough ideas from your subconscious mind

2. Four mind-opening techniques to help you originate powerful, new ideas on and off-the-job

3. Five simple ways to increase the effectiveness of small group brainstorming

4. How to give and receive the kind of feedback that decreases naysaying and increases the odds of powerful, new ideas taking root in the organization

Bottom line, people who participate in an IDEATION JUMP START webinar have their "creative floodgates" opened and make a meaningful commitment to generating powerful, new ideas that will help their company grow.

Presented by Mitch Ditkoff, President of Idea Champions
For more info, contact Sarah Jacob (sarah@ideachampions.com)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

March 02, 2012
A Crash Course On How to Be a Great Consultant

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:44 AM | Comments (2)

March 01, 2012
Reframing Company Politics

Here is a very refreshing take on a topic most of us are not very clear about -- company politics. If you want to be more influential in your organization, this a good place to start.

More about Rick Brandon

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:14 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.
Awake at the Wheel, Book about big ideas If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing, Awake at the Wheel is for you. Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
See Mitch's keynote address Enjoy a 7-minute interview with Mitch at the Ethical Sourcing Forum in NYC: 3/28/11
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