Mayan Calendar Prophecy Demystified
If you've been
why the world
didn't end in 2012
as many interpreters
of the Mayan calendar
thought it would,
here's why --
the full scoop
in my most recent
Huffington Post article --
if you like Italian food.
How to Facilitate Brainstorm Sessions: THE eBOOK
Idea Champions is
proud to announce
the launch of
a series of
on the art
The first one
will be ready
in the Spring.
If you want us
to let you know
when it's ready.
shoot us an email:
Cover art: Jesse Ditkoff
The 10 Most Popular Postings on the Heart of Innovation Blog in 2012
Voila! For your reading pleasure, here are the 10 most popular postings on this blog for 2012.
Curiously, the most popular one had nothing to do with innovation -- it was about the death of my father.
The other most popular topics? Email, Appreciation, Regrets of the Dying, Motherhood, Humor, Technology, Public Speaking, Asking Why, and Being a Manager.
Here's to a happy, healthy, and hugely creative year to you and yours in 2013! With gratitude from the entire Idea Champions team!
THE 10 MOST POPULAR POSTINGS ON THIS BLOG IN 2012:
1. Out of the Box, In the Box
2. 14 Ways to Go Beyond the Email Blues
3. The Power of Appreciation
4. The Five Regrets of the Dying
5. Because I'm the Mom
6. 20 Awesome Quotes on Humor, Play, and Creativity
7. The Cool But Creepy Futuristic World of Ray Kurzweil
8. The Arc of a Good Presentation
9. Why You Need to Ask Why
10. Rethinking the Role of a Manager
A fun peek into how the news would have gotten out differently 2,012 years ago if social media tools had been around. (Click full screen).
Thanks to David Passes for the heads up.December 20, 2012
How to Improve Your RFP Process
If you are
on either end
of the RFP process
(requesting or responding)
and think there's got to be
a better way, you are right.
The way it works now
You know it. I know it
and if there are people
on other planets, they know it.
Here's my manifesto
just published in
the Huffington Post.
Six Famous Failures
December 18, 2012
Top 40 Innovation Bloggers Contest
If you have enjoyed reading this blog and think I have added any value to your own exploration of innovation in 2012, I humbly ask for your vote in Innovation Excellence's annual TOP 40 INNOVATION BLOGGER contest.
All you need to do is click this link, scroll to the bottom, enter your contact info in the fields provided, then write my name (Mitch Ditkoff) in the comments box. Very simple.
Here's to a glorious, fun, energized, loving, grateful, graceful, successful year of innovation to you and everyone in your life.
Vote here or click the link aboveOn the Brink of a Breakthrough
The following piece, written by Thomas Wolfe, is the most moving thing I've ever read about what it takes to stand at the crossroads of our own creative calling -- utterly alone, and yet, at the same time, utterly supported.
"During this time I reached that state of naked need and utter isolation which every artist has got to meet and conquer if he is to survive at all.
Before this I had been sustained by that delightful illusion of success which we all have when we dream about the books we are going to write instead of actually doing them.
Now I suddenly realized that I had committed my life and integrity so irrevocably to this struggle that I must conquer now or be destroyed.
I was alone with my work and knew that no one could help me with it no matter how much anyone might wish to help.
For the first time I realized another naked fact which every artist must know, and that is in a man's work there are contained not only seeds of life, but the seeds of death, and that the power of creation which sustains us will also destroy us like a leprosy if we let it rot stillborn in our vitals. I had to get it out of me somehow.
I say that now. And now for the first time, a terrible doubt began to creep into my mind that I might not live long enough to get it out of me, that I had created a labor so large and so impossible that the energy of a dozen lifetimes would not suffice for its accomplishment.
During this time, I was sustained by one piece of inestimable good fortune. I had for a friend a man of immense and patient wisdom and a gentle but unyielding fortitude.
I think that if I was not destroyed at this time by the sense of hopelessness which these gigantic labors had awakened in me, it was largely because of the courage and patience of this man.
I did not give in because he would not let me give in, and I think it is true that at this particular time he had the advantage of being in the position of a skilled observer at a battle, covered by its dust and sweat and exhausted by its struggle, and I understood far less than my friend the nature and progress of the struggle in which I was engaged.
At this time there was little that this man could do except observe, and in one way or another keep me at my task, and in many quiet and wonderful ways he succeeded in doing this.
I was now at the place where I must produce.
Even the greatest editor can do little for a writer until he has brought from the secrete darkness of his own spirit into the common light of the day the completed concrete accomplishment of his imagining.
My friend has likened his own function at this painful time to that of a man who is trying to hang on to the fin of a plunging whale, but hang on he did, and it is to his tenacity that I owe my final release."December 15, 2012
I'm from Woodstock. I Am.
I'm from Woodstock. Yes, that Woodstock, the famous Woodstock -- the most famous small town in the world, some people say.
Former home to Bob Dylan.
Jimi Hendrix lived here for a summer in the house right across the street from where I live now. John Sebastian still lives here, as do a ton of other musicians, artists, writers, healers, therapists, car mechanics, plumbers, electricians, and just about anyone else you'd expect to live in a small town.
Other than winter lasting six weeks too long, I love Woodstock. I've been a resident for 18 years and I'm proud to call it my home.
That being said, in the early days of starting up my consulting business, I noticed a curious phenomenon about Woodstock, or at least my relationship to it, whenever a client or prospective client asked me where I was from.
If I declared myself to be resident of Woodstock, I ran the risk of not only being stereotyped as a counter culture whack job, but being in cahoots with an entire generation of freaks for whom the word "corporation" was second only to "military industrial complex" on the list of buzz kills -- a moment fully capable of leaving my inquisitor with the impression that I was either dangerous, highly unqualified to be of value to their company, or a candidate to be paid in 100 pound bags of chickpeas.
So, I decided to take the low road.
With a big mortgage and a family to support, I saw no reason to scare away potential clients -- especially potential clients who, when push came to shove, were asking where I lived just to break the ice.
"Two hours north of Manhattan" was my standard response. "Upstate New York" was my backup, followed by "The Hudson Valley", "65 miles south of Albany", and the always dependable "Foothills of the Catskill Mountains".
So there I was in Munich at the International Headquarters of Allianz, one of the world's leading financial services institutions, with 142,000 employees and billions in sales.
My task? To lead a workshop, the next day, for the company's hard driving senior leadership team in an effort to jump start the launch of a company-wide effort to "gain a competitive edge through increased innovation".
Corporate speak? Of course it was. But it didn't matter to me. I didn't care what euphemisms my clients used to frame their business challenges. If I sensed even the smallest willingness on their part to become more innovative, I was there.
There, in this case, was the well-appointed, pre-dinner reception for Allianz' Senior Team and a handful of outside, consultants, like me, who had been flown in from God knows where to help the company reach its ambitious business goals.
The dress code? Business casual. The bar? Open. The client? Dutifully introducing me to anyone he could collar.
And so it went, the small talk, the head nods, the firm handshakes -- me patiently waiting for the waiter with the pizza puffs and the inevitable moment when the "Where do you live?" question would head its ugly rear.
Somewhere, in between my first and second glass of chilled 1987 Riesling, standing next to three large German men I had just been introduced to -- Guenther, Heinrich, and Hans -- the question was asked.
I opened my mouth to say "Two hours north of Manhattan", but out came "Woodstock".
Maybe it was the wine or maybe it was the cumulative affect of the past ten years of mouthing geographical euphemisms. I don't know. But whatever it was, I knew this was going to be an interesting moment.
For three very long seconds, no one said a thing. The word just hovered in the air like some kind of Superbowl Blimp.
Guenther was the first to speak.
"Wow!" he announced. "Did you actually go to the festival?"
Hans smiled broadly. "My older cousin went. Lucky bastard. I was too young."
Heinrich just stood there, expressionless, saying nothing. Then he raised his right hand and gave me a rousing high five.
"I love Joe Cocker!" he announced.
Somehow, I got the feeling that tomorrow's innovation workshop was going to be just fine.
December 14, 2012
Excerpted from my forthcoming book, WISDOM AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of Life.
Santa's Cheerful Guide to Business Development
"Necessity," it is said, "is the mother of invention."
But it is also the father, aunt, uncle, grandmother, cousin, and in-laws. Indeed, for most of us, unless there is a proverbial fire under our proverbial butt, we remain victims of the status quo. Objects at rest. Bumps on a log.
Allow me to be more specific.
The year was 1998. Although the U.S economy was in good shape, my business was flabby. The pipeline was clogged. The marketing plan was a mess. And our cash flow wasn't.
Semi-fearless leader that I was, I bought some muffins and called a meeting. It took us all of 20 minutes to realize we had three choices if we wanted to survive: cut costs, find new clients, or reinvigorate old clients.
Cutting costs wasn't an option. Costs were already cut. Finding new clients sounded good, but it also sounded like a truck load of work. Reinvigorating old relationships, on the other hand, had a nice ring to it.
We decided to focus on local clients -- companies no more than two hours away. Singapore was out. New York City was in.
Being in the creativity business, we knew we'd have to walk the talk. Besides, Christmas was only two weeks away.
And so we decided to practice one of our own techniques and look at our challenge through the eyes of another, in this case -- Santa Claus. "How would he approach a major cash flow crunch?" we asked ourselves. "What would Santa do?"
The answer -- in an on-Dasher-on-Prancer-on-Vixen sort of way -- was obvious. Santa would take to the road. He'd visit people! He'd give out gifts!
The costume rentals cost us $300. I was Santa. Elizabeth was Mrs. Claus. Val was Rudolf. And Tiffany was the Chief Elf.
Our plan was simple.
We'd drive to Manhattan and pay surprise visits to three of our high flying ex-clients: MTV Networks, Met Life, and Pricewaterhouse. Once past security, we'd give away presents (that included our marketing materials) and get recipients to promise not to open them until Christmas morning.
Fast forward three hours...
There we are, the four of us in full Christmas regalia, standing in the tastefully appointed and very marble lobby of Pricewaterhouse. Behind the imposing front desk sat three very large security guards, none of them named Prancer.
"I'd... er... uh... like to speak to Donna Chandler," I announced, doing my best to channel my inner Santa.
Clearly, the security guard was not in the holiday spirit. His belly was not shaking like a bowl full of jelly.
"And who shall I say wants to see Ms. Chandler?" he replied with a scowl.
I just stood there, saying nothing, hoping my long white beard and general joviality would be enough to grant us access.
"Don't you recognize me, my friend?" I exclaimed. "It's me, Santa!"
"I'll need your real name, sir," the guard replied.
"My real name? It's Santa. Santa Claus."
The guard, now mumbling something under his breath to the equally oversized guard sitting next to him, was not impressed. Scroogily, he paged his way through a company directory and dialed the phone.
"Hello," I heard him say. "This is lobby security. There's some guy here who wants to see you. He's dressed up like Santa Claus and won't give me his real name."
Other people came and went. Other people were given name badges. Other people walked merrily to the bank of elevators.
The four of us just stood there, lump of coal in our imagined Christmas stockings.
And then, unceremoniously, the very large security guard with no visions of sugar plums dancing in his head called us forward.
"OK, Santa," you and your little buddies can go up."
Deck the halls with boughs of holly! We went up!
The moment we got off the elevator, on the 27th floor, everyone flooded out of their offices. Everyone wanted to see us. These weren't auditors at a Big Six accounting firm. These weren't MBAs, number crunchers, or tax geeks. These were big kids in business clothes.
Three very cheerful women led us to their office. Boldly, they sat me down in an overpriced executive chair and, one by one, sat in my lap.
"Have you been good little girls," I asked.
"Oh YES, Santa!" they giggled.
"And what do you good little girls want for Christmas?" I said.
"Better cash flow, Santa! Promotions! Vacations! And a cappuccino machine in the lounge!"
I reached into my bag and pulled out a beautifully wrapped gift for each of them.
"Will you promise Santa not to open your presents until Christmas morning?"
"Oh yes, Santa!" they exclaimed.
And then, with a shake of some strategically placed jingle bells, we were off.
On Dasher! On Rudolf! On Cash Flow!
Out of the office, we turned right at the fire drill sign, took the elevator to the tastefully appointed lobby and skipped out the door to our next former client, spreading Christmas cheer and marketing materials, ho ho hoping like children the night before Christmas, dreaming of clients dreaming of first quarter results and calling us the first day back on the job after the holidays...
Guess what? They did.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
1. What can you do differently this week to get a huge result?
2. How can you infuse your marketing efforts with a little fun?
3. What bogus boundary are you willing to cross?
4. Who else is willing to join forces with you to take a risk?
5. What is your next step?
Excerpted from my forthcoming book: WISDOM AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of LifeDecember 13, 2012
What's Next After Twitter
This just in! Twitter is dead.
Or if not dead, dying. Or if not dying, passe. It's time has come and gone.
Industry experts agree. There is now a way more streamlined option available to you. Find out here -- noted in my most recent Huffington Post article.December 12, 2012
Einstein Recommends Idea Champions!
December 09, 2012
The Breakthrough Bathroom Technique
During the past 25 years I have worked with some of the most analytical people in the world: tax auditors, engineers, polymer chemists, actuaries, and rocket scientists just to name a few.
In my effort to help these fine folks make the journey from caution to creativity, I've had to develop a number of non-tradtional learning strategies -- most of which worked well enough to get me invited to work with some extraordinary organizations.
Not a single one of the methods I used had anything to do with the bathroom.
At least not until one fateful day at GE, when I found myself teaching Innovation and Business Growth to an amphitheater full of GE's "best and brightest" -- all of whom would be listening, the next day, to the iconic Jack Welsh, standing on the very same stage that I was standing on today.
My task? To move GE's leaders of the future from their left brain to their right -- to help them understand, from the inside out, what Einstein meant when he said "Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts."
Having done this kind of work for the past 25 years, I had developed my own Swiss Army knife's worth of mindset-shifting approaches to get the job done -- approaches that included the right use of music, story telling, humor, movement, emergent design, creative thinking techniques, experiential challenges, and teaching people how to juggle.
Two hours into my GE session, things were going just fine. The 75 participants from 11 countries had given up their fear that I was going to make them sing Kumbaya and I had given up my fear that someone would soon discover my graduate school education was in poetry, not business.
At 10 am, my advanced facilitator skills kicked in and I began to notice that my bladder was full -- the kind of full that, If I didn't respond soon, would result in me hopping from one foot to the other.
Priorities newly clarified, I tweaked my agenda and taught the group a creative thinking technique that would keep them busy for at least another 10 minutes -- plenty of time to relieve myself.
Technique taught, I made my way up the aisle, out the door, found the bathroom, and did what 95% of all men do when it's time to pee -- aim dead center for the round hockeypuck-shaped thingee in the middle of the urinal, mindful not to get any drops on my newly dry-cleaned pants when it was time to zip up.
The bathroom, also one of GE's best and brightest, was about the size of a New York City studio apartment, complete with shiny marble counter tops and a week's worth of neatly folded hand towels on the impeccable sink.
Mission accomplished, I flushed, checked my face in the mirror, and retraced my steps to the meeting room.
Upon entering, everyone turned around and looked at me. Half of them were laughing. The other half were smiling. And if there was another half lurking somewhere beyond the laws of earthly mathematics, they would have been madly texting the details of what they had just found so amusing.
I was tickled that GE's best and brightest were so happy to see me, but I was also perplexed. This was not the usual welcome I received upon returning from a bathroom.
Confused, I shot a glance in the direction of Ben, my business partner, in the back of the room. He was standing, wildly gesticulating, Marcel Marceau on steroids.
"Your mic is on", he seemed to be saying, pointing at his lapel.
"Hmmm", I thought to myself. "My mic is on... my MIC is on".
Oops. Double oops!
From what I could tell, I had just broadcasted my entire bathroom experience to 75 global, business leaders of the future.
I had to think fast
"Oh that?" I said, taking another step down the aisle to the podium. "All part of the day's design. Intentional. Totally intentional. My attempt to..."
The rest of my sentence was drowned out by laughter. A lot of laughter. They would have none of it. Of course, they wouldn't. What I was saying was completely ridiculous, but because the way I said it was entertaining and self-effacing, they were not only forgiving, but suddenly much lighter and much more engaged than before I left the room just minutes before.
In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that in the three years of facilitating Innovation and Business Growth sessions at GE, I had never seen a group of people as focused, engaged, and happy to be in the room as this particular group was at this particular moment in time.
In some strange way, I had accomplished in three minutes, from a remote location -- the bathroom -- what usually took me at least a few hours -- bringing a room full of left-brained, curmudgeonly, bottom-line oriented business people to a collective state of mind that was fully present, relaxed, focused, and receptive to whatever was going to happen next.
Excerpted from my forthcoming book, WISDOM AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of Life.
If you want to be informed when the book is published, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org)December 08, 2012
You Suck at Powerpoint!
December 07, 2012
You Think YOU Have a Long Commute?
And now for a little perspective, just in case business is slow or you haven't gotten the promotion you think you deserved.December 05, 2012
The Syndrome Syndrome and the Rise of the New World Disorder(s)
If you don't have ADD or ADHD, you probably know someone who does -- and if they don't have ADD or ADHD, they probably have some other newly identified syndrome, disorder, or dysfunction.
It's a bull market, these days, for medical conditions, so I thought I'd provide a public service and alert you to 14 of the most recently discovered ones coming down the pike -- my newest article in the Huffington Post. Enjoy!
Digital Coolness from an 18-Year Old
The first photo below is a street in Tokyo. The second is my 18-year old son's (Photoshopped) vision of that same street after the Apocalypse.
PS: If you need any Photoshop work, Jesse, is your guy. He's honest. He's creative, And he's looking for some work over the Christmas vacation. Check out his new website.December 03, 2012
Introducing: BLUE PEARL WOODSTOCK
More info Staff Meetings in Less than 10 Minutes
Tired of boring, ineffective staff meetings? Here's what you do: Get your team together. Declare a challenge. Then play this song at full volume. Debrief. Vote. Commit to something. Go back to work.