November 30, 2013
THE SECOND ANNUAL "Cartesian Spinoff Tagline" CONTEST

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Rene Descartes, the famous 17th century philosopher, physicist, and mathematician, is best known for having distilled his world view down to five words: "I think, therefore I am." Very pithy of him.

And so, in honor of The Father of Western Philosophy, I am pleased to announce the launching of the Second Annual Cartesian Spinoff Tagline Contest -- one that YOU could easily win with just a few minutes of creative effort.

HERE'S HOW IT WORKS:

Read the list of taglines below and let us know WHO you think that tagline should be attributed to. If you want your contest replies to be private, email your submissions to info@ideachampions.com. Otherwise, just post a comment below.

WHO (or what organization) SHOULD BE USING THE FOLLOWING TAGLINES?

1. "I sink therefore I am."

2. "I stink therefore I am."

3. "I drink, therefore I am."

4. "I wink, therefore I am."

5. "I link, therefore I am."

6. "I ink, therefore I am."

7. "I slink, therefore I am."

8. "I rink, therefore I am."

9. "I zinc, therefore I am."

10. "I blink, therefore I am."

11. "I kink, therefore I am."

12. "I clink, therefore I am."

13. "I pink, therefore I am."

14. "I tink, therefore I am."

15. "I plink, therefore I am."

16. "I shrink, therefore I am."

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Prizes will be awarded in the following categories:

1. Most Obvious
2. Least Obvious
3. Hugely Creative
4. Funniest

Winners will receive absolutely nothing other than our virtual acknowledgment. No animals were harmed in the writing of this blog post.

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

November 28, 2013
What Are You Thankful For?

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Excerpted from Prem Rawat's 11/24/13 event in Boston

Flower Prayer Illustration: Tim Gainey
The Prem Rawat Foundation

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2013
Forget THINK TANKS. The Time Has Come for THANK TINKS!

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On this day of THANKSGIVING, I'm asking for your feedback on a new idea of mine which I have playfully named THANK TINKS.

The idea is for organizations to provide their workforce with a simple, dependable way to express their gratitude -- as a counter-balance to the all-too-common tendency many people have to focus on what's wrong.

In the same way that Quality Circles were a big hit in the 1980's, THANK TINKS ("Appreciation Circles"), might be just the right thing for these challenging times of ours.

Here's a wonderful article on the power of gratitude in business by Forbes writer, Erika Andersen.

21 quotes on appreciation
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 24, 2013
Improv to Improve Idea Generation

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It can be said that a brainstorm facilitator plays many roles during the course of a session. Conductor, diamond cutter, and traffic cop are three of them. But the most obvious role is that of actor, and not just any kind of actor, because there really isn't a set script... but an improv actor making theater magic out of a specific "situation" or "set-up".

In both brainstorm facilitation and improvisational theater, you're trying to tap the creative imagination of people in order to create something new. In both, you need to loosen up the habitual thinking and behaviors of the "audience" so they become more than just passive observers, but active participants.

And it is the right use of technique that helps with this transformation.

One of the most powerful techniques is Groundrule #1 of Improv Theater -- Say Yes!

Say Yes! means that you immediately accept, without judgment, whatever is being offered to you by a fellow actor.

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In Improv Theater, for example, if someone says "Hey! Look at that enormous pink elephant!" your response should be something along the lines of "Wow, that's the biggest pink elephant I've ever seen. Are those real diamonds on that tutu or just rhinestones?" -- a response that takes the basic premise and expands on it.

Conversely, if you're going to be a good improv partner, your response to your fellow actor's opening premise should not be "That's not a pink elephant! You must be drunk."

The first, receptive response opens up many possibilities. The second, dismissive response abruptly ends the scene or turns it into a tug of war between the two actors -- both of whom now become competitors and opponents instead of allies and co-conspirators.

When it comes to idea generation, experimenting with Improv Groundrule #1 can produce excellent results.

For example, a good brainstorming technique that generates a lot of good ideas quickly is a technique called "Yes, and..."

Here's how it works:

Imagine, if you will, that you are sitting in a circle of 6-8 people. You call on one person to come up with a new idea in response to a challenge or problem. Then, you ask the person sitting next to the first person to build on the initial idea by saying "Yes, and..." Then, you ask a third person to build on the second idea, beginning with "Yes, and..." -- continuing around the circle for as long as the process generates interesting content and ideas.

Even better, start with what you know is already an intriguing idea, perhaps something generated earlier in the brainstorm session, re-state it for the group, and ask someone to build on it using the "Yes, and..." technique.

You can run several rounds of this technique for the same challenge. Each time the technique will take you in a different conceptual direction.

Try it with many different challenges. Change the direction of the order within the group -- clockwise, counterclockwise, random, etc.

"Yes, and..." is fun, simple, and can quickly spark a lot of intriguing, new ideas. It will also sharpen everyone's improvisational acting skills in the process.

-- Val Vadeboncoeur

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:08 AM | Comments (0)

November 22, 2013
The Woodstock Festival of Thanksgiving!

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Ask just about anyone on planet earth what comes to mind when they hear the word "Woodstock" and they will most likely say one of three things: Peace, Love, or Music. Makes perfect sense -- especially since that's what the world-famous Woodstock Festival was all about back in '69.

Forget the fact that Woodstock never actually happened in Woodstock, but 43 miles southwest in Bethel, NY. Facts were never what Woodstock was about. Not 44 years ago, when Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin walked this earth. And not now.

Woodstock is about something else -- something less quantifiable than facts, but far more meaningful. Woodstock is about feeling -- a feeling rooted in the recognition that there is something more to experience, in life, than initially meets the eye.

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Peace and love were the first visible expressions of this feeling back in the 60's, but these days peace and love are morphing into something equally as significant -- and that is gratitude -- the spontaneous feeling of appreciation that rises in recognition that life is a gift.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, a mix of Woodstock's present day movers and shakers are getting together to create the next generation Woodstock Festival -- this one a bit smaller in attendance than the first (by about 399,700) but equally as inspired.

Enter the First Annual Woodstock Festival of Thanksgiving.

The Brainchild of Evelyne Pouget and Marc Black, the November 30th gathering promises to be an extraordinary event -- a multimedia, intergenerational, non-denominational celebration of life taking place at the iconic Bearsville Theater.

Explains Marc Black, Chief Mover and Shaker of the event, "It may seem counter-intuitive, but the best way for us to deal with what's bothering us these days may be to pay attention to what's not bothering us. There's so much to be thankful for that we often ignore. If we simply train ourselves to notice and appreciate what we love, it just might grow."

And grow is the operational word for the Woodstock Festival of Thanksgiving.

Thirty days ago, it was only an idea in the minds of Marc Black and One Voice Global Founder, Evelyne Pouget. Now? In the words of Otis Redding, "Like a snowball rolling down the side of a hill, it's growing..."

Headlining the celebration will be the ever growing Marc Black Band -- one of Woodstock's many local treasures -- a band that's been together since the 1970's in many different forms.

This incarnation includes the great pianist Warren Bernhardt (most recently with Simon & Garfunkel and Steely Dan), Happy Traum (world famous guitarist and folklorist), Amy Fradon (the chanteuse of the Hudson Valley and lead singer with Face the Music), Gary Kvistad (extraordinary percussionist and founder of Woodstock Chimes), Mike Esposito (original lead guitarist for America's first psychedelic band, the Blues Magoos), Don Davis (alto sax for the Microscopic Septet), and Eric Parker (drummer for Joe Cocker, Paul Butterfield and Stevie Winwood).

Two local elementary schools will also be participating -- Woodstock Elementary and the Highwoods School -- the next generation of young movers and shakers who will be launching the world premiere of their Alphabet of Gratitude.

Their artwork will be on display at the Woodstock Library where Marc will present a free concert for the kids at the Library on the afternoon of November 30 at 3:00 pm. And in the evening, some children from the upper grades at the Highwoods school will perform a song at the Bearsville Theater celebration.

Additionally, there will be brief presentations from local luminaries and leaders in various faith traditions, an invocation from a Lama at the KTD Monastery, and lots of dancing, laughing, and other assorted expressions of gratitude.

Twenty percent of all proceeds from the $25 ticket price will be donated to Family of Woodstock, the town's longstanding social service organization -- an organization that was founded in 1970, just months after original Woodstock Festival in.

In case you're wondering, no mud is expected, though, word has it, a few surprises are in store.

This will not be the last Woodstock Festival of Thanksgiving if Marc Black and Evelyne Pouget have anything to do with it. Their intention? For this to be the beginning of a long and glorious tradition -- both locally and around the world.

"We've just planted the seed," explains Marc. "This could easily take off in other cities. The time is right to celebrate the power of gratitude -- not just in our family gatherings, but in our communities via music, dance, and art.

Intrigued? Curious? Psyched? If you want to learn more about how to launch your own Festival of Thanksgiving, feel free to contact Marc Black -- marckblackmusic@gmail.com. Marc will be happy to share what he's learned about producing these kind of gratitude-infused events.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2013
Creating Buzz for the Buzzworthy

This, I do believe, should be the National Anthem for coffee lovers. If you know any movers and shakers in the coffee world who are looking for a creative way to focus attention on their brand, leave a message here and I'll pass your info on to Marc Black, the writer and singer of the song.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:23 PM | Comments (0)

The Art of Capturing Attention

How can you or the company you work for use video more effectively to deliver a message, promote a product, or capture the attention of the people to whom you are trying to communicate?

Capture attention!
Capturing attention at GE
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2013
The #1 Online Training in the World

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Voted the #1 online brainstorm facilitation training in the world by an extremely biased selection of carefully selected people we've known for years.

Actual testimonials by real clients

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:38 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2013
A Non-Traditional Proposal

Your business, organization, team, department, or community can learn a lot from this video. What, specifically, is for YOU to figure out. To increase the odds, ask yourself: "In what ways might we infuse a key project of ours with more fun, creativity, and collaboration?"

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:39 PM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2013
5 Inexpensive Ways to Jump Start a Sustainable Culture of Innovation

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Trying to create a culture of innovation is a daunting task for even the most committed organization.

Cultures take decades to form. Changing them is not an overnight phenomenon, no matter how many outside consultants you've gotten on the case. You might as well try to end world hunger or wipe out Aids overnight. It's gonna take a while.

But if you and your colleagues are game, culture change is possible. The question, of course, is where to begin?

Starting is always the hardest part. And, in the absence of clarity about where to start, procrastination creeps in -- and nothing changes.

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OK. Enough preamble. Here are five ways to get started. Pick one or all five -- and don't forget to enjoy the process.

1. Name the Beast: If you want to change something, you will need to begin by understanding the current reality of that which you attempting to change. Make sense?

If you're getting into a new market, for example, you'd expect to do some competitive intelligence gathering, right? And if you've decided to parachute into Iran, it would make sense to do some diligence, before hand, no?

Same with the effort to foster a culture of innovation.

Get closer to the problem. Talk to people. Survey your workforce. Get everyone talking -- not just the C-Suite folks, but the people in the mail room, too.

Get off of the generic, politically correct stand that may be ruling the day and get down to the bones.

Then, when you make your case, more formally, you'll have some meaningful ground to stand on -- and the people listening will listen deeper than if you merely showed up one day with a few powerpoint slides, an anecdote from Google, and your newly expressed burning passion for the cause.

2. Set the Expectation: You get what you expect. That's the deal. Psychology experiment after psychology experiment has borne this out again and again.

You need a very strong intention to do this work and then you need to communicate it in a way that is compelling.

Your workforce needs to understand this is not the job of senior leadership, or HR, or R&D. It's everyone's job. Only when a critical mass of people in your organization embraces this effort will anything substantial happen.

If not, you will be wasting your breath -- and their time.

3. Define Innovation: Google "innovation" and you'll find thousands of definitions.

What do you mean by "innovation?" What is your definition? How do you want people thinking about it?

Is it incremental innovation? Disruptive innovation? Product innovation? Process innovation? Or is the whole thing really just a secret code for "cost cutting?"

Before anything significant can happen, you'll need to get aligned with your senior team about what, precisely, you mean by innovation -- and then communicate that, with some passion, to the workforce.

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4. Frame the Challenges: OK. Let's say you want a sea change of innovation within your organization. Great. But in what specific domains? What are the specific challenges people can get their arms around and actually focus on?

As Charles F. Kettering once said, "A problem well-defined, is a problem half solved."

Towards that end, you and your team will need to dive in and start framing the problem. Not vaguely. Not generically. Very specifically. The clearer you are about communicating the domains in which you are asking people to innovate, the more results will show up.

The framing of the challenge, however, is not just your job. You'll need to invite others to get into the act.

If you've done your "name the beast" effort (see #1), this should be relatively easy.

5. Acknowledge What's Already Working: Lots of organizations who dive into the deep end of "culture change" have a tendency to get a sudden case of amnesia when it comes to their corporate history.

Inspired by the promise of the new, they forget to acknowledge the old -- paying precious little attention to what's already working well.

There are a ton of best practices already going on in your organization. There are many inspired "pockets of creativity" where turned-on-teams are doing exactly what they need to do to succeed.

The only thing is: very few people in the company know about this.

Everyone is so enmeshed in their own silos, that they have no clue what innovation-friendly behaviors are alive and well just down the hall -- behaviors they can learn from, adapt, and get rolling within their own spheres of influence.

Building on past successes will not only encourage people, it will guide their journey forward in ways that are empowering, uplifting, and real. And while you're at it, don't forget to routinely acknowledge current successes, as well -- the good things that happened today.

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Thanks to Tim Gallwey for his refinement of #5.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2013
The Top 18 High Tech Excuses

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A few months ago I asked readers of this blog to tell me what they thought the most common high tech excuses were -- the modern day, techno-centric equivalents to "The dog ate my homework." Here's what they told me:

1. "The server's down."
2. "You're breaking up."
3. "Your email ended up in my spam folder."
4. "I'm out of range."
5. "My laptop crashed."

6. "I can't find my Smart Phone."
7. "I forgot to recharge my battery."
8. "I couldn't open the attachment."
9. "I didn't get a calendar reminder from Outlook."
10. "I don't remember which password opens that application."

11. "I had a power surge and I'm using a dial up connection."
12. "The magnetic strip on my ID card is damaged."
13. "I couldn't find your fax number."
14. "The main fuse in the building burned out."
15. "My dog ate my mouse."

16. "I don't have an Orkut account anymore."
17. "I had trouble getting online."
18. "My cat urinated on my laptop."

Any more to add to the list?

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:53 PM | Comments (1)

November 14, 2013
One Reason Why Brainstorming Fails

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Advertising executive Alex Osborn, frustrated by his employees' inability to come up with novel and creative ideas, invented the concept of brainstorming in the late 1930's. His 1953 book, Applied Imagination, described how to apply the concept in very simple terms. Osborne put forth two basic principles: Defer Judgment and Focus on Quantity.

These days, people attempting to lead ideation sessions are often mindful of the first principle, but they almost never remember the second. And this, quite simply is a big reason why most brainstorm sessions fail to produce even mediocre results.

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At first glance, the quantity principle seems counter-intuitive. How can people come up with quality ideas, you might ask, by not striving for quality ideas?

But there's a method to this madness -- and it has to do with how our minds work and how we are trained to think.

If you are asked to come up with "good" and "novel" ideas in response to a problem, challenge or opportunity, whether you are working alone or with others, you will tend to aim for the best ideas possible. Makes sense, right?

However, in your striving for the best idea, you will tend to dismiss ideas you consider to be less-than-terrific.

When ideas pop into our minds, we tend to judge them immediately as too small, too big, too pedestrian, too unrealistic, too obvious, too goofy, too ordinary, too expensive, or too whatever.

It's as if the Red Queen is ensconced in our brains, shouting "off with his head!" at every idea that dares to speak up.

That's because human beings are conditioned to see what's wrong with an idea before seeing its possibilities.

It's like seeing a baby bird and judging it to be inadequate because it can't fly yet.

And this process is barely conscious. We dismiss our ideas so quickly that we often don't even notice they were thought of at all. "We've got nothing" becomes our mantra.

If you are generating ideas in a group and everyone is experiencing this phenomenon at the exact same time, the great silence will inevitably head its ugly rear. No one will be willing to share any of the ideas that have popped into their heads because their ideas will be self-censored -- deemed to be inadequate or flawed.

This is why "experts" are, usually, the worst brainstormers imaginable.

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Educated, experienced, and cognizant of all the ins and outs of the topic being brainstormed, experts will immediately see the flaws -- not the possibilities -- killing promising new ideas with the effectiveness of a healthy immune system killing off a germ or virus.

This is why many forward thinking focus groups bring in children or non-experts to generate new ideas -- people whose idea immune systems are not yet fully developed.

Think about it for a moment. If "ordinary" ideas can be generated, articulated, announced, and captured then an interesting thing can happen. Other people can improve the ideas. One idea will lead to another and another and another, radically increasing the odds of something truly original manifesting.

This kind of magic, however, cannot happen if Osborn's principle of striving for quantity is ignored.

Think of Osborn's dual principles as two sides of the same coin.

Defer judgment postpones the act of criticizing ideas as they are generated. Focusing on quantity helps us defer our tendency to judge our ideas as they are conceived.

Not unlike the proverbial coin, if you don't have both sides, "you've got nothing."

-- Val Vadeboncoeur

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:00 PM | Comments (1)

November 13, 2013
Real Innovation in Prisons

Here's a look at some fabulous innovation going on in prisons -- the last place you would think innovation is on the rise. The PEACE EDUCATION PROGRAM (PEP), created by The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF), is getting some remarkable results -- and rapidly getting the attention of the prison community around the world.

More about PEP

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

November 02, 2013
Wake Up the Passion to Innovate

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Innovation is a big fat generic concept in most corporations -- like life on other planets or trying to get teenagers to clean up their room.

Unless the individuals within an organization have a genuine sense of urgency, personal ownership, and an authentic passion for innovation, nothing much will happen.

Corporate initiatives that fail to awaken the human instinct to innovate are doomed, no matter how many pep talks, tote bags, or t-shirts proliferate.

For me, as an innovation consultant, it is clear that the short amount of time I have with my clients needs to be devoted to awakening the passion to innovate.

Tools, techniques, theory, data, models, bibliographies, business cases, best practices, and the fabulous muffins served on breaks are all fine, but it is the passion to innovate that is the real driver of success.

No passion, no innovation. Plain and simple.

Unfortunately, most organizations squash passion. That is why start-ups have a much easier time innovating than Fortune 500 companies. And that's why savvy Fortune 500 companies recreate the feeling of start-uppiness whenever they can.

The best thing any consultant can do when working with an organization is to hold up a mirror and ask their clients what they see.

Are they modeling what it means to be innovative? Or are they asking other people to do what they themselves have not done?

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:17 AM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2013
Let Go of Perfectionism!

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:20 PM | Comments (1)

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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.

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