February 22, 2014
What's Next After Twitter

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Ever since Twitter made its appearance on the scene in 2006, millions of people have become enamored with the prospect of delivering a message in 140 characters or less.

Short and sweet has become the name of the game. Brevity rules.

And why not? In a world ruled at least as much by ADD as by maniacal despots, who's got time for anything else?

These days, we don't have time. Time has us.

But according to industry sources, Twitter has become passe. Like the SONY Walkman. Like your father's Oldsmobile. Like the last two sentences of this paragraph.

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That's why I've invented TWI -- the next, new super hip, low carbon footprint, social networking platform.

It's quicker. It's faster. And by the end of this post, the company will have already issued an IPO.

140 characters? Please! That's an eternity!

With TWI all you get is 20 characters. That's an 86% improvement in productivity over Twitter. 86%!

If you can't deliver your message in 20 characters, you're obviously a slacker and we don't want your business. Why would we? You'd probably end up calling our customer service bots and wasting their time with your long-winded complaints.

TWI. Think about how much more efficient you will be -- leaving you so much more time to drink coffee and get more things done.

C'mon! What are you waiting for? Time. Is. Passing. Act now!

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:21 AM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2014
How to Open the Door to Innovation

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There is no magic pill, but there is a key. And the key has a lot to do with creating a critical mass of savvy innovation catalysts and change agents who know how to open doors (and minds).

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:32 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2014
Would You Invest Three Hours to Save Yourself Months of Wasted Effort?

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Idea Champions has just launched a groundbreaking three-hour workshop that will save your organization untold time, tons of money, and a thousand pounding headaches you can't afford to have.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2014
How to Help Your Senior Team Get Aligned About a Strategic Direction

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I am totally inspired by the feedback that Steven McHugh, co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Idea Champions, received from Life Care Centers of America, in response to a two-day Senior Team Strategy Offsite he designed and facilitated for them. See below...

CelebratingMan.jpg"I wanted to thank you for the wonderful work you've done for us at Life Care Centers of America.

As you know, when I left my CFO position at Olin Corporation to help lead Life Care, I was presented with a number of difficult challenges. Due to strict government regulations, the long-term care industry was in turmoil. In 30 years, Life Care had not performed any unified, long-term strategic planning, and there was no HR department for over 27,000 employees.

Based on the excellent work you did for over five years with my former company, I knew you had the skills to help us. Your role in aligning 230 different facilities into a unified force has been remarkable, especially in the short time frame you were given.

As you know, the results of the process you took us through have been astounding. In an environment where five of the top six public nursing home companies have declared bankruptcy, we have enjoyed unprecedented growth. You helped our senior officers transform into a dynamic leadership team. Our clarity around an aligned mission translated into a powerful vision that we can communicate to the rest of the organization.

Your Vision Mapping sessions were the catalysts for communicating our message to the rest of the organization. Your ability to develop balanced scorecards for all 230 facilities was the key to translating strategy into results.

It is now clear what actions are important for us to take, and for the first time, our people know how their success will be measured.

From the senior level to the staff in each facility, actions are now aligned to achieve strategic goals.

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As an interesting byproduct of your work here, we are beginning to develop leaders at all levels in the organization who are empowered to do whatever it takes to get the job done. They have a clear line of sight to the strategic goals and are stepping up to the plate to get them done.

I am proud of how we have responded to the process you have embedded into our culture. Thank you for justifying my faith in bringing you in to facilitate this major change in how we operate.

I look forward to continuing our work together in developing a high performance organization."

-- Michael Waddell, President, Life Care Centers of America

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

February 12, 2014
When a Brainstorming Session is Not a Brainstorming Session

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I finally figured out why so many brainstorming sessions fail. It's the exact same reason why so many marriages fail. The couple shouldn't have gotten married in the first place.

Many brainstorm sessions that are called never should have happened. And while some kind of meeting may have been appropriate for the invitees to attend, the form of a brainstorm session was the wrong form.

So, before you call your next brainstorming session, pause for a moment and ask yourself what the real purpose of your meeting is. If it's not the generation and development of new ideas, your meeting is not a brainstorming session, but one of the following.

1. INFORMATION SHARING MEETING: A chance for participants to update each other on projects, download knowledge, share research and other changes impacting their common project. No new ideas are really needed here -- just the real-time sharing of information.

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2. TOPIC DISCUSSION MEETING: Some meetings need to be nothing more than talking head sessions. These kinds of meetings give people a chance to air out opinions, share questions, and listen to each other. There's nothing wrong with these kinds of meetings -- but they don't necessarily require brainstorming for them to be effective.

3. TEAM ALIGNMENT MEETING: Sometimes teams simply need to get together to get on the same page. While this may include the sharing of information, it may also be a time for people to connect, clarify their collective vision, and reinforce their commitments. While this may seem "soft," it's not. Unless your team is connected, it's unlikely they will be effective. Getting your ducks in a row usually requires more discussion than brainstorming.

4. FEEDBACK MEETING: Sometimes it's useful for team members to give and receive feedback to each other. This kind of meeting can be as simple as a few "report outs" and then some honorable sharing of feedback. Ideas may emerge in the process, but a feedback meeting is not a brainstorm session. Ideas are less important that the ability of participants to listen to each other and speak their truth.

5. DECISION MAKING MEETING: Sometimes the only reason for a team to get together is to make decisions. Who's doing what? Why? By when? If your team has no agreement or process in place about how it makes decisions, these kinds of meetings won't go very well -- unless, of course, it's already been established that the "boss" or "team leader" is the one with the power to make decisions on behalf of the team.

Make sense?

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2014
BRAINSTORMING TIP #19: First Diverge, Then Converge

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If you are gearing up for a brainstorm session, allow me to offer you one piece of advice: first diverge, then converge.

Beyond the muffins, coffee, and people arriving fashionably late, brainstorm sessions are composed of the two aforementioned "erges."

Divergence is the act of "getting out there" or what Webster refers to as "an infinite sequence that does not have a limit." Go, Noah, go! Divergence is a deviation from the norm -- kind of like your brother-in-law.

Without divergence, brainstorm sessions are flat, boring, one-dimensional, and a roaring waste of time.

But if the only thing you do is "get out there," never coming back to home base, all you will have done is tease participants by temporarily stimulating their imagination.

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That's why you need divergence's accountant-like cousin convergence -- the act of "coming together toward one point."

Divergence and convergence -- like day and night, hot and cold, peanut butter and jelly, are both necessary if you want your brainstorm sessions to really hum.

How to spark divergence?

Well, for starters, invite inspired people, define a compelling challenge, establish a sense of urgency, express humor, give participants permission to take risks, and make sure the facilitator knows what they're doing.

Convergence can be achieved in many ways, as well, including verbally summarizing session results, restating the most popular ideas, voting, identifying champions, action planning, and clarifying what will happen to new ideas, post-session.

For more on why most brainstorming sessions don't work (and what you can do about it), click here... or here if you don't want to click any of the aforementioned hyperlinked words, click here.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:36 PM | Comments (2)

February 01, 2014
How to Prepare for Brainstorming

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Aficionados of the martial arts will tell you that a competition between two opponents is determined in the bow -- the moment before the "action" begins. Savvy gardeners will tell you that if you really want to get a harvest, pay special attention to preparing the ground.

And I will tell you this: if you want your brainstorming sessions to bear fruit, be mindful of the time before anyone pitches even a single idea.

Because it's the few days before a brainstorm session begins -- the "incubation time" -- that's often the difference between brilliance and boredom.

Unfortunately, most companies don't get this.

What typically happens?

Someone with a pressing need for new ideas invites a few people -- usually the "usual suspects" -- to brainstorm. If, perchance, this idea-needing person has taken the time to write a brief and send it out, few people read it. And those who do, read it more like the back of a cereal box than anything else.

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Either no one does the due diligence required to adequately prepare for the meeting or the due diligence that is done (i.e. research, articles, surveys) is ignored, under-valued, or ridiculed.

People bop into the meeting over-caffeinated and under-prepared.

Yes, ideas are generated, but they are often only a collection of pet ideas -- ones that have long-ago been generated. Game changing concepts are few and far between, not because the people in the room are incapable of game changing concepts, but because there is no common, fertile ground of understanding, no incubation, no real readiness for what is about to transpire -- or could.

Hey, if you're going to jog a few miles, warm up first. If you're going to boil an egg, heat up some water. Make sense?

The problem is this: most people equate preparing for a brainstorm session with "work" -- totally boring work -- and since they already feel overworked, the preparation for a brainstorm session is often perceived as optional -- kind of like what teenagers think when their parents ask them to clean up their room.

OK. Enough ranting. Here's the deal: If you want a meaningful return on the effort you and your team put into brainstorming, establlish a better, agreed-upon, process for what happens before people show up at one of your sessions.

And while there is no magic formula for this, there are definitely guidelines and principles that apply to most situations. Below are ten to get you started. If you see something missing, add it. If you can think of a better way to proceed, do that.

But do something. If you don't, you and your team will have accomplished little more than becoming the poster children for one of my favorite quotes: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

BRAINSTORMING PREP GUIDELINES:

1. Be sure you have framed the right question.

2. Only invite people who really want to participate.

3. Identify the research and pre-work that needs to be done before -- and have someone actually prepare it.

4. Send the invitation and the pre-work at least three days before your session begins.

5. Set the expectation that a careful review of the pre-work is a pre-condition for attending.

6. Make sure that the facilitator has cleared their head and cleared a space for the brainstorming session to happen.

7. Begin the meeting on time. If someone shows up late, don't let them in. (And everyone stays for the duration).

8. Begin the meeting with a crisp review of the pre-work. Make sure everyone understands the basics before jumping off into never never land.

9. Eventually (sooner rather than later) make sure that everyone in your company understands and agrees to the "pre-brainstorming" protocol.

10. Keep this protocol as simple as possible (but no simpler, as Einstein liked to say). And continually refine it as you learn what works and doesn't work.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:57 AM | Comments (0)

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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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Storytelling at Work is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling in business – why it matters and what you and your organization can do to leverage the impact of storytelling in the workplace.
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