Networks 'R Us
Human beings' classic, overarching metaphor to explain the underlying structure of what's going on here on planet Earth (and inside a human being, too) is shifting from "Tree of Knowledge" to "Networks." Has big time implications for how an individual, team, department, company, or society organizes itself -- regardless of it's product or service. Lot of ground is covered in this wonderful RSA Animate presentation.
QUESTION: How can your organization shift from top down hierarchical to a self-organizing interactive network? How can people connect in new and elegant ways to share information, expertise, insight, and new ideas?January 27, 2015
Why Videos Go Viral
This is a very useful 7-minute overview of why videos go viral by the TREND MANAGER at YouTube. Three main reasons: 1) Tastemakers; 2) Communities of Participation; 3) Unexpectedness.
PS: In the next few days, I will be launching my attempt at a viral YouTube video on this blog . HINT: It has something to do with Valentine's Day.January 24, 2015
Radio Woodstock in the House!
We just received this very nice piece of feedback from the President of Radio Woodstock, Gary Chetkof.
"Idea Champions was a true partner in helping us untangle some of the issues we were struggling with. They were very easy to work with and the processes used were fun and creative and they worked splendidly. We were able to find out what the major obstacles were and our entire team worked together to find solutions. Everyone participated fully, and everyone now has much more clarity about how to better work together. We even have our new mission statement that you can see on our Facebook page! I wholeheartedly recommend Idea Champions to any business that wants to problem solve, brainstorm, or get their employees to work more harmoniously together."
And this just in from Richard Fusco, Radio Woodstock's General Manager:
"As a small company where everyone wears many hats, being organized and all pulling in the same direction is key. Strangely, as a communications company, our internal communications were off. Val Vadeboncoeur of Idea Champions helped us with all three. His sessions were focused and fun. We all came away with a new unified working spirit."January 22, 2015
21 Awesome Quotes on Appreciation
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the #1 reason why people quit their jobs is because they don't feel appreciated. Ouch! Who can YOU appreciate today?
1. "There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread." - Mother Theresa
2. "If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, 'thank you,' that would suffice." - Meister Eckhart
3. "The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated." - William James
4. "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." - William Arthur Ward
5. "I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate." - Elbert Hubbard
6. "Celebrate what you want to see more of." - Tom Peters
7. "Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others." -- Cicero
8. "Correction does much, but encouragement does more. Encouragement after censure is as the sun after a shower." - Goethe
9. "The aim of life is appreciation; there is no sense in not appreciating things; and there is no sense in having more of them if you have less appreciation of them." - G.K.Chesterton
10. "Appreciate everything your associates do for the business. Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise. They're absolutely free and worth a fortune." - Sam Walton
11. "Next to excellence is the appreciation of it." - William Makepeace Thackeray
12. "Encouraged people achieve the best; dominated people achieve second best; neglected people achieve the least." - Anonymous
13. "Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart."-- Seneca
14. "Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around." - Leo Buscaglia
15. "I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among men the greatest asset I possess. The way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement." - Charles Schwab
16. "You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink." - G.K. Chesterton
17. "We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." - Thornton Wilder
18. "In every person who comes near you look for what is good and strong." - John Ruskin
19. "There are two things people want more than sex and money -- recognition and praise." - Mary Kay Ash
20. "Appreciation can make a day, even change a life. Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary." - Margaret Cousins
21. "Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn't learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn't learn a little, at least we didn't get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn't die; so, let us all be thankful." - Buddha
Big thanks and a flying chest bump to Val Vadeboncoeur for finding these great quotes.January 21, 2015
The Good Thing About Bad Ideas
One of the inevitable things you will hear at a brainstorming session is "there are no bad ideas." Not true. There are plenty of bad ideas. Nazism, for instance. Arena football. Bow ties.
What well-meaning "keep hope alive" brainstorming lovers really mean is this: Even bad ideas can lead to good ideas if the idea originators are committed enough to extract the meaning from the "bad".
Do you think that War and Peace was written in one sitting? No way. There were plenty of earlier drafts that were horrid, but eventually led to the final outcome.
The key? To find the value in what seems to be a "bad idea" and then use that extracted value as a catalyst for further exploration. The following technique, excerpted from Awake at the Wheel, shows you how...
HOW IT WORKS:
1. Bring a challenge, question, or problem to mind.
2. Conjure up a really bad idea in response to it.
3. Tell another person about your bad idea.
4. Ask the other person to think of something redeemable about your bad idea -- and tell you what it is.
5. Using this redeemable essence as a catalyst or clue, brainstorm new possibilities.
Selma January 14, 2015
How to Improve Teamwork in the Next Five Minutes
Unless you've been in solitary confinement for the past few years, there's a good chance you are a member of some kind of team. There's also a good chance that the team you are a member of isn't always "high performing." Different issues come up from time to time that sabotage the team's effectiveness and trigger frustration, wheel spinning, and lost opportunities. Sound familiar?
If so, this is your lucky day.
Idea Champions (that's my company) is in the final stages of producing a deck of cards that will help teams get to the next level of connectedness, communication, and collaboration. Before we release the deck, we are offering you and the rest of the known universe a SNEAK ONLINE PEEK.
Here's how to view the cards:
1. Click this link
2. Scroll until you see the "We're All in This Together" icon in the sidebar.
3. Click the icon
4. Read the "Be a Club, Not a Team" card
5. Mouse over the card and click "next" for card #2 and so on.
There are total of 52 cards in the deck.
If you have any feedback for us, feel free to let us know. It's not too late for us to tweak the final content, so your input will be very valuable. If you want to be notified when deck is ready (online and hard copy), just send a note to email@example.com
January 10, 2015
A New Technique for Capturing the Attention of Business Leaders
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 developed quite a number of non-traditional learning strategies -- most of which have 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 brain -- 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 -- approaches that included the right use of music, story telling, humor, movement, emergent design, creative thinking techniques, experiential challenges, appreciative inquiry, 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 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 had exited 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 an hour or two -- 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.
How about you? The next time you find yourself making a presentation in front of a room full of people, what can you do -- other than broadcasting your bathroom experience -- to fully capture their attention?
January 09, 2015
Excerpted from my forthcoming book, WISDOM AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of Life.
14 Ways to Go Beyond the Email Blues
In 1999, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blues song about email.
My purpose was to poke fun at some of the email madness going on at that time. (If you want to give a listen, click the link above).
It's 16 years later now and the email scene has become even weirder.
If I was going to write a sequel, it wouldn't be the blues, it would be the black and blues -- because that's how bruised most of us are feeling these days about email. Bruised, abused, and beat up.
And so, in service to all of the loyal readers of The Heart of Innovation and all of Idea Champion's awesome clients, it is my privilege to share with you our own email survival strategies -- perhaps the most practical posting you will ever read on this blog.
1. Decide. Phone or email: Before sending off yet another email, ask yourself if email is the appropriate platform to communicate your message.
Maybe a phone call would be better. Or a face-to-face meeting. Or skywriting.
If your email is more than 2-3 paragraphs, you probably need to talk.
Emotionally charged issues are better done on the phone or in
If you require consensus or a quick decision, screw email. Try Skype or the phone or -- this just in -- walk down the hall and actually talk to somebody.
2. Create a simple way to organize your email: I'm not suggesting you sign up for one more poorly facilitated webinar to figure this out -- but you will need to devise a simple and sustainable way to process all the messages flooding your inbox daily.
If you don't have some kind of organizing system in place, you will be a victim of email overload, resulting in the regrettable phenomenon of the people waiting for your response to assume that you've either moved to Mongolia or don't like them (both of which may be true).
When a new email comes in, you have five choices:
1. Read it immediately and respond
2. Read it and delete
3. Keep it in your inbox (which becomes your handy dandy TO DO list
4. File it in a folder called "BIG VINNY" and respond later
5. File it, by subject, in various folders in your sidebar
3. Read the entire email: When you are pressed for time, it is more than likely you will only glance at your emails, instead of actually reading them.
The result? You miss key pieces of information and, without realizing it, subsequently confuse other people down the line or waste their time because you are only partially informed about the topic of the email, but you (madly scrolling through your emails like Robin Williams on crack), think you know.
4. Write clear subject lines: Many emails get lost or neglected because their subject lines seem to have been written by Esperanto fanatics or dyslexic owners of Rod McKuen books.
Cease and desist! Snap out of it! Use laser-like. descriptive headlines. You can do this! You can! Do not write "An Idea" in your subject heading. Write "An Idea for Tripling Our Sales: FEEDBACK NEEDED" or SOMETHING that alerts to the reader to what your email is really about.
5. Include "Requests for Action", when appropriate:
If you want readers of your emails to actually respond (not just read your email as if it was the back of a cereal box), be sure to include the response you are requesting in the subject line.
CALL TO ACTION
CALL ME TODAY
NOTE: If you begin an email thread and have received all the input you need, remember to delete the REQUEST FOR ACTION phrase in your subject line. Otherwise, you will get besieged by input you neither need or want.
6. Begin your subject line with "FYI" if all you are doing is sharing information, i.e.
FYI: Going on vacation
FYI: I just won the Congressional Medal of Honor
FYI: Cool article about Lithuanian muffins
7. Maintain single subject threads: If multiple subjects are embedded in emails, readers lose track and become, functionally (or pathologically), out of the loop.
Do not add new subjects to email threads. If a given email "reminds" you of a new topic you feeling a burning need to communicate, start a new email thread. Or move to Canada.
8. Use ALL CAPS sparingly: Caps, when used selectively, can be very effective, calling attention to key words.
Used indiscriminately, they create the impression of SHOUTING. LOTS OF SHOUTING. IT GETS OLD FAST. VERY FAST. LIKE THESE FEW LINES OF THIS BLOG POSTING WHICH ARE NOW STARTING TO SEEM LIKE AN INFOMERCIAL FOR A HOME EXERCISE MACHINE YOU CAN BUY IN SIX EASY PAYMENTS OF $99.99, BUT YOU WILL NEVER USE.
9. Use "cc: selectively: Before ccing everyone in the known universe, PAUSE and ask yourself WHO really needs to read your email?
If you have any doubt, check in with your cc minions and ask them to tell you WHAT email topics of yours they really need to be cc'd on.
10. Be Wise About "To" and "Copy" Fields: Remember this, oh multi-tracking and time-crunched sender of emails: Names in the "To" field are for people you are directly speaking to. Names in the "copy/cc" field are for people who will benefit from reading your email email, but your email is not essential to them and you do not need them to respond.
11. Acknowledge the sender: If an email falls in a forest, does anyone hear it?
Please understand that it is a courtesy to acknowledge that you have received and understood SOME of the emails sent you way. If the email you receive cites a deadline two weeks away, don't wait two weeks to respond. Instead, send a quick "thanks" or"'will do" or "can't do" to acknowledge receipt.
If you have an objection to what the email writer is saying, speak up! Say something! Silence, in the email zone, creates nothing but ambiguity and confusion.
12. Follow the 2-minute rule: If it will take you less than 2 minutes to respond to an email and remove it from your inbox, do it. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Do not clear cut the rainforest.
13. Create some sacred email time: Email can be incredibly distracting. If you continue to check your email throughout the day, your chances of concentrating on any one topic drop lower than the chances of health care, in the US, being affordable before 2050.
Pick a few slow times of the day when you actually have the time to check email, instead of knee jerkily checking your inbox every 30 seconds.
14. Use the phone more: If you need a quick answer, try calling. If you have something long to explain, try calling. If you don't understand an email, try calling.
The goal, by the way, is communication, not transmission.
Just because you sent an email to ten people and crossed their names off your TO DO list, does not mean you have communicated.
A big thank you to Sarah Jacob for getting this conversation started at Idea Champions and co-writing this blog article.January 08, 2015
VIDEO: Ideas Are Scary January 07, 2015
Ken Burns on Story
This is wonderful. Enjoy it! BTW, in the spirit of what Ken Burns is talking about, I am writing a book of modern day business "sufi stories". Here's a sneak preview:January 05, 2015
If You Like This Blog, You Will Love Our Rejuvenated Website
If you enjoy reading this blog, please accept my invitation to check out the our new website -- newly renovated, rejuvenated, reorganized, clarified, and simplified. Here are some links, from the site, to whet your appetite:
SAMPLING OF IdeaChampions.com LINKS
January 03, 2015
The Relationship Between Storytelling, Humor, Innovation, and My French Mother-in-Law
OK. I know you don't have 34 minutes to listen to this podcast. Of course you don't have 34 minutes. Do you know ANYONE not in traction or jail who has 34 minutes? But you might have three minutes, yes? Three minutes to listen to my stellar response to the interviewer's first question. Three minutes. That's like 180 seconds. Not much time at all. That's only about 128 seconds longer than the time you've spent reading this far. C'mon, click already. You got places to go, people to meet!January 02, 2015
Setting the Standard
A big thank you to guest blogger, Val Vadeboncoeur, Idea Champions Director of Training, for this inspiring post from the world of classical conducting.
In March, 2011, the editors of BBC Magazine asked 100 of the world's finest orchestra conductors to choose who they thought were the three best conductors of all time. From these 300 selections, the magazine compiled a Top 20 list. The conductor at the very top of that list was the eccentric genius, Carlos Kleiber (1930-2004.)
The choice was not entirely surprising; Kleiber had been highly regarded throughout his career, which began in 1954. What IS interesting is that Kleiber conducted less often than any comparably long-lived famous conductor in musical history; a grand total of 96 concerts and about 400 opera performances only, numbers that most full-time working conductors achieve every three years or so.
A notorious introvert and a perfectionist, Kleiber found the art of conducting brutally difficult, mostly because he set inhumanly impossible standards for himself, often despairing that despite eliciting great performances from the finest orchestras in the world, they were not as perfect and wonderful as he imagined the scores to be in his own imagination. He worked entirely as a free-lancer, never wanting to be the principle conductor of any orchestra, although he was often asked.
He was demanding, insisting on much more rehearsal time than any other conductor, and very expensive to hire, charging unheard of fees...and getting them. He was also unpredictable, often cancelling his conducting dates at the last minute, a classical music Sly Stone. He could speak about music and conducting with great insight and humor for hours on end with his closest friends, but gave only one five-minute public interview his entire life.
He combined the meticulous analysis of the German music tradition with a joy and spontaneity that seemed to come from his upbringing in Argentina, where his famous conductor father, Erich Kleiber, had taken his family to escape the Nazis.
Fortunately, his art has been captured in a number of fine recordings and concert videos of live performances. Here he is in action.
One of the lessons we can take from Kleiber's life and career is the vital importance of setting your own standards... and setting them as high as you possibly can. Instead of settling for competence, or being better than the next guy, why not try to be the very best at what you do... and not just the very best in the world at present but the very best EVER?
How much more would you have to love your work to set your bar at the highest level possible? How much more effort would you have to commit to? What would it take?
Kleiber's lifelong wrestling with the achievement of perfection might inspire us to look at our own standards, and those of our team and company. Where, in our work, could we be the best of all time? What is that one thing that we can do better than anyone else? And why wouldn't we want to try to do just that?