June 29, 2015
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl

Wonderful, touching, memorable movie. Go see it!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

June 24, 2015
Leave Your Title at the Door and Remove the Door From It's Hinges

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When I co-founded my company in 1986, I had two business cards made. One said "President." The other said "Archduke." Whenever I gave clients a choice, they always wanted the Archduke card.

In time, I gave all the Archduke cards away and never re-ordered them -- in a pitiful attempt, I think, to seem more professional.

Fortunately, everything comes full circle. Last night, while enjoying a wonderful concert in my hometown of Woodstock, my next title was suddenly revealed.

Director of Public Elations (and, no, I did not forget the "R".)

In a flash, not only did I get an insight into what my focus will be for the next few years, I also discovered an entirely new field.

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Cirque du Soleil is a perfect example.

Gracefully walking the high wire of the Experience Economy, they know their success is intimately connected to their ability to elate the public -- to uplift, inspire, and activate joy.

Southwest Airlines also understands this.

Theirs is a corporate culture founded on delight. Even Starbucks and Barnes & Noble have gotten into the act. Both of them know their product needs to be more than coffee and books, but a feeling -- a sense of well-being, ease, and community.

In a word, elation.

And so, I decided to share my title-changing revelation with my colleagues -- the "Senior Consultant," the "Webmaster," the "Chief Technology Officer," and the "Director of Operations."

I asked them to tell me what new titles they'd like. Here's what they told me:

- Chief Enlightenment Officer
- Princess of Possibility
- Head of Lettuce
- Webmaster of My Domain
- Director of Whatever Needs Directing
- Duke of URL
- Head of Steam
- Lord High Minister of Depth and Feared Wielder of the Reality Check

How about YOU?

What new title do YOU want to see on your next business card? What name more creatively describes what you really do at work?

Idea Champions

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:30 AM | Comments (12)

June 19, 2015
The Cult of Monetization

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I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me if I make money from my blog -- and a dollar for every time one of these people used the "M" word, asking me if I've found a way to "monetize" the effort.

Well, before I answer their frequently asked question, let me begin with the basics. The word "monetize" completely repels me. If there is one word in the English language I could live without it would be that word.

What? "Leverage," "incentivize," and "maximize" aren't enough? Now we need "monetize?"

I've got nothing against money. I like money. I like having it. I like spending it. I've (help!) got two kids to put through college soon. It's just that not everything we do needs to be monetized.

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I feel really good about hugging my kids without monetizing the effort. I also feel really good about walking my dog without monetizing the effort. Same goes for laughing, breathing, singing, listening to music, watching a sunset, writing poetry, volunteering, talking to friends, meditating, and reading books.

I don't get paid a penny for any of these things. But somehow, blogging has to monetized? No, it doesn't.

The weird thing is, whenever I'm asked by well-meaning friends if my blogging has helped me grow my business, my response is usually tinged with a subtle form of defensiveness, bravado, and hocus pocus about "building a brand."

I confess. My response has not always been authentic because I have bought into the assumptions, doubts, and "business acumen" of my inquisitors.

The fact of the matter is this: I blog because I love it. I love to write. I love to communicate. I love to connect. I love to inspire. I love to stir the soup, share ideas, experiment, provide a service, learn, discover, and be part of a community that is passionate about growth.

NOTE: The previous paragraph is not marketing copy. Neither is it my new mission statement, or attempt to get more Twitter followers.

We live in an age that is far too focused on money. People have confused it with a lot of other things: like happiness, for example... and meaning.... and fulfillment... and the innate thirst to make a contribution to others.

I'm not suggesting that money is evil or my clients should start paying me in yak milk. No.

What I'm saying is this: Not every action needs to be monetized. Some things should be done for the sheer joy of it.

And you, bloggers, out there -- stand up for yourselves! Stop playing the game of "building a business case" every time someone asks you if all the time you spend blogging is worth it.

Of course, it's worth it! But the measure of it's worth cannot always be measured in dollars and cents.

An honorable way to create more money

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:02 AM | Comments (4)

June 15, 2015
The Peace Caravan at Opus 40

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Innovation happens in many ways on Planet Earth and in many industries. Indeed, the word "innovation" seems to be on the lips of just about every CEO the world over, as they continue to look for their organizations' "competitive edge" and "the next big thing."

For me, as an innovation consultant to a wide variety of large and mid-sized companies since 1987, the most exciting growth area for innovation has nothing to do with manufacturing, technology, or alternative energy sources. It has to do with peace -- the very human effort to explore new and intriguing ways for each and every individual, family, community, city, country, and corporation to find their way, in the world, in a lot more mindful, heart-centered, inspired, sustainable way.

Towards this end, the Peace Caravan is coming to Opus 40, in Saugerties, NY, on Saturday, June 20th -- a confluence of five insanely talented groups of musicians who will be doing a benefit concert for the Woodstock Festival of Peace.

Much love, hard work, generosity, and community spirit has gone into manifesting this event -- local peacemakers joining together to create an unforgettable evening of inspired music in celebration of the need for peace -- locally, globally, inner, and outer.

Advance tickets are available at www.WoodstockPeaceFestival.org for $20. Tickets will also be available, for $25, at the door on the day of the event.

Bring your family. Bring your friends. Doors opens at 3:30 pm. The music starts at 5:00 pm. Food trucks will be onsite in case you get hungry. And if you want to create an original peace flag that will be displayed at the Woodstock Festival of Peace in September, there will a peace flag table set up for your creative expression.

THE MUSICIANS

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Amy McTear and the One True Voice Choir

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Levanta

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Sri Kirtan

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Baird Hersey

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NOTE: Please check the Woodstock Peace Festival website, on June 19th, to get the update on the alternative venue for the Peace Caravan in case it rains on June 20th.

Want to volunteer at the Peace Caravan event? Contact Maria DeFranco: defrancodesigns@gmail.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:51 AM

June 09, 2015
The Idiot Savant's Guide to Jump Starting Creativity and Innovation

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If you are looking for a simple, inexpensive way to jump start innovation and creativity -- in yourself, your team, or your company, click here. Idea Champions' Innovation Kits are easy to use, easy to buy, and fully engage movers and shakers in the process of conjuring up (and manifesting) bold, new possibilities.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:43 PM | Comments (0)

June 08, 2015
Brainstorm or Shitstorm?

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Full disclosure: The title of this blog post is not original. I borrowed it from a new client of mine, Jess Seilheimer, Chief Strategy Officer of MWW -- a force of nature who recently invited my company, Idea Champions, to design and facilitate a 5-hour multi-agency brainstorm session. Jess' description of her experience and the impact of the session made my day. If you are looking for a better way to run your brainstorm sessions, Jess' blog post is for you.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:38 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2015
The Incremental Improvement Trap

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In today's nano-second, downsized, caffeine-buzzed business world, corporations are increasingly demanding that "their people" redouble their efforts to find new and better ways of getting the job done.

If this were the 1950's, an efficiency expert might be called in, a bespectacled, uncharismatic gentleman with a fascination for predictability, order, and control. His motto? "A place for everything and everything in its place."

It wasn't a great leap of faith for upwardly mobile managers to buy into this trendy "consulting service" since it seemed like such a safe way to yield increased productivity and reduced costs.

And yes, sometimes it did...

Eventually, this tidy little service matured into a full blown "organizational intervention" and was renamed and repriced.

The name? "Reengineering." The price? A lot.

The theory upon which this was based was difficult to find fault with -- that most company's processes were sadly misconfigured and, like the average American city, had grown to incredibly convoluted proportions without much thought for elegance, orderliness, or efficiency.

Systems, as the story went, were often disconnected from organizational needs, bringing with it an extraordinary amount of confusion, frustration, and a few too many martinis.

But let's dig a bit deeper.

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It's interesting to note that the root of the word "reengineer" is "engine" (as in the machine that drives movement forward) and the root of the word engine is "gine" -- from the Latin "ingenum", meaning "genie," the spirit that drives the engine (from the same root as the word "genius").

What reengineering enthusiasts have forgotten is the fact that it is the "genie/genius" that drives the engine -- the very same genie being routinely excised from our organizations for the sake of efficiency.

The result? Organizational "solutions" have become overly systems- driven and do not give proper due to the collective intelligence, imagination, and creativity of the workforce.

If you are a Lean Management aficionado or a Six Sigma fan, relax. I am not making fun of you. You are smart. You are committed. And you do good work. Yes, I understand that root cause analyses, histograms, fishbone diagrams and the like do have an important role to play in an organization's effort to operate optimally. Indeed, when predictability, control and measures are the key drivers, continuous improvement tools can be extremely useful.

However, (dramatic pause here, folks... drum roll...and a paradigm shift to go), predictability, control, and measures are not the only forces that guide a company's success.

Invention, innovation, ingenuity, and creativity are not merely "processes" that can be replicated by getting everyone to follow the dots drawn by some reductionist-driven consultant. For that, something else is needed -- something beyond business as usual -- something that embraces discontinuity, ambiguity, serendipity, spontaneity, surprise, paradox, mystery, and chaos.

(Sounds like an upstart law firm from the future, eh?)

The invention of penicillin? A surprise to the inventor. A complete accident in the lab. The invention of Teflon? An experiment gone awry. Vulcanized rubber? A big overnight boo boo. The discovery of Velcro? Certainly not a function of a fishbone diagram.

Time and again the literature speaks of breakthrough moments and breakthrough ideas being preceded by a breakdown of the existing order. "You can't get there from here", could be their motto. Logic is replaced by a-logic, analysis by intuition, fixed laws by mutable laws. Is light a wave or a particle? Both and neither, depending, of course, on who the experimenter is.

And what about the Theory of Dissipative Structures which posits that everything in this universe eventually falls apart only to reorganize itself at a higher level? ("The act of creation begins, first of all, as an act of destruction" noted Picasso).

Business leaders beating the drums of double digit growth need to wean themselves from their addiction to incremental improvement and allow more discontinuity in their lives. Lots more. In fact, I'd venture to say several standard deviations more.

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At the very least, our fearless leaders (and the people they lead) would be well-served to contemplate this pearl by Albert Einstein: "Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts."

Indeed, honoring the laws of discontinuity is one of the most responsible things forward thinking business leaders can do. Otherwise they are merely moving the chairs around on the deck of the Titanic. (The boat is sinking, but they know exactly at what rate the chairs are sliding into the ocean.)

How then, does a company introduce "discontinuous improvement" into its culture? How does a company stir the soup, challenge the status quo, think more creatively, go beyond business as usual, explore blue sky, get disruptive, and otherwise foster a dynamic culture of innovation without the whole "thing" devolving into some kind of corporate Lord of the Flies?

Stay tuned, folks. We'll be tackling these and other vital questions in the weeks and months to come. (If you really can't wait, contact us).

Idea Champions
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:17 PM | 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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