June 30, 2016
BETTER THAN THERAPY: What Stressed Business Partners Can Learn From the Police Reunion Tour

Making great music together isn't always easy, no matter how famous your band is. Nor is it easy being business partners, collaborators, teammates, or "significant others". If you want to make some serious music together, "creative dissonance" is inevitable. Count on it. The question isn't whether or not band mates or business partners will experience breakdowns. They will. The question is how committed are they to breaking through and coming out the other side.



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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:43 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2016
The Three Keys to Becoming a Masterful Brainstorm Facilitator

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As a former student of the martial arts, I have noticed a curious phenomenon in corporate America that is becoming increasingly troubling to me -- especially among "creatives" who aspire to become masterful brainstorm facilitators. I call it the "Bruce Lee Syndrome" or perhaps more correctly, the "I-Took-a-Karate-Lesson-at-My-Local-Shopping-Mall- and-How-Come-I-Still-Can't-Break-a-Brick-Yet" syndrome?

Well-meaning business movers and shakers expect that learning a new creative thinking technique is all they need to spark brilliance in a roomful of people. Not true. Not even close to being true.

While learning a technique is a good beginning, it is only a beginning.

What's needed to leverage the power of any creative thinking technique -- no matter how cool the technique might be -- is practice.

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A Karate Master can explain to you how he breaks a brick with a single punch. He can even demonstrate it to you. But that doesn't mean you will be breaking bricks in the next minute or two. Or even the next year or two. For that to happen, you will need to practice.

Practice is the key. Learning from experience. Trial and error. And, more than occasionally, feeling like you have taken on an impossible task.

What I have noticed in the people I have trained to become skillful brainstorm facilitators is that they fully expect to be getting great results the first time they use a technique. Not a good idea. First of all, it's totally unrealistic. Second of all, it puts too much pressure on the student to perform at a high level too quickly. And third of all, it increases the likelihood that the aspiring brainstorm facilitator will prematurely dismiss the technique as faulty when, in fact, it's not the technique that is faulty, but the application of the technique by the novice student.

All of this, of course, is exacerbated by the fact that everyone in the business world is so time-crunched these days that unless results show up immediately, they're on to the next technique... or next consultant... or next magic pill.

My grandmother, Celia, who was definitely not a martial artist, had two words for this phenomenon: OY VEY.

Ladies and gentlemen, if you are committed to eliciting brilliance in others and want to master the art of facilitating highly effective brainstorm sessions, you will need to practice. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that's the deal. We're not talking Trump University, folks, or learning how to make a fortune by watching a late night infomercial. We're talking walking the long and often unglamorous path of practice, practice, practice.

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Which brings up an interesting question: how best to practice?

Know this: there is no one right way to practice. There are many ways to practice. The best way is the way that works for you. But to get the party started, here are ten choices for your consideration.

1. Pick some low risk situations for you to try out the new techniques you are learning. At home? With friends? With other students of the technique?

2. Take a few minutes after each time you use a technique to reflect on how it went. Ask yourself what you LIKED about it's application, what CONCERNED you, and what SUGGESTIONS come to mind for how you might improve your use of the technique the next time you do it.

3. Watch other people facilitate the technique and see what you can learn from their approach.

4. Ask the people who participate in your brainstorm sessions to give you feedback. Find out what worked for them and what didn't.

5. If you have a coach, teacher, or mentor (assuming you didn't just google "brainstorm techniques"), check in with him/her from time to time and continue exploring the nuances of the techniques. A single word, phrase, or suggested tweak can make all the difference.

6. Deconstruct the technique. Notice the beginning, the middle, and the end of it and see if there are ways you might improve your execution of any of those.

7. Invent your own techniques -- especially ones that fascinate you. If you are the inventor of the technique, your ownership of it will skyrocket and you will be far more likely to make the effort required to perfect it.

8. Debrief with other brainstorm facilitators in your company. Get together from time to time and share your experiences. Getting a new perspective is one of the simplest ways of developing mastery.

9. Offer your services for free, outside of work, to a non-profit, group of friends, or community organization. They get the benefit of your facilitation. You get the benefit of practice!

10. Make your practice fun! If it feels like drudgery, you will bail out way too soon. Remember the words of hockey great, Wayne Gretzky: "The only way a kid is going to practice is if it's total fun for him... and it was for me."

Oh, wait, I just remembered the name of this blog post was the THREE KEYS to becoming a masterful brainstorm facilitator and I have only given you ONE. My bad. Sorry. Please accept my apologies. Here are the other two:

2. Practice
3. Practice

Brainstorm Facilitation Training
Stuff to practice
The fruits of practice
Just in case you think brainstorming is bogus

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:38 AM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2016
Why You Need to Defer Judgment During the Ideation Phase of a Brainstorming Session

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Big thanks to Val Vadeboncoeur, Idea Champions' Director of Training, for this timely article on the importance of deferring evaluation during the ideation phase of a brainstorming session.

When Alex Osborn, co-founder of the advertising firm, BBD&O, first came up with the basic concept of brainstorming way back in the 1940's, he stressed that during idea generation "we should hold back criticism until the creative current has had every chance to flow." This principle of "deferring evaluation" of ideas until later has been a bedrock principle of brainstorming ever since. Osborn noted that human beings are of of two minds, what he called the "imaginative" or creative mind and the "judicial" or judging mind. These days, we tend to refer to these in the psych jargon of "right and left brains" today.

According to Osborn, the job of the imaginative mind was to generate ideas and see visions, while the job of the judicial mind was to analyze the ideas and select the best ones for implementation. His theory was that by deferring judgment during brainstorming we kept the critical faculty, the judging mind, from "jamming the creative faculty," the imaginative mind.

Why does this work? If you've ever experienced "writer's block," then you may well know the answer.

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When a writer finds herself in the throes of being unable to create new work, the main obstacle usually is that the writer is making the very same error that brainstormers would make by trying to simultaneously generating ideas while evaluating them.

In the case of writer's block, what is often happening is that the writer is trying to write something new while editing it at the same time. This creates an endless start/stop loop of creating and judging which is frustrating to say the least. As soon as a sentence or phrase is written, the judging mind jumps in to evaluate it. "Is it too boring? Too whacky? Didn't you say this before? Will the reader understand it? Can it be said better? In a more concise way? Is that the right word there?"

No wonder some writers go mad.

The solution for this problem is simple. Write at one designated time and edit what you write at another and always keep these two disciplines separate.

Maya Angelou would write in the morning and edit in the afternoon. Ernest Hemingway did the same. Joan Didion has a similar routine. Didion says that she writes for as long as she can in the morning and then in late afternoon, right before dinner, she has a drink and goes over what she wrote earlier in the day. "The drink helps," she says.

Some writers write for many days at a time before going into the editing mode. But, the effective pattern is clear -- writing should be a separate activity from editing.

The same goes for the creative act of brainstorming. Osborn advised having TWO brainstorm sessions at different times. The first session was designed to generate the ideas and the second was to analyze, select and develop the best ones.

In my experience, if you have enough time, you can do both in sequence in the same session but you have to keep these two events completely separate by including a break between them.

Enforcing the ground rule of "deferring judgment" during the idea generation segment of a brainstorming session is very important. I often say to miscreants "right now, all ideas are innocent until proven guilty. You'll have your opportunity to shoot them down later. Just not now."

If you ignore this basic fact of creativity -- that the imaginative mind must be given free rein to run without the constraints of the saddle, stirrup and harness of the judicial mind -- then you put yourself and your participants in danger of brainstorm asphyxiation.

You know the scene. A brainstorm participant volunteers an idea and, automatically and on cue, another participant tells everyone why he it won't work. The idea is withdrawn and never captured, or even worse, a long argument ensues back and forth as to the merits of the idea. If this continues for any length of time, everyone becomes frustrated and annoyed. And your brainstorm session can't even get started.

You know the cure. Keep the idea generation phase of brainstorming sacrosanct from the judgments of the left (or judicial) brain by enforcing the brainstorm ground rule of deferring judgment.

You can let the left brain out later to do what it does best -- compare and contrast. Weigh. Measure. Sort. And choose.

But never let both sides of your brain out together at the same time -- a sure path to madness... and a really frustrating brainstorming session.

High Velocity Brainstorming
Brainstorm Training
Idea Champions

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

June 26, 2016
FASCINATION: The DNA of Innovation

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I own a huge library of books on innovation. Mostly hardcover. The $27.95 variety with big indexes and forwards by people who make more money than I do.

Some of these books are actually good. Most of them bore me. (I must confess I have a secret desire, whenever I enter a bookstore, to put glue between pages 187 & 188 in all of the new releases just to see if the publishers get any complaints).

The books attempt to describe the origins of innovation. You know, stuff like "the innate human impulse to find a better way" and "the imperative to find a competitive edge." That sort of thing.

Corporate-speak, in other words.

In my experience, the origin of innovation is fascination -- the state of being intensely interested in something. Enchanted. Captivated. Spellbound. Absorbed.

What kids are naturally good at.

Kids and those mavericks at work who make everyone nervous and running for their spreadsheets at the drop of a hat.

A person who is fascinated does not need to be motivated... or managed... or "incentivized."

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All that person needs is time, some resources, meaningful collaboration, and periodic reality checks from someone who understands what fascination is all about.

That's why Google gives its workforce 20% of their time to explore projects on their own. That's why 3M and W.L. Gore do something similar. They know that the root of innovation is fascination.

If you, or the people who report to you, are not currently in a state of fascination it's time to turn things around. That is, IF you want to spark some innovation.

How do you do this?

For starters, here's one way, excerpted from Awake at the Wheel.

THE SEED OF FASCINATION

1. On a piece of paper, create three parallel headlines -- "What Fascinates Me," "People I Admire," and "What I Would Do If I Knew I Couldn't Fail."

2. Jot down at least five responses beneath each headline.

3. Look for intriguing, new connections between your responses. Any insights? Ahas?

4. Jot down your new ideas.

5. Circle your favorite idea and brainstorm it with a friend. Then pitch anyone who's influence can help you launch your ideas for how to bring more fascinating projects into your work life.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:24 PM | Comments (7)

June 25, 2016
What Some Consultants See That Leads to Them Getting Fired Or Never Hired in the First Place

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"They are playing a game.
They are playing
at not playing a game.
If I show them
I see they are,
I shall break the rules
and they will punish me.
I must play their game,
of not seeing I see the game."

-- R.D. Laing

Idea Champions

Bridging the Gulf
Listening with Impact
Becoming an Adaptive Leader

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2016
GOT A BRAINSTORM SESSION TO FACILITATE? Remember Yourself!

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Big thanks to Idea Champions' Director of Training, Val Vadeoncoeur, for this insightful post on the power of mindset.

One of the biggest blind spots we human beings have, and one of the most common, is forgetting to include ourselves in the calculation. It's almost as if we believe we don't matter or as if our intentions or the manner in which we do something won't play an important role in affecting the outcome. Not true. It does.

Otto Scharmer of The Presencing Institute in Cambridge, MA elaborates on this curious phenonmenon:

"Why do our attempts to deal with the challenges of our time so often fail? The cause of our collective failure is that we are blind to the deeper dimension of leadership and transformational change. This blind spot exists not only in our collective leadership, but also in our everyday social interactions. We are blind to the source dimension from which effective leadership and social action come into being. We know a great deal about what leaders do and how they do it. But we know very little about the inner place, the source from which they operate.

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Scharmer goes on to quote Bill O'Brien, former CEO of Hanover Insurance.

"When I asked him (O'Brien) to sum up his most important learning experience in leading profound change, he responded, 'The success of an intervention depends on the interior condition of the intervenor.'"

Not surprisingly, this great truth also applies to your challenge as a brainstorm facilitator. Are you truly doing everything you can to get yourself ready for the optimal performance of your duty?

You've gotten the room. You've invited the right people. You've worked out a meaningful agenda and focused on the right question. Everything appears to be in order -- except for one thing. The state of your mind, heart. and soul. In other words, yourself.

Without doing so, the odds of you being uncentered, unfocused, and less-than- vibrant will increase, resulting in the quality of the sessions you facilitate declining.

What follows are nine practical tips to ensure that you will be at your best when it comes time to facilitate an effective brainstorm session:

1. VISUALIZE THE SESSION the night before: See yourself confidently and successfully facilitating each part of your agenda.

2. UNPLUG FROM OTHER PROJECTS at least an hour before your session. There is no need to schedule distracting activities or important meetings right before your session.

3. REVIEW YOUR AGENDA at least an hour before the session. Know the flow of what's to come, what you want to accomplish, and what you want to say to move the agenda forward so it all makes sense to participants.

4. SHOW UP AT LEAST 30 MINUTES BEFORE the session to set up the room. Even if your set-up is minimal, the act of simply moving objects into their proper position and cleaning up messy sight lines will help you put your stamp, your energy, into the room.

5. VISUALIZE THE RESULTS YOU WANT -- with people engaged and happy to be there; you calm, focused, clear-headed and articulate; lots of great ideas being generated; lots of kudos for a job well done.

6. DO WHATEVER RELAXATION TECHNIQUES ALREADY WORK FOR YOU:
They will help put you in the zone. There is no reason not to do them. If they work, they work and and will work before you begin your session. If you don't know of a way to center yourself and relax before going "on stage", then find a way.

7. SET YOUR INTENTION AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL: One way to do so is to complete the following sentence: "I want to be at my very best so that..."

8. PLAY YOUR FAVORITE MUSIC as you set up for your session -- and have some instrumental music playing as people enter the room. This will not only relax you, it will relax participants -- helping them make the transition from their left-brained business minds into their more right-brained creative minds.

9. COMMIT TO HAVING AS MUCH FUN AS YOU CAN: If you are enjoying the moment, chances are good that others will, as well. This can only help.

Which of these "get the zone approaches" will YOU do before your next brainstorm session? And what else might you do to ensure that you don't forget about YOURSELF before facilitating the session?

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:36 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2016
Unresolved Conflict at the Top Produces Chaos in the Middle and the Bottom

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A guest post by Idea Champions' newest leadership development consultant, Dr. Barry Gruenberg.

When those in senior leadership positions avoid conflict among themselves, the unresolved conflict ripples throughout the organization and paralyzes action at every level. Key issues go unresolved and the tension at the top pervades the organization. Followers of each of the powerful protagonists must constantly demonstrate their loyalty to their sponsors in their words and deeds; they must scrutinize all that they do to ensure that they are not seen as violating the party line.

Lower level employees are often enlisted to participate in task forces or committees to deal with the various by-products of the unresolved issues.

These efforts are virtually guaranteed to fail since any recommendations for resolution will compromise at least one of the contending senior managers who will usually use their power to veto the idea, leaving the task force frustrated and progress hindered.

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This is ironic because the members of the task force will have attempted to remain loyal to their constituency throughout the proceedings and will usually feel that they have salvaged the most important interests of their group in the negotiation process. But the senior managers, who have delegated their conflict, will generally take an all or nothing posture on the outcome.

The only true resolution to this phenomenon requires the direct participation of the protagonists -- their committed effort to resolve their differences before the symptoms of their misalignment irrevocably muddies the organizational waters.

Idea Champions
Becoming an Adaptive Leader
Listening With Impact

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:07 AM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2016
The DNA of Sparking Innovation in a Roomful of People, Some of Whom May Be Skeptical or Cranky

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Most people think that the ability to be innovative is a mystical state available only to the chosen few.

The effort, they imagine, takes a lot of time and hard work. And since they don't have time and don't like hard work, they reason that innovation just isn't in the cards for them.

But innovation is not a mystical state. It's a natural state -- a human birthright. The people in your organization, in fact, already are innovative. The only thing is: their natural ability to be innovative is being obscured by their own habits of mind and a variety of bothersome organizational constraints.

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Their challenge is the same one as seeing the "hidden" arrow in the FedEx logo (look between the "E" and the "X").The arrow has always been there, but most people never notice it.

This is the work of Idea Champions. We help people see what they already have, but don't know how to access.

We help people make meaningful adjustments of vision, insight, and perception so they can acknowledge, embrace, and apply their innate ability to be more creative on the job -- and, for those clients who want to reinvent their "innovation process", we help them figure it out.

What follows is a brief summary of how we do this...

1. Know Thy Customer:
Long before we ever get into a room with participants, we do our due diligence -- learning about WHO we are serving, WHAT they expect, and HOW our time with them will be the most significant.

Sometimes this takes the form of phone interviews. Or online polls. Or studying key documents our clients send us in order to understand their current reality, industry, business challenges, organizational constraints, and hoped for outcomes.

2. Customization:
Based on our assessment of our client's needs, we put together a game plan to get the job done. Towards this end, we draw on more than 100 "innovation-sparking" modules we've been developing since 1986.

3. Co-Creation:
Early in the design process, we invite our clients to give us feedback about our approach. Their feedback stirs the creative soup and provides us with the input needed to transform a good session design into a great one.

4. Spacing In:
We make a great deal of effort to ensure that the space in which our sessions take place are as ideal as possible. Form may follow function, but function also follows form.

When participants walk into an Idea Champions session, they begin "mind shifting" even before the session begins. It is both our belief and experience that culture/environment is a huge X factor for creativity and innovation.

5. Drive Fear Out of the Workplace:
W. Edwards Deming, one of America's most revered management consultants, was a big proponent of removing fear from the workplace. So are we. Towards that end, each of our sessions begins with a norm-setting process that makes it easy for participants to establish a dynamic culture of innovation for the day.

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6. Mindset:
Organizations don't innovate, people do. But not just any "people." No. People who are energized, curious, confident, fascinated, creative, focused, adaptive, collaborative, and committed.

People who emerge from our sessions are significantly more in touch with these "innovation qualities" than when they began. Their minds have changed. They see opportunities when, previously, all they saw were problems.

They let go of perfectionism, old paradigms, and habitual ways of thinking. In their place? Open-mindedness, listening, idea generation, original thinking, full engagement, and the kind of commitment that drives meaningful change.

7. Balancing Polarities:
Human beings, by nature, are dualistic, (i.e. "us" vs. "them," "short-term" vs. "long-term," "incremental" vs. "breakthrough," "left brain" vs. "right brain".)

The contradictions that show up in a corporate environment (or workshop) can either be innovation depleters or innovation catalysts. It all depends how these seeming conflicting territories are navigated. Idea Champions is committed to whole-brain thinking -- not just right brain or left brain thinking.

Our work with organizations has shown us that one of the pre-conditions for innovation is a company's ability to strike the balance between these polarities.

Each workshop we lead and each consulting engagement we commit to is guided by our understanding of how to help our clients find the healthy balance between the above-noted polarities.

8. Expert Facilitation: "A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile when someone contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind," wrote St. Exupery.

This, quite simply, is what Idea Champions does. But we do far more than just contemplate. We also architect and build.

Since 1986, we've been facilitating innovation-sparking engagements for a wide variety of industries. We have mastered the art and science of turning lead (or leaders) into gold. And we can train your people to do the same thing we do.

9. Experiential Challenges: "What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand."

So said the great Chinese sage, Confucius. This 14-word quote describes the essence of our work. Simply put, we get people off their "ifs, ands or buts," and into the experience of what's possible.

While we value theory, research, models, data, best practices, business cases, and most of the other flora and fauna of business life, we've come to understand that the challenge of sparking insight, breakthrough, and change, is best accomplished by doing -- not talking.

That's why all of our sessions include experiential challenges that provide participants with visible ways of seeing innovation in action -- what supports it and what obscures it.

10. Emergent Design: Awakening the creativity of an organization's workforce is not a follow-the-dots exercise.

Although all of our interventions begin with carefully crafted project plans and agendas, our facilitators are fluent in the art and science of making the kind of real-time adjustments, refinements, and improvisations that are the difference between a good session and a great session.

Facilitators who attempt to imitate our approach find it difficult to succeed without first learning how to master the art of emergent design. The good news is that it can be learned -- and this is just one of the things we teach in our Train the Trainer programs.

11. Edutainment: Idea Champions sessions are a hybrid of two elements: education and entertainment. We know that when participants are enjoying themselves their chances of learning increase exponentially.

That's why we make all of our sessions a hybrid of education and entertainment. Participants do not get tired. They do not get bored. They do not sneak long looks at their Blackberries.

12. Full Engagement:
Idea Champions sessions are highly participatory. Our facilitators are skilled at teasing out the brilliance of participants, regardless of their social style, job title, or astrological sign.

But perhaps more importantly, our facilitators know how to help participants tease out each others' brilliance. Eventually, everyone gets into the act. The shy people take center stage and the power players take a back seat. The collective wisdom in the room gets a much-needed chance to be accessed and expressed.

13. Convergence: Idea Champions is successful because what we do works. And one of the reasons WHY it works is because our sessions help participants translate ideas into action.

Ideas are powerful, but they are still only the fuzzy front end of the innovation process. Ultimately, they need to turn into results. Creativity needs to be commercialized. Our workshops, trainings, and consulting interventions help our clients do exactly that.

14. Tools, Techniques, and Takeaways: Ideas Champions closes the gap between rhetoric and reality. We don't just talk about innovation or teach about it -- we spark the experience of it. And we do that in very practical ways.

One way is by teaching people how to use specific, mind-opening techniques to access their innate creativity. Another way is by providing our clients with a variety of innovation-sparking guidelines, processes, and materials that can be immediately used on the job.

Idea Champions
Creating a Culture of Innovation
Storytelling at Work
Brainstorm Facilitation Training
What our clients say

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:06 PM | Comments (1)

June 17, 2016
JUST SAY YES!

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Idea Champions is thrilled to welcome Dr. Barry Gruenberg to it's team of consultants, facilitators, and bloggers. Here is Barry's latest pearl of wisdom.

When somebody asks you if you can do something, just say YES. You can always figure out how later. Indeed there is a good chance that what you are being asked for is not what's really needed, anyway.

We often evaluate the value we can add to a situation by imagining that there is someone else who really has the required expertise. We interpret our uncertainty as a testimonial to our inadequacy as compared to the imagined expertise of the presumed, all-knowing other.

Actually, our uncertainty and humility are essential elements of what we bring to the party; they drive our curiosity about what is really going on and help us listen to multiple points of view on the problem without having preconceived ideas about solutions.

Developing a deep understanding of what a problem truly consists of is a much more valuable contribution than providing a pre-conceived solution; devising solutions is easy once we have a robust problem statement.

The problem with high levels of expertise?

1. When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail
2. If you have to appear as an expert, you have little opportunity to learn anything new.

In today's world, characterized by unprecedented new technologies and business models, we are much more likely to find ourselves facing adaptive challenges that require new ways of thinking and acting. So embrace your ignorance and go for it!

Barry's workshop on listening
Idea Champions
Barry on what leaders can do to foster innovation

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

June 16, 2016
20 Easy Ways to Spark Innovation

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Many forward-thinking organizations, these days, are launching all kinds of initiatives to crank up innovation. Their intention is a good one, but their execution is often not. While there's nothing inherently wrong with "organizational initiatives", they often end up being overly complicated, vague, and painfully impersonal. They may look good on paper, but real innovation doesn't happen on paper -- it happens in another dimension -- the human dimension -- the realm of authentic interaction, not theoretical interfacing.

Towards that end, I invite you to consider another, more informal approach -- simple, no-cost ways of radically increasing the odds of the people you work with becoming proactive, inspired, and successful innovators on the job. Here goes:

1. BE CURIOUS: One thing is certain: aspiring innovators are on to something. If you are interested in increasing their odds of success, your first task is to find out what, precisely, has captured their attention. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it greatly enlivens the person on the brink of a new possibility.

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2. LISTEN DEEPLY: People with a new idea often need to express what they're thinking in order to fully understand what they're conjuring. Listening is the main way you can help -- not so you'll have something wise to say in response, but so you can create a safe haven for others to explore the nuances of their new ideas.

3. ASK POWERFUL QUESTIONS: You may be someone's boss or have multiple degrees, but that doesn't mean you have all the answers. Indeed, when it comes to sparking innovation, asking questions -- at the right time and in the right way -- is more important than giving advice. It is often the only thing you need to do.

4. REFRAME THE CHALLENGE: As an innovation catalyst, one of the biggest contributions you can make is to ensure that the innovators in your life have clearly defined their projects. Probe. Poke. Provoke. See if there is another, more elegant way they can define their goal -- starting with the words "How can I?" or "How can we?"

5. ELIMINATE BUREAUCRATIC OBSTACLES: Innovators have enough to worry about without having to navigate the often Rube Goldberg-like maze of corporate systems and the ever-changing marketplace. Be their advocate. Demystify the roadblocks. Identify what's in their way and do what you can to eliminate the obstacles.

6. PROVIDE RESOURCES: Carpenters need tools. Hikers need backpacks. Musicians need instruments. Innovators? This, that, and the other thing. Your task? To identify the resources they need and see what you can do to locate them. Funding? Software? Collaborators? An introduction to movers and shakers? Something else?

7. COACH: Even the best athletes in the world perform better when they have the support of someone on the sidelines who knows the game and how to spark their potential. If you want to spark innovation in others, know that you will need to be a coach from time to time. But first, you need permission.

8. GIVE FEEDBACK: Aspiring innovators go back and forth between being overly intoxicated with their new ideas and being overly sober. Immersed in their own creative process, they lose perspective, with only the sound of their thoughts for company. What they need is timely feedback. And they need it from you.

9. DO THE BREAK DANCE: Committed innovators have a tendency to obsess about their projects. Not only does "all work and no play" become their mantra, they often leave little time for rest and renewal. Sometimes, the best thing an innovator can do is nothing -- and you can help by reminding them, from time to time, to take a break, chill, and do something different for a change.

10. GO BEYOND THE CALL OF DUTY: Attempting to create something new is rarely easy. It's messy, frustrating, and often requires a big dose of the heroic. If you are going to be someone's innovation ally, know that one of your jobs is to go beyond business as usual and extend your support in surprising and extraordinary ways.

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11. CELEBRATE SMALL WINS: One challenge with trying to innovate is that it takes a lot of time. Results often don't show up for years. As you can imagine, this can be deflating. The remedy? Regularly acknowledge "small wins" -- positive results-- no matter how small. As Tom Peters once said, "Celebrate what you want to see more of".

12. REINFORCE THE VISION OF SUCCESS: Anyone attempting to create something new has a tendency to get lost in details and doubts -- often not seeing the forest for the trees. They lose the big picture. The remedy? At every turn of the bend, get the innovators in your life talking about their wishes, dreams, and hoped for outcomes.

13. TELL INSPIRING STORIES: When innovators get stuck, it's usually because of self-talk -- their internal critic that thrives on doom and gloom. You can counter this phenomenon by telling stories with the power to neutralize self-talk -- true tales of your own creative breakthroughs or the tales of others who have gone beyond obstacles to manifest magic in the world.

14. QUOTE FROM THE INNOVATION MASTERS: Sometimes a single word or phrase is all an aspiring innovator needs to get their mojo back. Or a soundbyte from someone they respect -- a person who's "been to the mountain" and distilled what they learned down to a quotable quote. Here are is our treasure trove of quotes.

15. MODEL THE SPIRIT OF INNOVATION: It's hard to spark innovation in others if the spark is not alive inside of you. Not only will the aspiring innovator see right through you, they won't take any of your council to heart -- even if it's true. Your responsibility? Walk your talk. Practice what you preach. If you don't, you're just wasting your time and everyone else's, too.

16. DECREASE THE FEAR OF FAILURE: One of an innovator's biggest triggers is their fear of failure. Your mission is to help them reframe their concept of "failure" and, instead, see it as a progression of noble experiments -- opportunities for feedback so they can course correct, continue learning, and be as resilient as possible.

17. GROUND: Aspiring innovators often have their heads in the clouds, an important place to inhabit from time to time, but it is only half the story. Innovators also need to have their feet on the ground. You can help by getting them to plot in specific days and times, on their calendar, to work on their innovation project. You can also ask them to commit to specific deliverables and "by when" dates.

18. BE THE COUNT OF ACCOUNTABILITY: In the heat of battle, aspiring innovators often make promises they do not keep. Or, afraid of breaking their promises, never make them in the first place. If budding innovators work alone, there is no one around to notice this phenomenon. Your task? Ask them what they want to beheld accountable for and then check in at regular intervals.

19. EXPAND THEIR SUPPORT NETWORKS: One thing you don't want to do is establish a co-dependent relationship with innovators seeking your support. It's not only dumb, it's unsustainable. The alternative? Encourage them to enroll support from their existing network of friends and colleagues -- people they can depend on for input, feedback, and encouragement.

20. CHECK IN FROM LEFT FIELD: If you really want to spark innovation in others, pick up the phone from time to time and call. Actually talk to the person. Ask how they're doing. Listen. Stir the soup. See what they need. Assuming you are trusted, your out-of-the-blue contact will awaken, encourage, and inspire -- helping those on the cusp of a breakthrough to stay on track and on fire.

This article in HuffPost
Idea Champions
One of our innovation workshops

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2016
HOW EFFECTIVE ARE YOUR COMPANY'S BRAINSTORM SESSIONS? Find Out in 10 Minutes

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Whenever I ask clients to describe the quality of their brainstorm sessions, they usually role their eyes, shake their head, and use words like "suck", "boring", or "pitiful." But when I ask them WHY, they don't really know. And they have very few clues about how to turn things around.

We aim to change all that -- at least for the first ten companies who respond to this blog post and request a FREE online Brainstorm Participant poll from Idea Champions -- the simplest way we could think of to help forward thinking organizations get a pulse check on the quality of their in-house brainstorm sessions.

Here's how it works:
1. Email info@ideachampions with "Brainstorm Poll" in the subject line.
2. We'll send you a custom link to our Brainstorm Poll
3. You forward the poll to anyone in your organization who has attended an in-house brainstorming session in the past year.
4. We'll send you the poll results, along with our observations.
5. If you want to find out how we can be of support, we'll talk.

Brainstorming game changer
Our training
Client testimonials

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:17 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2016
When a Best Practice Is a Worst Practice

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I'm a collector of best practices. I like to find out what forward thinking individuals and organizations have done to accomplish extraordinary results.

Sometimes I share these stories in my keynotes or workshops. Invariably, my stock rises when I tell these stories. People think I know stuff. They get giddy. They take notes. They think about how to adapt these best practices to their organization. But then things get weird.

People start becoming satisfied with emulating other people's lives. Instead of thinking up their own best practices, they imitate. Ouch!

The spirit of innovation gets replaced by the religion of innovation.

Gone is reflection. Gone is the process of discovery. Gone is the ownership that comes with birthing new insights. In it's place? Simulation. Imitation. And, all too often, the blind following of pre-packaged solutions.

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I'm not saying there isn't value in paying attention to other people's best practices. There is.

But when when imitation replaces creation, something invariably gets lost -- and innovation eventually goes down the drain.

Idea Champions
My Keynotes
Cartoon
Create your own best practices

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:47 PM | Comments (2)

June 10, 2016
How I Won a Contract from AT&T By Teaching One Man to Juggle

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A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a good story is worth a million. Here's a five-minute story about how the company I co-founded, Idea Champions, won a large contract from AT&T by teaching the Director of Training and Development how to juggle in five minutes.

Read the full story in this book
A priest, a penguin, and a newspaper reporter walk into a bar
Me speaking about storytelling in business

Photo: Jesse Ditkoff

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:56 PM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2016
HOW TO GET PEOPLE OUT OF THE BOX: A 5-Minute Tutorial

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Ever heard the expression "get out of the box?" Of course you have. Ever wonder what the six sides of that so-called box actually are? If not, here's your 5-minute tutorial of the day. Once you're clear about what the sides of the box are, you will be significantly more able to help people (and yourself) get out of it.

One way to get out of the box
Another way
My book on the subject
Boxes

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)

Who Are We?

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.

Storytelling at Work
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.
Top 5 Speaker
Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
Workshops & Trainings
Highly engaging learning experiences that increase each participant's ability to become a creative force for positive change
Brainstorm Facilitation
High impact certification training that teaches committed change agents how to lead groundbreaking ideation sessions
Cultivating Innovation
Your "best and brightest" are the future leaders of your company, but unless they know how to foster a culture of innovation, their impact will be limited. A one-day workshop with us is all they need to begin this journey.
Our Blog Cabin
Our Heart of Innovation blog is a daily destination for movers and shakers everywhere — gleefully produced by our President, Mitch Ditkoff, voted "best innovation blogger in the world" two years running.
The Hero's Journey
Innovators are known for their ability to move forward. But sometimes, the best way to move forward is to retreat – especially when it's time to reinvent yourself. That's why Idea Champions is now offering 5-day immersive retreats in beautiful San Miguel de Allende. Reboot! Refresh! Renew!
Team Innovation
Innovation is a team sport. Brilliant ideas go nowhere unless your people are aligned, collaborative, and team-oriented. That doesn't happen automatically, however. It takes intention, clarity, selflessness, and a new way of operating.
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Webinars for online training If you enjoy our blog, you will love our newly launched webinars! Our training is now accessible online to the whole world.
Awake at the Wheel, Book about big ideas If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing, Awake at the Wheel is for you. Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
Featured in Alltop Guy Kawasaki's Alltop "online magazine rack" has recognized Idea Champions' blog as one of the leading innovation blogs on the web. Check out The Heart of Innovation, and subscribe!
Face the Music Blues Band The world's first interactive business blues band. A great way to help your workforce go beyond complaint.

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