January 24, 2017
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 know. And they have very few clues about how to turn things around.

Idea Champions aims to change all that -- at least for the first three 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 train your people to become masterful brainstorm facilitators, we'll talk.

Brainstorming game changer
Our training
Client testimonials

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

January 23, 2017
21 Reasons Why You Like to Do Your Creative Work in Cafes

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Ever since I was old enough to realize there would never be a want ad in a newspaper that described a job I wanted, I've loved working in cafes. I never really thought much about it until a few days ago when a baffled friend of mine asked why I was so into it.

His assumption? That working in a cafe would be a distraction. A distraction? Dude, quite the opposite. I do some of my best work in cafes.

And so, at the risk of trotting out a few half-baked conclusions that my non-cafe-going critics will have a field day trashing, here goes:

21 REASONS WHY YOU LIKE TO WORK IN A CAFE

1. It doesn't feel like work.

2. It's a nice break from the office.

3. You don't have an office.

4. Easy access to caffeine.

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5. If you have a home office, you appreciate the fact that -- in a cafe -- there are no interruptions from your wife/husband/kids/roommate who rarely think they are interrupting when they stick their head in the your office and begin the conversation with something like "I'm not interrupting you, am I?"

6. The act of going from your office to a cafe gets the creative juices flowing.

7. Muffins.

8. You get a whole bunch of unexpected inputs that change your perspective for the moment (i.e. snatches of conversation, songs on the radio, odd posters on the wall).

9. There are no distracting tasks to default to (i.e. cleaning your desk, filing, tossing paper clips over the cubicle wall).

10. The people in your office want you to talk in hushed tones and have a need for you to appear busier than you really are.

11. Being waited on by the cafe staff puts you in the mode of "things coming to you" without much effort.

12. You focus on your most creative projects.

13. It feels good being part of a community -- even if the community disbands after your third cappuccino.

14. Old patterns are interrupted. New patterns emerge.

15. You like the authenticity of your responses when the geek at the next table, peeking up from his Mac, asks what you're working on.

16. It's like having a focus group at your beck and call. You can ask anyone for their opinion and they'll give it, no strings attached.

17. If you work at home, it's just a matter of time before your spouse asks you to move a piece of furniture or clean the bathroom.

18. It brings out the artist and poet in you.

19. If you go back to the same cafe again and again, you develop trusting relationships with some of the other regulars -- sharing enthusiasm, feedback, and croissants.

20. The sounds in a cafe become a kind of "white noise" that make it easier to concentrate than when you are working alone at home or in your office. Your "self-talk" gets drowned out by the ambient noise.

21. If anything breaks, someone else has to fix it.

I rest my case
I wrote some of this book in a cafe
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:33 PM | Comments (5)

January 16, 2017
The International Day of Compassion + Kindness

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As a former political speechwriter and present day observer of the oddball dynamics accompanying the fast approaching U.S. Presidential Inauguration, I have developed an increasing respect for a man who, my fact checkers have assured me, has never watched CNN, FOX News, or Celebrity Apprentice -- Isaac Newton. Yes, Isaac Newton -- the bewigged, 17th century English physicist after whom the Third Law of Physics ("For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction") has been named.

And while I did not take Physics in high school, I am getting a crash course in the Third Law of Physics, every single day.

Equal and opposite reactions are everywhere. Right wing pundits make a point and left wing pundits counterpoint. Trump tweets and Progressives counter-tweet. Breaking News is reported. Then breaking Fake News is reported. It's not just Roe v. Wade that's at play these days. It's CNN v FOX, Hollywood v Rust Belt, and Tit v Tat -- or what the more spiritually minded among us refer to as duality -- the state of mind in which opposition, contrast, and polarity rule the day.

The emergence of the Women's March on Washington is perhaps one of the most visible examples of the Newton's Third Law of Physics these days -- an equal and opposite reaction to the fear and dread so many millions of women are feeling.

2,255 miles away, on the other side of the wall Donald Trump has not yet built, the Law of Physics is also at play at San Miguel de Allende's first annual International Day of Compassion + Kindness. A million people will not be attending the event in San Miguel. It will not be live-streamed. Nor will there be major press coverage. But like so many of these kinds of life-affirming gatherings taking place around the world on Inauguration Day, it is not concerned with ratings, numbers, or news cycles. It's purpose is simply to make a difference -- to take a stand for that which truly brings people together -- and do so in a joyful way.

The brainchild of sacred activist and artist, Joseph Bennett, the International Day of Compassion + Kindness is likely just the tip of the melting iceberg -- an inner-directed indication of what's to come in North America -- small groups of inspired people, from all walks of life, coming together (in ways they wouldn't have just months ago) to celebrate what it is all people share in common: love, the search for meaning, and a healthy dose of respect for diversity.

NOTE: The event will take place at Los Arcos (same plaza as La Finca), 28A Sterling Dickinson. It begins at 11:00 am on Friday, January 20th. There will be music, chanting, meditation, storytelling, and the experience of global community. No charge. It's free. Bring your friends!

More about the January 20th celebration here
More about the magic of San Miguel de Allende

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2017
A Sneak Preview Into the Art and Science of Brainstorming

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Brainstorming, in most companies, is broken. Or, if not broken, breaking. Or, if not breaking, highly impaired. Those of us at Idea Champions are dedicated to changing the game -- and have been doing so for 25 years.

Here's a super simple way to see (and hear) where we're coming from. Intrigued? Click here and tell us more about your need. Or click here and let us know how to contact you.

About our brainstorm facilitation training
What our clients say
In case you think brainstorming is a waste of time

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:52 PM | Comments (0)

January 03, 2017
What I Learned from Being Heckled at a Keynote Presentation

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Every person who has ever had a job has experienced at least one "moment of truth" in their life -- a time when all the chips were on the table and the decision of whether to go "all in" or not had to be made.

One such moment happened to me a few years ago when I was facilitating a creative thinking session for 110 of Lucent Technology's "best and brightest" -- a room full of brilliant computer scientists with more PhDs than most politicians have excuses.

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There I was, on stage, introducing the day with a slide show of quotes from legendary innovators, when a man in the 10th row stands up and screams, "You are totally wrong! I used to work with that guy and he never would have said anything like that! If you can't get your quotes right, why should I believe anything you're about to tell us?"

If this was the Wild West, I had just been challenged to a duel at High Noon, armed only with a remote and a blueberry muffin.

Standing as I was in the epicenter of the optic fiber universe, I had only a nanosecond to assess the situation. There was no time for a strategic plan, no time for deliberation, no time to call my coach. This was Defcon 7, me face-to-face with one very angry man.

"Well..." I began (stalling for as much time as a single word would allow), "it is possible that you're right. The slides I'm showing today were just finalized yesterday and my assistant may have made an incorrect attribution. I will check with her when I get back to the office. That being said, I invite you to focus on the good stuff that's here for you today, not the possible flaws."

Logical? Yes. Effective? No. My comments only made him angrier, his face growing redder by the moment.

I now had a choice to make -- whether to further engage my corporate heckler in a heroic attempt to win him over or continue with the reason why I'd been hired in the first place -- to help seriously left-brained scientists tap into their lesser-used right brain.

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Choosing the latter, I proceeded to teach a powerful mind-opening technique based on the thinking styles of Albert Einstein and Garry Kasparov (a former Soviet Union Grand Chess Master).

Technique taught, I walked to the side of the stage and observed.

For the next five minutes, everything went smoothly. Everyone in the audience was focused and doing the work.

Then, without warning, Mr. You-Got-Your-Slides-All-Wrong stood up and, with great velocity, began approaching the stage. On a scale of 1-10, with "1" being walking and "10" being storming, he was a 9.8.

The faster he walked, the quieter the room got as I took my stance and readied myself for whatever was next.

Two feet from me, my fast approaching inquisitor stopped dead in his tracks, looked at me fiercely, eyes on fire, and exclaimed, "This is amazing!"

"What is amazing?" I replied.

"The technique you taught," he said. "I just had an incredible breakthrough about a problem I've been struggling with for years."

Happy for him and greatly relieved, I asked if he'd like to share his breakthrough with the group -- a task that would require the two of us to change roles for a few minutes, him taking center stage as teacher, me taking his seat, as student.

Which is exactly what we did.

The man was on a roll, inspired, lucid, and highly expressive. I couldn't have asked for a better spokesperson to convey the message I was trying to communicate that day -- a message about the innate ability all people have to go beyond their limiting assumptions and tap into a realm where breakthrough insights abide.

The dramatic and very visible shift my "heckler" had made from left-brained naysayer to right-brained savant was the embodiment of a teaching I couldn't have scripted in a hundred years. This had never been about me putting this man in his place or him putting me in mine. It was about changing places and seeing the world and ourselves through new eyes.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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None of us know when the moment of truth will come. None of us know what it will look like and how we will respond.

But we do know this: If we are awake and engaged in our work, it will come. There is no escape. The more we are already "all in", the easier it will be for us to respond to whatever comes our way. The more we are able to flex to the moment and make wise choices that serve the greater good, the more powerful the outcomes will be.

My moment of confrontation, at Lucent, did not allow me the luxury of deep deliberation. I had to trust myself, be in the moment, and go with the flow. But even more than that, I had to be willing to reframe what seemed to be a problem into an opportunity. I had to make lemonade out of lemons, on the spot, and not squirt anything in the eyes of the people I was there to serve.

My task was not to find fault with the fault finder (an easy thing to do), but to transform the moment into deeper understanding.

On the front lines of business, it is extremely easy to find fault in others. Even on a good day, most of us are woefully imperfect -- filled with a lifetime's worth of quirks, projections, fears, habits, and routines -- the kind of stuff that bugs even our closest friends. Throw in the X factor of stress, heavy workloads, and constantly changing priorities and you have a formula for... well... major heckling.

Your mission, should you choose to accept this assignment, is not to take it personally.

The person who is heckling you (at work, on the street, or in your home) is most likely having a bad day, week, month, quarter, year, or life. If Jesus, himself, was to make a sudden appearance, your heckler would probably find fault with his hair, clothes, or accent.

If you react with the same negativity that is coming your way, all you'll end up doing is throwing fuel on the fire. If you hate being judged, but then judge the judgers for judging, you will only end up in a fun house hall of mirrors with no exit.

Make sense?

PS: At lunch, after the high drama Lucent session, my client informed me of three things: 1) The man who heckled me does the same thing to every outside speaker no matter how much coaching he's received; 2) The exchange between the heckler and me was the perfect embodiment of one of Lucent's core values at the time -- allowing creative dissonance -- a value they had been trying, unsuccessfully, to embed it their culture for years and; 3) As a result of the positive impact my session had, Lucent was going to license my company's creative thinking training. Lemons hadn't just turned into lemonade, they turned into some major cash flow, too.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: Think of a moment of truth you've had in the past year -- a surprise encounter that demanded an intuitive, in-the-moment response from you. What was that like for you? What did you do? What did you learn from the experience? And if, perchance, you did not respond in a way that worked, what might you do differently next time?


The story above is excerpted from my forthcoming book: WISDOM AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of Life

Idea Champions
On getting the right question
The power of personal storytelling at work

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2017
Have Pluma, Will Travel

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I will be on a 10 week writer's retreat in San Miguel de Allende working on my next book, Storytelling for the Revolution. During that time I will have about 7 hours each week for free lance writing and editing projects. Contact me if you have the need: mitch@ideachampions.com

My recent book

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:30 PM | 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.

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Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
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"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
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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.
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