NOW IS THE TIME TO BEGIN!
February 24, 2017
WIN A LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION to FREE THE GENIE!
OK, ladies and gentlemen of the innosphere, this is your lucky day. I'm not sure if it was the cappuccino or the Mexican sun,but I am compelled to give away three lifetime subscriptions to our very cool (and under-marketed) online creative thinking tool -- Free the Genie.
Here's how it works:
1. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, with "Free the Genie" in the subject line.
2. We'll write your name on a 3x5 index card, fold it, and put it in a hat.
3. On March 5th, blindfolded, we'll pull out three cards. The winners!
4. If it's YOU, we'll send you a link to your lifetime subscription. And we'll post all the winners names on this blog the day after. Or maybe two days. Or whatever.
If you want to buy the hard copy deck, you are most welcome.February 22, 2017
HEART OF INNOVATION Lauded as the 13th Best Innovation Blog
"13" is traditionally considered an unlucky number. Today? Not so. We have just learned that Idea Champions' blog, The Heart of Innovation -- the one you are now reading -- was designated as the 13th best innovation blog on the planet by Feedspot, a leading, browser-based RSS reader.
Thank you, Feedspot. We appreciate your kind acknowledgment. Click here to see the top 50 innovation blog winners and a simple way to subscribe to any of them.
BIG IDEA: Enter Our Brainstorm Training Raffle Before March 1st
Being in the experimentation business, Idea Champions is thrilled to invite you and your organization into our next "let's see what happens" experiment. Here goes:
In ten days, we are going to raffle off our one-day Brainstorm Facilitation training, at a 65% discount, So instead of paying the usual $6,000 fee, each of our three winners will pay only $2,000 (plus expenses). Max number of participants? 12. Crazy? Yes. Financially savvy of us? No. But we want to see what happens.
Entering is simple. All you need to do is send an email to email@example.com and write the words "Conducting Genius" in the subject line. In turn, we will enter your company's name in the raffle. Three winners will be announced on March 1st (in honor of Nikola Tesla's first public demonstration of the radio).
NOTE: If your organization is outside of the USA, we reserve the right to deliver the training online. (It's a long way from Woodstock to Australia).February 20, 2017
Unresolved Conflict at the Top Produces Chaos in the Middle and the Bottom
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.
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.February 18, 2017
The Art of Evelyne Pouget
If you, oh life long innovator, are looking for someone to do your self-portrait or the portrait of a loved one (including your pet), The Heart of Innovation would like to recommend one of our favorite artists, Evelyne Pouget. All she needs is a good photo and your preference for the medium -- oils or oil pastels.February 15, 2017
Brainstorm Facilitation Training for Idiot Savants (and other wise ones)
This just in! Brainstorming in most organizations sucks. Or, if "sucks" is the wrong word, how about "severely under-delivers"? The good folks of Idea Champions (that's us) have found a way to put an end to this madness. Yes, we have. And yes, we can. Click here for a taste of where we're coming from -- 13 brief videos of us laying it all on the line. Think brainstorming is a waste of time? Click here.Einstein on the Imagination
Thanks to Jesse Ditkoff for the designWELCOME: Brian Paul Allison!
Idea Champions is thrilled to welcome a fantastic, new member of our team, Brian Paul Allison. Brian plays two inter-related roles in what some past and present clients refer to as our "boutique consulting and training company": Sales Director and Creative Thinking Facilitator.
We like to think of Brian as a "polymath" -- a person of great learning in several fields of study. With a background in the human potential movement, Brian refined his many change agent skills as a holistic health coach and fitness professional, for 18 years, at Canyon Ranch in the Berkshires.
Brian is also the former Creative Director for The Adventure Game Theater, a wildly popular experiential curriculum of play, theater, and team building, featured on PBS.
A certified Behavior Change Specialist and lifelong Brain Optimization savant, Brian has memorized hundreds of classic poems, the number pi to a thousand digits and, if you show him a randomly shuffled deck of playing cards, he will look at it once and tell you exactly the order of the cards. Will he remember your name? Highly likely. Will you remember his name? TBD.February 14, 2017
The Power of Personal Storytelling to Deliver Real Meaning
The Best Written 142-Page Book on Brainstorming That Is Not For Sale
This is the only 142-page book we know of that teaches people how to facilitate kick-ass brainstorming sessions -- including 18 creative thinking techniques, tips, tools, guidelines, checklists, rants, and the happy distillation of 27 years worth of what we've learned leading ideation sessions for companies like these who have all been very pleased with our services.
Oh, I almost forget, you cannot buy this book anywhere. It's not for sale.
We thought about selling it, but that felt like a sell-out. So we're not selling it. We are, however, giving it away if you bring us in to train your movers and shakers how to run brainstorm sessions. Reading the book is fine, but it's a little like watching a Bruce Lee movie and expecting to break bricks five minutes later. Ain't gonna happen. For that, you need to go to the dojo.February 10, 2017
Ten Simple Ways to Establish a User Friendly Ideation Process
Let's assume for a moment that you and your company value BIG IDEAS -- the kind of ideas that have the potential to change the game, differentiate you from the competition, and spark some major business growth.
Let's also assume that you and your company are not at a loss for these BIG IDEAS -- that they regularly make their appearance via any number of ways: brainstorming sessions, early morning team meetings, or simply the spontaneous epiphanies of the wild and crazy people down the hall.
That's the good news. The not-so-good-news is that the appearance of these BIG IDEAS are not only random, but too often subject to implosion, sabotage, neglect, rabbit holes, premature evaluation, pissing contests, blame, turf wars, and countless other forms of interpersonal and organizational weirdness.
Look at it this way: You are a gardener doing your best to grow some watermelons, but the hose you are using to water the watermelons has many holes in it. No matter how often you turn on the faucet, how early you make it out to your garden, or how deftly you point the hose, very little water comes out the other end.
The result? Too much dies on the vine. Yes, it's always possible that a sudden rainstorm will save your ass, but praying for rain is not exactly a dependable way to ensure a pipeline of powerful, business growth ideas -- the proverbial "front-end of innovation".
Bottom line, if you want to increase the odds of developing BIG IDEAS that will turn into new products, new services, and better ways of doing business, you will need to plug the holes or, better yet, invest in a new hose.
What ARE the holes? The countless ways in which your company's "ideation process" routinely springs leaks.
And here, oh aspiring innovator, is where the plot thickens.
Highly creative people have a tendency to avoid "process" like the plague, turning a blind eye to anything that requires them to pay attention to an "organized approach". To them, this stuff is usually interpreted as a "loss of freedom" -- the result, they imagine, of upper management trying to micromanage them or over-engineer the one thing they value most in the world -- their free-flowing, highly spontaneous, super-animated creativity.
This, of course, is perfectly understandable. But it is also extremely short-sighted.
Just like a gardener needs a hose without holes to water their plants, so do the creative people in your organization need a hole-free way to bring their ideas to fruition. Spontaneous idea generation is great. So are brainstorming sessions, late night noodling, and creative off-sites. That's not the problem. The problem is that the your company's process for actually developing and implementing its BIG IDEAS is seriously flawed -- not unlike the O-Ring Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Without over-engineering the spontaneous appearance of creativity in your organization, you can radically increase the odds of BIG IDEAS manifesting -- but only if you and your team come up with a sustainable, user friendly ideation process that becomes known and honored by everyone on the scene.
Is there a formula for this? No. Every business is different. Every corporate culture has its own unique ebb and flow. Every team has its own, individual way of operating. That being said, there are some common sense guidelines to be aware of and adapt. That is IF you want to increase the odds of BIG IDEAS being conceived, developed, and executed in your company. Let's take a look...
1. COMMUNICATE A CLEAR, COMPELLING VISION: Regularly, let the people in your company know what the ultimate goal of their effort is. When people, swamped by the day-to-day, forget the inspired vision that attracted them to your company in the first place, your hose has sprung its first leak. What can you do, this week, to remind everyone in your organization of what the big, hairy, audacious goal is -- the "gold at the end of the rainbow" aspiration that gets everyone out of the bed in the morning?
2. FRAME POWERFUL QUESTIONS: While it's great to have an inspiring goal to aim for, unless you can translate that goal into the kind of meaningful challenges that people can get their arms around, all you are doing is hyping people up. The more skillful you are at framing your business opportunities as questions that begin with words "How can we?", the more likely it will be that your innovation garden will grow. That's why British author G.K. Chesterton once said, "It's not that they can't see the solution. They can't see the problem." How would you frame the question you want your creative team noodling on this week?
3. WRITE CRYSTAL CLEAR BRIEFS: I'm sure you've heard the phrase "garbage in, garbage out". Yes? Well, this phenomenon also applies to a company's ideation process. If your Account Services department (or whoever writes project briefs) delivers vague, incomplete, or hard-to-read briefs to your "creatives", you got trouble in River City. Unfortunately, this is all too common. The reasons? Your client doesn't actually know what they want, or your Brief Writers don't know how help your client figure it out. The result? Goofy, incomplete briefs that send your creatives off on a wild goose chase. What can you do to ensure that the people who write briefs in your company are totally on top of their game?
4. READ, UNDERSTAND, AND SIGN OFF ON THE BRIEFS: Even if your Brief Writers write crystal clear briefs, there is a big likelihood that the briefs they write will just hover in the air like Goodyear Blimps. Either key people won't read them, won't understand them, won't be inspired by them, won't check in with each other to make sure that everyone is on the same page, or won't have the time and energy needed to push back and ensure that another, better version of the brief is written to get the party started. How can you include a "Brief Reality Check" in your company's ideation process -- a way to ensure that all key internal stakeholders are on the same (clearly communicated) page before cranking out new ideas and concepts?
5. IMPROVE YOUR BRAINSTORMING SESSIONS: Most company's brainstorming sessions are hugely ineffective, a kind of hyper-caffeinated Rube Goldberg machine where the same, usual suspects go through the same tired process of either trotting out their pet ideas, jousting with each other, and calling it "ideation." If your next brainstorm session was Spring Training for a baseball team, the field would be tilted, people would be wearing mittens, and various inebriated fans would be streaking across the field. Ouch! How can you upgrade the quality and impact of your in-house brainstorming sessions?
6. LEVERAGE THE SPONTANEOUS BRILLIANCE OF YOUR WORKFORCE: During the past 25 years, I have asked more than 10,000 people where and when they get their best ideas. Less than 2 percent tell me they get their best ideas at work. The most common times and places? In the shower. Late at night. Early in the morning. Exercising. Commuting. Or doing something completely unrelated to the task at hand. Curiously, most companies do not have any kind of dependable process in place for leveraging this naturally occurring idea generation phenomenon. And because they don't, many awesome ideas never get planted in your garden. Bummer. How can you encourage your people to honor, capture, and communicate the cool ideas they are conceiving away from the workplace?
7. COMMUNICATE CLEAR CRITERIA FOR IDEA EVALUATION: Generating ideas is not all that difficult -- just one of the reasons why the phrase "ideas are a dime a dozen" is so common. What is less common is letting your in-house "idea people" know what the criteria will be used to assess the ideas they conceive. Identifying and communicating clear criteria before engaging a mass of people in a "creative process" is another way to plug one of the big holes in your ideation hose. In other words, if you are the boss, department head, or team leader, be very clear with your people about how you will be evaluating the ideas they will be generating. Take a shot at it now. For the hottest project now on the table, what are five criteria you will use to assess the viability of ideas presented to you?
8. CAPTURE AND DOCUMENT IDEAS: Most brainstorm sessions or any kind of intentional ideation processes, usually spark a ton of ideas -- some good, some bad, some ugly -- but very few of these ideas are captured. And even the ones that are captured don't often make it out of the room. A post-it on the wall or a line on a flip chart is a good start, but unless those ideas, like a baton in a relay race, get passed on to the next runner, nothing much happens. What is your current process for capturing and documenting ideas generated in brainstorming sessions. Is it working? If not, what can you do to improve it?
9. ENSURE MORE DEPENDABLE IDEA EVALUATION: Because most people in your organization are running from one meeting to another, they rarely take the time to slow down, reflect, and evaluate promising new ideas that emerge. Instead, some kind of voo doo science is applied -- an odd cocktail of mood-driven opinion-making, idea jousting, half-baked conclusions, and whoever-stays-latest-at-the-office-decides. And while, sometimes, this stuff actually works, it is often a huge hole in your garden hose -- especially since most of your brainstorming sessions are way too short and have no time baked into them for idea evaluation. Who are the likely suspects within your sphere of influence to evaluate ideas, post-brainstorm session, and how can you ensure that they make the time to do so?
10. CREATE A WAY FOR SENIOR LEADERS TO GIVE FEEDBACK: This is a biggie. Ignore this step at your own risk. At the end of the day, your company's senior leaders need a chance to share their feedback -- especially on ideas that are going to require funding or company resources. This does not need to be an "uh oh" moment, like some kind of surprise IRS audit. Done well, it can be supremely helpful. Your creative team will get a much-needed reality check. Viable ideas will be refined. And you will radically diminish the odds of the "11th hour squashing of good ideas" syndrome, because your key stakeholders will have had an opportunity -- earlier in the game than usual -- to weigh in and be part of the creative thinking process. Of course, how these idea feedback sessions are structured and facilitated make all the difference. What is your concept for how these idea feedback sessions might be structured?
Dedicated to the super-creative, very cool, and forward thinking people of Mirrorball.
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One reason why there isn't more innovation in most of our lives is because too many of us are working on our own. Not a good idea. Pause for a moment and identify at least one person with whom you need to collaborate. Who is it? What role will they play? And when will you ask for their support?February 01, 2017
My Open Letter to Donald Trump Published in the Huffington Post
My open letter to Donald Trump has just been published in the Huffington Post -- my attempt to light a candle instead of cursing the darkness. If you resonate with what I've written, please forward it to friends and post on social media. Thanks! Mitch