May 23, 2017
35 Awesome Quotes from Einstein

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Since 1986, every innovation workshop I've facilitated has included a poster of Albert Einstein.

Somehow, Einstein's smiling countenance inspires everyone in the room -- no matter what their social style, gender, or title.

The only thing I find more fascinating than this is the incredible amount of powerful quotes he left behind.

1. "The only real valuable thing is intuition."

2. "Imagination is more important than knowledge."

3. "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science."

4. "Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new."

5. "The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once."

6. "The gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge."

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7. "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."

8. "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."

9. "Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school."

10. "No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it."

11. "The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing."

12. "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one."

13. "Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the the universe."

14. "Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile."

15. "When you sit with a nice girl for two hours, it seems like two minutes. When you sit on a hot stove for two minutes, it seems like two hours. That's relativity."

16. "If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."

17. "What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world."

18. "A man should look for what is, and not for what he thinks should be."

19. "A question that sometimes drives me hazy: am I or are the others crazy?"

20. "A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?"

21. "Common sense is the collection of prejudices acquired by age eighteen."

22. "Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts."

23. "Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere."

24. "Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them."

25. "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."

26. "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

27. "I think and think for months and years. Ninety-nine times, the conclusion is false. The hundredth time I am right."

28. "The value of a man should be seen in what he gives and not in what he is able to receive."

29. "Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value."

30. "We still do not know one thousandth of one percent of what nature has revealed to us."

31. "You ask me if I keep a notebook to record my great ideas. I've only ever had one."

32. "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

33. "It's not that I'm so smart, it's just that I stay with problems longer."

34. "Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted counts."

35. "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

Idea Champions
Idea Champions clients
The Six Sides of the So-Called Box
My new book

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:09 AM | Comments (9)

May 19, 2017
BIG IDEA: Enter Our Brainstorm Training Raffle Before June 1st

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Want to raise the bar for brainstorming in your organization? Looking for an online solution at a super-low fee? Enter Idea Champions quarterly raffle and win a 5-session, online Brainstorm Facilitation training at a 68% discount. Instead of paying our usual $7,500 fee, your cost is only $2,400. Max number of participants? 12.

Entering is easy. Simply send an email to info@ideachampions.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 June 5th.

Our clients
What our clients say
The onsite version of the training

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2017
The DNA of Idea Champions Workshops and Trainings

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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)

May 17, 2017
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)

May 16, 2017
100 Reasons Why You Definitely Won't Read This Blog Post

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I know you have no time. YOU know you have no time. I know you're not gonna do anything you don't wanna do. YOU know you're not gonna do anything you don't wanna do. We both know you're not going to read this blog post. It's too long and you have more important things to do.

What follows are 100 other reasons why you won't read this blog post.

1. You don't want to.
2. You're late for a very important date.
3. You can't think of a way to monetize the experience.
4. You don't like blog postings with clever, little titles.
5. You don't know how to read.

6. You have to go to your health club to work off last night's two margaritas.

7. Someone stole your identity and you don't know who you are.

8. You've got to walk the dog.

9. You are wary of any list longer than ten.

10. Something is beeping just a few feet away from you, but you can't seem to find it.

11. It's none of my business.

12. You have to get to the airport (bathroom... meeting... dry cleaners... grocery store... movie theater).
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13. You just had three shots of tequila and when you read the title you thought it said, "50 Seasons You Won't Seed the Post Toastie."

14. You're obsessing about cash flow.

15. You've got to check your kid's Facebook messages again -- especially after reading last night's really rude ones from those 497 FB friends you've never met.

16. You're out of range.
17. You're out of time.
18. You're out of money.
19. You're out of your mind.
20. You're out of excuses.

21. Anytime anybody comes off as seeming to know what you will do or won't do, you immediately do the opposite, (but you're wise to me and realize that you'd be playing into my hands by doing the opposite, so you are not reading this, which, by the way, was exactly what I predicted.)

22. You associate lists like this with superficial feature stories in Vogue or Redbook.

23. You realize that the entire universe is an illusion.

24. You need a break.

25. You took a break and now you're broke.

26. You have ADD or the latest medical condition invented by the pharmaceutical industry to sell you more drugs your health plan won't cover.

27. You have an acute case of blogitis.

28. You'd rather tweet.

29. You're late for your session with your therapist.

30. Your therapist would rather tweet.

31. You've got to check your Match.com page to see if anyone wants to go for a long walk with you on the beach.

32. You've got to change your e-Harmony profile. You haven't gotten an email from anyone in weeks.

33. You're thinking of starting your own business.

34. You're thinking of starting your own blog.

35. It's time to meditate.

36. You have an undeniable need to eat chocolate, but can't find anything in the house. Wait a minute! What about that Baker's Chocolate on the back shelf?

37. The oil spill has reached your front door.

38. You're too busy complaining to anyone who will listen about Facebook's privacy policies or lack thereof.

39. You're trying to find out how you can get a free 15-day trial to my new, online creative thinking tool.

40. These two bloggers walk into a bar.

41. Anyone here from Cleveland?

42. You're waiting for this posting to come out as a YouTube video.

43. You've only got two minutes left of battery life and if you don't book a cheap flight to Chicago, you're screwed.

44. You're certain it's all part of a vast right wing conspiracy.

45. Your wife/husband/boyfriend/girlfriend/mother/father/kids are on your case for spending too much time on the computer.

46. You're in the Federal Witness Protection Program and are convinced someone will track you down for reading this.

47. The tea kettle is whistling.

48. You're trying to figure out if the Isle of Langerhans is in the Carrribean or your pancreas.

49. You're waiting for your assistant to bring you the Executive Overview.

50. You're waiting to be important enough to have an assistant.

51. You're waiting for Godot.

52. You're a waiter and your shift starts in ten minutes.

53. The BIG GAME is on.

54. You're suspicious of anything that can't be reduced to 140 characters.

55. You're still counting hanging chads.

56. You live in New York City and have to move your car to the other side of the street.

57. It's not part of your 12-Step program.

58. Even though you had that fabulous laser surgery on both your eyes, you can't seem to find your new, inexpensive reading glasses.

59. You've just figured out how much it's going to cost to send your kids to college.

60. The Ambien's kicking in.

61. A Jehovah's Witness is at your door.

62. The pizza guy is at your door.

63. You suddenly realize you didn't order pizza.

64. Maybe it's a serial killer at your door -- not exactly the perfect time to be reading 100 reasons why you won't read this.

65. The moon is in Aquarius.

66. Your mind is in the gutter.

67. You're downloading free iPhone apps you will never use.

68. You're trying to figure out what Apple's next product that begins with "I" will be (I-Give-Up?, I-Matey?, I-Coulda-Been-A-Contenda?).

69. It's been five minutes since you've logged onto Facebook.

70. Karma.

71. You think blogging is a fad.

72. Nostradamus didn't predict it.

73. It's not in the Bible.

74. Just because.

75. You're a big fan of Sarah Palin.

76. You read my last list of 100 things and you figure that one list of 100 from someone named Ditkoff is enough.

77. You're not as open to possibility as you think you are.

78. See # 61.

79. You just got pulled over by a state trooper who saw you about to read my blog while doing 55 mph in a hospital zone.

80. You weren't breast fed.

81. You were thinking about the need your company has to establish a sustainable culture of innovation -- the kind that would make it much easier for everyone to bring the best of their innate creativity to the table on a daily basis.

82. There's something about blogs that put you off. I mean, don't these people have anything better to do?

83. Your boss is standing in the doorway, arms folded, frowning, as if to say, "Back to work, slacker. We've got a business to run!"

84. You're feeling a compelling need to find someone who can teach you how to run kick-ass brainstorming sessions.

85. Someone's on Line 2.

86. You think there must be some kind of marketing campaign behind this and I'm probably gearing up to sell you something you don't need -- and even if you did need it, clicking this link would end up getting you a whole bunch of emails that have nothing to do with your real interest (which is to read the next item on this fabulous list of 100 reasons why you won't read this fabulous list). I rest my case.

87. You've just been acquired by Google.

88. You figure that anyone who would bother writing a list of 100 reasons why you wouldn't read the list he wrote is either insane, unemployed, or your brother-in-law.

89. BTW, if you know of a good publisher who would be interested in publishing my next book, Wisdom at Work, contact me in the next 11 seconds.

90. You live on an asteroid.

91. Your hemorrhoids are acting up.

92. You've heard it said that reading long blog postings written by total strangers leads to the "harder stuff."

93. You're afraid of commitment. Always have been.

94. You haven't read my book yet.

95. You have more important things to do. (Then again, you always say that.)

96. You really need to get back to writing your screenplay.

97. Someone just mentioned you look a lot like Johnny Depp and you've got to find an agent fast.

98. You majored in economics.

99. Bottles of beer on the wall.

100. You're waiting for the results of the focus group.

But you MIGHT read my book
More
Even more
Less
Our fabulous brainstorm facilitation training
A pope, a rabbi, and a penguin walk into a bar

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:06 PM | Comments (9)

On Building the Case for Storytelling

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One of the biggest challenges that internal change agents have when it comes to fostering a culture of storytelling in the workplace is building the business case -- why it matters and what the impact can be. The quote below, from John Kotter, author of Leading Change, will help. If you need help building your case, shoot me an email and I will send you some more "grist for the mill" -- links to compelling articles and videos on the topic.

Storytelling at Work: the blog

Storytelling at Work: the book
The author of both

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:06 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2017
A New Facebook Group for Aspiring Innovators and Cultural Creatives

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After 28 years of being an "innovation provocateur" for hundreds of forward thinking organizations around the world, one thing has become very clear to me: most people with BIG IDEAS usually end up derailed somewhere along the way.

Simply put, they lose steam, lose heart, and lose their way. The result? No result.

This is why I have launched "Being a Creator on Planet Earth" -- a new Facebook group designed to help aspiring innovators, from every walk of life, manifest their big, bold, beautiful ideas. The content? Inspired quotes by creative icons, innovation-sparking articles, mind-opening videos, stories, best practices, and a sprinkling of tips, tools, and techniques. Juicy. Engaging. Fun.

Three minutes a day is all it takes. Sometimes, less than 60 seconds.

The Facebook Group
The creator of the Facebook Group
50 quotes on possibility

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2017
If You Want to Innovate, Listen!

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If you're interested in raising the bar for innovation in your organization, start listening more. Listening, quite simply, is the most powerful form of influence.

Generally speaking, when we think of influencing others we are thinking about our ability to get others to think and act in ways we want them to, in ways that serve our interests and objectives.

The influence process is most often conceived as the ability to provide compelling arguments -- that is, arguments that are indisputable and indicate there is only one way to proceed.

The influence process is seen as the ability to turn aside all alternative ways of thinking, to demonstrate their inadequacy in the service of making one's own position more compelling.

The ability to influence goes beyond the ability to make a compelling argument, of course. It can also involve the use of power, seduction, or fear to drive others to a particular outcome.

What is much more rarely recognized is the role of listening and empathy in the influence process.

Listening to what concerns and drives others provides a powerful basis for influence because it is by showing how your perspective will affect the concerns and interests of others that you gain others' interest and support.

But the case for listening and empathy goes much further.

If you can truly understand what others value and are concerned about, it can lead you to change your position about what is required to achieve the goals you are striving for.

If you deeply understand others, you can mobilize them, not by manipulation -- but by gearing your approach to address the real needs and interests of your stakeholders.

Listening and appreciating multiple viewpoints can help you gain more acceptance for your ideas and better ideas. And, as it all plays out, these better ideas will eventually attract more support and increase your influence -- so you can then listen more and attract more support.

-- Barry Gruenberg


Illustration: gapingvoid.com

Idea Champions
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:45 AM | Comments (4)

May 09, 2017
THE CURE FOR THE CREATIVE BLUES: Self-Acknowledgment

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If you're a creative person regularly involved with starting new projects -- the kind unlikely to get results overnight -- here's a simple practice to save you from the all-too-familiar phenomenon of depressing yourself by focusing on the cup being half empty.

At the end of each work day, acknowledge yourself for all of the progress you've made -- small, medium, and large. But not just silently, in your head, verbally -- aloud.

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Most creative people, no matter how inspired they are at the beginning of a project, eventually end up feeling down in the dumps. They start focusing on everything they haven't done and everything that hasn't happened instead of focusing on their progress and the fact that they are actually getting closer to their goal.

What I do at the end of each work day that works like a charm, whether I'm in my car, walking the dog, or washing dishes, is SPEAK OUT, to myself, everything I've done that day to move my project forward -- whether it was a phone call made, research done, a task accomplished, proposal accepted, a new insight, or whatever.

Almost always,I fee l my mood changing from dread and impossibility to a buoyant sense of "I'm on my way." I'm not suggesting you bullshit yourself, just acknowledge what you've done, no matter how small. And announce it to yourself so you get to HEAR it, not just THINK it.

This simple self-acknowledgment-process establishes a sense of closure for the day, so you can let go of "work mode" and transition to an evening of rest, renewal, and incubation -- an actual night off without having to carry that heavy load of incompletes that not only weigh YOU down, but weigh down all those wonderful people around you who can FEEL your low grade virus of "not good enough."

Three minutes. That's all it takes. Try it.

My new Facebook Group on the creative process
Idea Champions
My new book on storytelling

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2017
STORYTELLING WORKSHOP DESIGN: One Size Does Not Fit All

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If you are looking for a simple way to leverage the power of storytelling in your organization, but haven't found an "off the shelf" solution, I know why: it doesn't exist. And WHY it doesn't exist is because your organization's needs are unique. One size fits all does not fit all. That's why Idea Champions' storytelling workshops are all customized. We mix and match from a broad selection of modules to create the perfect fit for you. All we need to know is what topics you'd like to see us address and in what ratio. Simple. And we don't charge for customization.

THE MODULES
-- Building a business case for the benefits of storytelling
-- Improving listening and feedback skills
-- Activating the innovation mindset
-- Sharing in-house best practices
-- Communicating tacit knowledge (i.e. insight and wisdom)
-- Going beyond your organization's old story
-- Generating new ideas and solutions
-- Increasing trust and teamwork
-- Improving idea selling skills
-- Inspiring action and meaningful follow through
-- Fostering a culture of storytelling in the workplace

TWO EXAMPLES:
Creating the Innovation Mindset
Storytelling at Work

OTHER RESOURCES FOR YOU
We wrote the book
We also wrote the blog
The workshop is taught by this gent

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:51 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2017
The Creative Personality

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Here's an informative and inspiring article on the creative personality by the lifelong creativity researcher, renowned author of Flow (and the man with the hardest last name to pronounce in the world) -- Mihaly Csikzentmihalyi.

The aforementioned Professor C. offers deep insights into the complex and often polarized personality of creative people. Recognize yourself in any of his descriptions?

Awake at the Wheel
The Creative Mind Keynote
Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2017
How to Go Beyond the Email Blues

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In 1999, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blues song about email.

My purpose was to poke fun at some of the email madness going on at that time. (If you want to give a listen, click the link above).

It's 18 years later now and the email scene has become even weirder.

If I was going to write a sequel, it wouldn't be the blues, it would be the black and blues -- because that's how bruised most of us are feeling these days about email. Bruised, abused, and beat up.

And so, in service to all of the loyal readers of The Heart of Innovation and all of Idea Champion's awesome clients, it is my privilege to share with you our own email survival strategies -- perhaps the most practical posting you will ever read on this blog.

1. Decide. Phone or email: Before sending off yet another email, ask yourself if email is the appropriate platform to communicate your message.

Maybe a phone call would be better. Or a face-to-face meeting. Or skywriting.

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If your email is more than 2-3 paragraphs, you probably need to talk.

Emotionally charged issues are better done on the phone or in
person.

If you require consensus or a quick decision, screw email. Try Skype or the phone or -- this just in -- walk down the hall and actually talk to somebody.

2. Create a simple way to organize your email: I'm not suggesting you sign up for one more poorly facilitated webinar to figure this out -- but you will need to devise a simple and sustainable way to process all the messages flooding your inbox daily.

If you don't have some kind of organizing system in place, you will be a victim of email overload, resulting in the regrettable phenomenon of the people waiting for your response to assume that you've either moved to Mongolia or don't like them (both of which may be true).

When a new email comes in, you have five choices:

1. Read it immediately and respond
2. Read it and delete
3. Keep it in your inbox (which becomes your handy dandy TO DO list
4. File it in a folder called "BIG VINNY" and respond later
5. File it, by subject, in various folders in your sidebar

3. Read the entire email: When you are pressed for time, it is more than likely you will only glance at your emails, instead of actually reading them.

The result? You miss key pieces of information and, without realizing it, subsequently confuse other people down the line or waste their time because you are only partially informed about the topic of the email, but you (madly scrolling through your emails like Robin Williams on crack), think you know.

4. Write clear subject lines: Many emails get lost or neglected because their subject lines seem to have been written by Esperanto fanatics or dyslexic owners of Rod McKuen books.

Cease and desist! Snap out of it! Use laser-like. descriptive headlines. You can do this! You can! Do not write "An Idea" in your subject heading. Write "An Idea for Tripling Our Sales: FEEDBACK NEEDED" or SOMETHING that alerts to the reader to what your email is really about.

5. Include "Requests for Action", when appropriate:
If you want readers of your emails to actually respond (not just read your email as if it was the back of a cereal box), be sure to include the response you are requesting in the subject line.

FEEDBACK NEEDED
ACTION REQUESTED
CALL TO ACTION
CALL ME TODAY

NOTE: If you begin an email thread and have received all the input you need, remember to delete the REQUEST FOR ACTION phrase in your subject line. Otherwise, you will get besieged by input you neither need or want.

6. Begin your subject line with "FYI" if all you are doing is sharing information,
i.e.

FYI: Going on vacation
FYI: I just won the Congressional Medal of Honor
FYI: Cool article about Lithuanian muffins

7. Maintain single subject threads: If multiple subjects are embedded in emails, readers lose track and become, functionally (or pathologically), out of the loop.

Do not add new subjects to email threads. If a given email "reminds" you of a new topic you feeling a burning need to communicate, start a new email thread. Or move to Canada.

8. Use ALL CAPS sparingly: Caps, when used selectively, can be very effective, calling attention to key words.

Used indiscriminately, they create the impression of SHOUTING. LOTS OF SHOUTING. IT GETS OLD FAST. VERY FAST. LIKE THESE FEW LINES OF THIS BLOG POSTING WHICH ARE NOW STARTING TO SEEM LIKE AN INFOMERCIAL FOR A HOME EXERCISE MACHINE YOU CAN BUY IN SIX EASY PAYMENTS OF $99.99, BUT YOU WILL NEVER USE.

9. Use "cc: selectively: Before ccing everyone in the known universe, PAUSE and ask yourself WHO really needs to read your email?

If you have any doubt, check in with your cc minions and ask them to tell you WHAT email topics of yours they really need to be cc'd on.

10. Be Wise About "To" and "Copy" Fields: Remember this, oh multi-tracking and time-crunched sender of emails: Names in the "To" field are for people you are directly speaking to. Names in the "copy/cc" field are for people who will benefit from reading your email email, but your email is not essential to them and you do not need them to respond.

11. Acknowledge the sender: If an email falls in a forest, does anyone hear it?

Please understand that it is a courtesy to acknowledge that you have received and understood SOME of the emails sent you way. If the email you receive cites a deadline two weeks away, don't wait two weeks to respond. Instead, send a quick "thanks" or"'will do" or "can't do" to acknowledge receipt.

If you have an objection to what the email writer is saying, speak up! Say something! Silence, in the email zone, creates nothing but ambiguity and confusion.

12. Follow the 2-minute rule: If it will take you less than 2 minutes to respond to an email and remove it from your inbox, do it. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Do not clear cut the rainforest.

13. Create some sacred email time: Email can be incredibly distracting. If you continue to check your email throughout the day, your chances of concentrating on any one topic drop lower than the chances of health care, in the US, being affordable before 2050.

Pick a few slow times of the day when you actually have the time to check email, instead of knee jerkily checking your inbox every 30 seconds.

14. Use the phone more: If you need a quick answer, try calling. If you have something long to explain, try calling. If you don't understand an email, try calling.

The goal, by the way, is communication, not transmission.

Just because you sent an email to ten people and crossed their names off your TO DO list, does not mean you have communicated.

Big thanks to Sarah Jacob for her fine work on this article

MitchDitkoff.com
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

May 04, 2017
Need a Breakthough? Unplug for a Moment. Take a Break!

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True innovators rarely follow the straight and narrow path. Not only do they march to a different drummer, they're often not even on the same playing field as most people. Take Seymour Cray, for example, the legendary designer of high-speed computers.

According to John Rollwagen, ex-chairman of Cray research, Seymour used to divide his time between building the next generation super computer and digging an underground tunnel below his Chippewa Falls house.

Cray's explanation of his tunnel digging behavior is consistent with the stories of many other creatives -- inner-directed, boundary-pushing people who understand the need to go off-line whenever they get stuck.

Bottom line, whenever they find themselves struggling with a thorny problem, they walk away from it for a while. They know, from years of practical experience, that more (i.e. obsession, analysis, effort) is often less (i.e ideas, solutions, results).

Explained Cray, "I work for three hours and then get stumped. So I quit and go to work in the tunnel. It takes me an hour or so to dig four inches and put in the boards. You see, I'm up in the Wisconsin woods, and there are elves in the woods. So when they see me leave, they come back into my office and solve all the problems I'm having. Then I go up (to my lab) and work some more."

Explained Rollwagen, "The real work happens when Seymour is in the tunnel."

We help people dig their tunnel
And sometimes we do this via storytelling (like the one above)
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:55 PM | Comments (0)

ANONYMOUS Revealed

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I have a confession to make. Actually, it's more like a revelation than a confession. You know all those fabulous quotes and articles you've read over the years with no attribution other than "Anonymous"? It was me.

It's true. I have written thousands of things I've never signed my name to. I couldn't. I mean -- the writing just came through me. Like a storm. In fact, I was in such a state of presence as these pearls of wisdom appeared, there wasn't even a "me" involved, so how could I sign my name?

So I did the only thing I could do -- and that was to sign what I wrote with the now all-too-familiar word "Anonymous".

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining, nor do I have any regrets about my selfless decision. It felt right at the time. But now, with two more years of college tuition to pay for my fabulous, powerful, creative daughter -- it's starting to make sense that I claim what is rightfully mine.

After countless hours of consultations with pundits, epistemological savants, numerologists, and intellectual property lawyers, I've arrived at an approach that is not only honorable and fair, but flawless and timely with absolutely no carbon footprint. Nor were any animals harmed in the writing of this paragraph.

I am pleased to announce that YOU, dear reader, get to play a key role going forward -- one that will take you less time than it will to read this anonymous pearl of mine -- or order a take-out pizza.

Since I am claiming no royalties whatsoever from my past writings (many of which, by the way, went on to become blockbuster movies, novels, bumper stickers, and refrigerator magnets), I think it is only fair to request that every time, from now on in, you encounter anything attributed to "Anonymous" you link it to my website or any of the following cyberpalatial residences of mine.

My latest book on storytelling
BLOG: Storytelling at Work
BLOG: The Heart of Innovation
BLOG: The Heart of the Matter
Idea Champions

My goal? To model what it is like to claim one's true inheritance and take the risk that this post will go viral and I will have to answer a lot of questions from slick talk show hosts more interested in their own TV ratings than my no longer anonymous success.

A small example of what I've never been paid for

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:37 PM | Comments (7)

The Gotta Have a Process Blues

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In 1999, I Co-Founded Face the Music (along with Paul Kwiecinski) -- an interactive business blues band that helps organizations get out of the box, improve communication, and build teams in a fun way.

One day, GE contacted us and asked if we would write and perform eight original blues songs that would poke fun at Six Sigma, as part of their upcoming Black Belt conference. We did. Here's one:


THE GOTTA HAVE A PROCESS BLUES

I woke up this morning,
Put both feet on the floor,
But I didn't have a process
To find the bathroom door,
So all I did was shuffle,
First the left foot, then the right,
Forgot to count the tiles
(Hey boss, I ain't too bright.)

We got green belts, black belts,
Corporate karate
And soon we'll need a process
For going to the potty.
Some charts and graphs would be real cool to help us choose
Just what to name this song 'bout the gotta have a process blues.

Back when we were kids
The only processed thing was cheese,
But now I need a process
Every single time I sneeze.
I say achoo, I blow my nose,
I try to get it right,
My green belt says my charts don't flow,
Not once a gesundheit.

I make no mistakes,
I do everything right,
To make sure nothing breaks
I stay up all night.
I'm a Six Sigma cowboy
With all my charts and graphs,
I measure every joke
And the way it makes me laugh.

We got green belts, black belts,
Corporate karate
And soon we'll need a process
For going to the potty.
A fishbone diagram would be cool to help us choose
Just what to name this song about the gotta have a process blues.

I barely make a boo boo, I rarely blow a deal,
You might call it voo doo, but that's just how I feel,
I'm one in a million
Though my defects number three,
I log on while I'm sleeping
And I've changed my name to "E."

We got green belts, black belts,
Corporate karate
And soon we'll need a process
For going to the potty.

- Blind Willy Nilly (that's me)
Six Sigma and breakthrough thinking
Face the Music on CNN

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:21 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2017
Why Use a Creative Thinking Technique?

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If you have ever jump started your car in the winter with a pair of jumper cables you already know why it makes sense to use a creative thinking technique: to spark your ability to arrive at your preferred destination.

Sometimes, to get you moving, a spark is needed -- a jolt -- and that's where creative thinking techniques come in.

All of us, no matter where we live and what we do for a living, are creative. We are. It's built in. The problem is, for many of us, our creativity peaked when we were five years old. Since then, it's been a slow and steady decline into conformity and conventionality. Our innate creativity has, all-too-often, gotten buried, neglected, and ignored. Like a car engine in winter, it sometimes goes cold. So cold, in fact, that we can't figure out how to get it started again.

Open2 Mind3.jpg Applied in the right way at the right time, creative thinking techniques have the power to re-start your creative engine and get you cruising towards your destination -- able to far more reliably generate bold new ideas, solutions, and non-obvious possibilities.

Bottom line, creative thinking techniques give you access to your own buried genius. And sometimes it takes less than 60 seconds.

You don't need to be an Einstein to use a creative thinking technique, just willing to challenge the status quo, go beyond your assumptions, and be open to conjuring up some bold, new possibilities. Ready?

Here one of our techniques
Here's another
Idea Champions

50 quotes on possibility

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2017
Delivering the Unexpected!

Very inspiring 17-minute video. Howard Brodsky on going way beyond the call of duty to surprise and delight your customers. Included a cool anecdote about a pilot who bought pizza for all of his passengers.

The world's best collection of memorable quotes
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:45 PM | Comments (0)

Blow the Minds of Your Customers

In what ways can you blow the minds of your customers this month? How can you exceed their expectations? How can you deliver the kind of off-the-grid service they will never forget? Check out what WestJet did. Whoa!

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:20 PM | Comments (1)

What Cortisol, Oxytocin, and Dopamine Have to Do With the Impact of Storytelling

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There's a quantifiable reason why the most successful Superbowl commericials are all structured like stories. Neuroscientists and neuroeconomists agree. And what they agree on is that it has a lot to do with the chemicals that stories trigger in the brain. Here's a well-written Harvard Review article on this fascinating phenomenon.

MitchDitkoff.com
How to change innovation mindset via storytelling
My award-winning book on storytelling in the workplace

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:01 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.

MitchDitkoff.com
Click here for the simplest, most direct way, to learn more about Idea Champions' semi-fearless leader, Mitch Ditkoff. Info on his keynotes, workshops, conferences, and more.
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.
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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