July 28, 2017
Service Beyond the Call of Duty

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Most companies trying to get a "competitive advantage" eventually realize that the key is customer service -- the ability to differentiate themselves from the competition by delivering their product or service in unforgettable ways. Here's a memorable example:

Some years ago, my company came together for a two-day team building offsite -- an "all hands on deck" outdoor ropes course experience in Colorado. All 14 of us met at a deli in Boulder to buy sandwiches for lunch later that day -- so when we got to our destination, two hours away, we could all chow down before the team building began.

Great concept. Great planning. Lots of turkey, tuna, and tofu. The only problem? I left all 14 sandwiches on the deli counter. None of them made it to my car -- something I only realized 30 minutes later. Too far down the road to turn back and with no time to buy a replacement lunch, we continued on our sandwich-less way.

Fast forward 90 minutes.

Surprise of surprises! When we checked in at the front desk, the 14 sandwiches were waiting for us! Huh? What? Really? The front desk guy then proceeded to explain that the owner of the deli, way back in Boulder, upon realizing we had left our sandwiches on his front counter, got in his car five minutes after we left and drove TWO HOURS to our destination, getting there before us! Un-blanking-believable! Amazing!

Guess who had a customer for life? Guess how many people I've told this story to? Guess how many new customers the deli owner got as a result of his outrageous, beyond-the-call-of-duty expression of customer service? The short answer: MANY.

This is as simple as it gets, folks. I seriously doubt that the deli owner ever attended a class on customer service. I seriously doubt he was reading books on customer service the night before or googling it. Not necessary. He knew, in his heart of hearts, that my leaving the bag of sandwiches on his counter was an opportunity to be extraordinary and he went for it.

YOU have that same choice every day. So do I. The question isn't whether or not we have the opportunity to go beyond the call of duty. The question is whether or not we CHOOSE to go beyond the call of duty.

Next time the opportunity arises, remember the deli guy.

Idea Champions
Like Einstein, take some time to think about it
Storytelling as a way to spark innovation

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2017
FOLLOW YOUR MUSE: One-On-One Support for People with Big Ideas

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If you are in the process of conjuring up a new product, service, or better way of doing business and want some help turning your big ideas into reality, I can help. For the past 28 years, I have been an innovation catalyst to some of the most forward-thinking organizations in the world -- helping thousands of people go beyond their assumptions, doubts, and obstacles in service to bringing something wonderful into existence. And now I am offering this service to individuals.

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Who am I? I am a life long student of the creative process and a lifelong catalyst of genius.

I know how thrilling it is to conceive and develop bold, new ideas. I also know how challenging it is. Manifesting your brilliance, as an entrepreneur, intrepreneur, manager, team leader, maverick, or lone wolf is not easy. Support is needed. Lots of it. Unfortunately, that support is all-too-often not forthcoming.

That's why I am launching FOLLOW YOUR MUSE -- a one-on-one coaching and mentoring service for aspiring innovators with BIG IDEAS, big commitment, and the recognition that they would benefit from having a skilled creative process ally by their side.

Here's what Thomas Wolfe said about the phenomenon. Here's what my clients say about the value I add. Here's 100 quotes on what it really takes to innovate. And if you're anxious about starting something new, read this.

Intrigued? Want more info? The next step takes 20 seconds. Just shoot me an email (mitch@ideachampions.com) and I will get back to you with more details. Then, if you're still interested, we can schedule a time to talk. Like tomorrow, for instance. Or maybe the day after.

The innovation consultancy I co-founded
The corporate blues band I co-founded
The deck of creativity cards I invented
My award-winning book on the creative process
My award-winning book on storytelling
Some comic relief
My website

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:08 PM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2017
Take Your Brainstorming Sessions to the Next Level of Wow

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If your company is like most companies we have worked with, its brainstorming sessions leave something to be desired. Yes, ideas are bandied about and, yes, coffee is consumed and jokes are made. And, yes, people incessantly check their email under the table. THIS JUST IN! Brainstorming sessions can be a lot more powerful than that.

To goose you on your way, here are four brief blog posts and a video of ours on the art and science of brainstorming. If you could use some more help in this arena, we are available. Our Conducting Genius training is top of the line. Click here if you want to get the ball rolling. Or leave a message for us: 845.679.1066

The DNA of Brainstorming and the Power of Three
Why Nothing Happens After a Brainstorming Session
Why Leaders Shouldn't Lead Brainstorming Sessions
The 10 Personas of an Effective Brainstorm Facilitator
VIDEO: Preparing the Ground

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:52 PM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2017
THE DNA OF BRAINSTORMING and The Power of Three

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Every brainstorm session you will ever facilitate or attend, like any good movie you will ever see, can be divided into three parts: the beginning, the middle, and the end. No matter what the topic, who's in the room, or how stale the muffins, you will cycle through the same three phases again and again. How well you will cycle through these phases is another story.

Three. Not two. Not four. Not one. Three. The more attuned you are to threeness, the more likely it will be that the sessions you facilitate will be successful. Here's a quickie overview:

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1. THE BEGINNING: This is the "foreplay" stage of brainstorming -- the mood and context setting effort that will either make or break the session.

While the specific "look and feel" to the beginning may vary from session to session, the outcomes you are aiming for will not: 1) Establishing a sense of relaxation and rapport; 2) Agreeing on ground rules for participation; 3) Clarifying the history and current reality of the topic to be brainstormed; 4) Framing the challenge in the most powerful way; 5) Establishing yourself as the facilitator of the creative thinking process.

2. THE MIDDLE ("Divergence"): This is the heart of the matter -- why people were invited to the session in the first place -- to think outside the box and generate compelling ideas.

What you actually do in the middle phase of your brainstorming session is up to you. I recommend the right mix of "group geometry" (solo, dyad, triad, or full group), creative thinking triggers, and the skillful application of facilitation savvy.

Remember, the goal of this phase is an abundance of ideas -- not just discussion, debate, philosophizing, or long-form storytelling.

3. THE END ("Convergence"): Just like most people would prefer to plant a garden than weed it, the end game of a brainstorm session requires more "roll-up-the-sleeves" effort than most facilitators want to deal with -- the application of some left-brain mojo after the right brain has had its say.

The end game of creative thinking is all about jump starting the process of making order out of chaos and clearing the way forward.

Depending on the amount of time you have, this order making stage might include: idea review, idea evaluation, idea selection, identifying idea champions, clarifying next steps, and deciding who's going to generate a brainstorm report -- and by when.

There's no need to make people cranky by trying to do too much convergence during this closure phase, but it's definitely good to get things grounded as a prelude to whatever follow up effort will be made.

Three phases to a brainstorming session. Three.

Brainstorm Facilitation Training
Have Problem, Will Travel
The Innovation Accelerator
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2017
Why You Need to Ask Why

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Some years ago, there was a big problem at one of America's most treasured monuments -- the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. Simply put, birds, in huge numbers, were pooping all over it, which made visiting the place a very unpleasant experience. Attempts to remedy the situation caused even bigger problems, since the harsh cleaning detergents being used were damaging the memorial.

Fortunately, some of the National Parks managers assigned to the case began asking WHY -- as in "Why was the Jefferson Memorial so much more of a target for birds than any of the other memorials?"

A little bit of investigation revealed the following:

The birds were attracted to the Jefferson Memorial because of the abundance of spiders -- a gourmet treat for birds.

The spiders were attracted to the Memorial because of the abundance of midges (insects) that were nesting there.

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And the midges were attracted to the Memorial because of the light.

Midges, it turns out, like to procreate in places were the light is just so -- and because the lights were turned on, at the Jefferson Memorial, one hour before dark, it created the kind of mood lighting that midges went crazy for.

So there you have it: The midges were attracted to the light. The spiders were attracted to the midges. The birds were attracted to the spiders. And the National Parks workers, though not necessarily attracted to the bird poop, were attracted to getting paid -- so they spent a lot of their time (and taxpayer money) cleaning the Memorial.

How did the situation resolve? Very simply. After reviewing the curious chain of events that led up to the problem, the decision was made to wait until dark before turning the lights on at the Jefferson Memorial. That one-hour delay was enough to ruin the mood lighting for the midges, who then decided to have midge sex somewhere else.

No midges, no spiders. No spiders, no birds. No birds, no poop. No poop, no need to clean the Jefferson Memorial so often. Case closed.

Now, consider what "solutions" might have been forthcoming if those curious National Parks managers did not stop and ask WHY:

1. Hire more workers to clean the Memorial
2. Ask existing workers to work overtime
3. Experiment with different kinds of cleaning materials
4. Put bird poison all around the memorial
5. Hire hunters to shoot the birds
6. Encase the entire Jefferson Memorial in Plexiglas
7. Move the Memorial to another part of Washington
8. Close the site to the general public

Technically speaking, each of the above "solutions" was a possible approach -- but at great cost, inconvenience, and with questionable results. They were, shall we say, not exactly elegant solutions.

Now, think about YOUR business... YOUR company... YOUR life. What problems are you facing that could be approached differently simply by asking WHY.... and then WHY again... and then WHY again.. until you get to the core of the issue? If you don't, you may just end up solving the wrong problem.

THE FIVE WHYS TECHNIQUE

1. Name a problem you're having
2. Ask WHY it's happening
3. Get an answer
4. Then WHY about that
5. Get an answer
6. Then ask WHY about that -- and so on, five times

Our new, half-day, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM workshop
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:41 PM | Comments (2)

July 17, 2017
12 Ways to See What's Not Immediately Obvious

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The above image is a good metaphor for business. There's something hidden in it that most people don't see at first glance. Looking at it the same way you always look at things won't help. If you can't see what's hidden, you've got to find a way to adjust the way you look...

Still can't see it? It says: "I CAN'T SLEEP." Look again.

12 WAYS TO SEE WHAT'S NOT IMMEDIATELY OBVIOUS

1. Soften your focus
2. Sneak up on it
3. Look at things from a different angle
4. Don't try so hard
5. Notice new patterns
6. Stop staring
7. Ask someone else to look on your behalf
8. Look away, then look back
9. Shrink or expand the image
10.Change the lighting
11.Take a break, then look again
12.Breathe more slowly

MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

July 16, 2017
A Simple Way to Get the Word Out

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MitchDitkoff.com
My HuffPost articles

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:42 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2017
Happiness Is It's Own ROI

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Illustration: gapingvoid
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:02 PM | Comments (0)

July 06, 2017
Time to Let It Rip!

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MitchDitkoff.com
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:28 AM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2017
The Martial Arts of the Mind

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Ten years ago I was invited to teach a course on "Innovation and Business Growth" at GE's Crotonville Management Development Center for 75 high potential, business superstars of the future.

The GE executive who hired me was a very savvy guy with the unenviable task of orienting new adjunct faculty members to GE's high standards and often harsher reality.

My client's intelligence was exceeded only by his candor as he proceeded to tell me, in no uncertain terms, that GE gave "new instructors" two shots at making the grade -- explaining, with a wry smile, that most outside consultants were intimidated the first time they taught at GE and weren't necessarily at the top of their game.

I'm not sure how you say it in Esperanto, but in English what he said translates as "The heat is on, big time."

I knew I would have to raise my game if I expected to be invited back after my two-session audition was over.

And so I went about my business of getting ready, keeping in mind that I was going to be leading a 6-hour session for 75 of GE's "best and brightest" flown half way around the world -- high flying Type A personalities with a high regard for themselves and a very low threshold for anything they judged to be unworthy of their time.

I had five weeks to prepare, five weeks to get my act together, five weeks to dig in and front load my agenda with everything I needed to wow my audience: case studies, statistics, quotes, factoids, and more best practices than you could shake an iPhone at.

I was ready. Really ready. Like a rookie center fielder on designer steroids, I was ready.

Or so I thought.

The more I spoke, the less they listened. The less they listened, the more I spoke, trotting out "compelling" facts and truckloads of information to make my case as they blankly stared and checked their email under the table.

Psychologists, I believe, would characterize my approach as "compensatory behavior."

I talked faster. I talked louder. I worked harder -- attempting in various pitiful ways to pull imaginary rabbits out of imaginary hats.

Needless to say, GE's best and brightest -- for the entire 45 minutes of my opening act -- were not impressed.

Clearly, I was playing a losing game.

My attempt to out-GE the GE people was a no-win proposition. I didn't need new facts, new statistics, or new quotes. I needed a new approach -- a way to secure the attention of my audience and help them make the shift from left-brained skepticism to right-brained receptivity.

And I needed to do it five minutes, not 45.

The next few days were very uncomfortable for me, replaying in my head -- again and again -- my lame choice of an opening gambit and wondering what, in the world, I could do to get better results in much less time.

And then, like an unexpected IPO from Mars, it hit me. The martial arts!

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As a student of Aikido, I knew how amazing the martial arts were and what a great metaphor they were for life.

Fast forward a few weeks...

My second session, at Crotonville, began exactly like the first -- with the Program Director reading my bio to the group in an heroic attempt to impress everyone. They weren't.

Taking my cue, I walked to center stage, scanned the audience and uttered nine words.

"Raise your hand if you're a bold risk taker."

Not a single hand went up. Not one.

I stood my ground and surveyed the room.

"Really?" I said. "You are GE's best and brightest and not one of you is a bold risk taker? I find that hard to believe."

Ten rows back, a hand went up. Slowly. Halfway. Like a kid in a high school math class, not wanting to offend the teacher.

"Great!" I bellowed, pointing to the semi-bold risk taker. "Stand up and join me in the front of the room!"

You could cut the air with a knife.

I welcomed my assistant to the stage and asked him if had any insurance -- explaining that I had called him forth to attack me from behind and was going to demonstrate a martial arts move shown to me by my first aikido instructor, a 110-pound woman who I once saw throw a 220-pound man through a wall.

Pin drop silence.

I asked our bold risk taker to stand behind me and grab both of my wrists and instructed him to hold on tight as I attempted to get away -- an effort that yielded no results.

I casually mentioned how the scenario being played out on stage is what a typical work day has become for most of us -- lots of tension, resistance, and struggle.

With the audience completely focused on the moment, I noted a few simple principles of Aikido -- and how anyone, with the right application of energy and the right amount of practice, could change the game.

As I demonstrated the move, my "attacker" was quickly neutralized and I was no longer victim, but in total control.

In three minutes, things had shifted. Not only for me and my attacker, but for everyone in the room.

That's when I mentioned that force was not the same thing as power -- and that martial artists know how to get maximum results with a minimum of effort -- and that, indeed, INNOVATION was all about the "martial arts of the mind" -- a way to get extraordinary results in an elegant way.

PS: I was invited back 26 times to deliver the course.

THE COMMENTARY

Every day, no matter what our profession, education, or astrological sign, we are all faced with the same challenge -- how to effectively communicate our message to others.

This challenge is particularly difficult these days, given the glut of information we all must contend with. The amount of information available to us is doubling every ten years! Yearly, more than one million books are published. Daily, we are bombarded with more 6,000 advertising messages and 150 emails. As a result, most of us find ourselves in a defensive posture, protecting ourselves from the onslaught of input.

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What I've discovered in the past 25 years of working with some of the world's most powerful organizations is that if I really want to have get my message across, I've got to deliver it in a what that gets past the "guardians at the gate" -- the default condition of doubt, disengagement, and derision that comes with the territory of life in the 21st century business world.

My rite of passage at GE was a microcosm of this phenomenon.

Indeed, my presumptive effort to "win over my audience" by impressing them with data, case studies, and best practices was a losing game. Not only was I barking up the wrong tree, I was in the wrong forest.

The key to my breaking through the collective skepticism of GE's best and brightest wasn't a matter of information. It was a matter transformation.

They didn't need to analyze, they needed to engage -- and it was my job to make that easy to do. Or, as Mahatma Gandhi so deftly put it, I had to "be the change I wanted to see in the world."

I had to do something that invoked the curious, playful, and associative right brain, not the logical, linear, analytical left brain -- tricky business, indeed, especially when you consider that most business people, these days, have a very low threshold for anything they judge to be impractical

Which is why I chose the martial arts as the operational metaphor at GE, my attempt to move them from the Dow to the Tao.

Impractical? Not at all.

Bottom line, whether we know it or not, we have all entered the "experience economy" -- a time when being involved is at least as important as being informed.

Information is no longer sufficient to spark change. Data is no longer king. Thinking only takes us part of the way home. It's feeling that completes the journey -- the kind of feeling that leads to full on curiosity and the kind of engagement that opens the door to exciting new possibilities.

Which is exactly what happened at GE when I made the shift from marshaling my facts, to marshaling my energy -- and by extension, the energy of 75 of GE's best and brightest.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What message have you been trying to deliver (with too little impact) that might be communicated in a totally different way -- a way that more successfully engages people and leads to measurable results?

Excerpted from Storytelling at Work
Idea Champions
Applied Innovation
My Keynotes
It All Began With Balls
Big Blues from the Viagra People

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:58 PM | Comments (3)

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 at Work
"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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