October 31, 2017
Why Business Leaders Need to Pay More Attention to Storytelling

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Here's why -- spoken as clearly as possible in a 60-minute radio interview, hosted by Dr. Wanda Wallace, Founder of the Leadership Forum. In the interview, Wanda and I cover a lot of ground, including how storytelling can change team and corporate culture for the better. If you curious about how storytelling can be used, as a business tool to spark more teamwork, innovation, and engagement, this one's for you.


About me
My storytelling keynote
My book on storytelling
My innovation and storytelling workshop

"The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller." - Steve Jobs

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2017
Launching a Powerful Project in the World is a Team Sport

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For the moment, let's say you are on the cusp of launching a bold new project in the world -- one that not only inspires you, but is the first thing you talk about whenever people ask you what you're up to these days. You know: Your life's work. Your calling. What moves you.

Congratulations! I am super happy for you, especially since all of us need meaningful projects we can throw our whole selves into. Well done! Awesome! Rock on!

That being said, there is one thing I urge you to keep in mind as your project unfolds. Innovation is a team sport.

While the origination of a powerful new idea or initiative is often an individual experience, implementing that idea requires a truckload of collaboration. Maybe two truckloads. Or three. And that, unfortunately, is where a lot of wonderful, new projects break down -- especially projects that require committed, responsible volunteers.

The reasons are many, but they fundamentally boil down to this:

1) Lack of a clear vision by the idea originator: 2) Inability to communicate that vision to others; 3) Lack of a clear strategy/game plan; 4) Relationship/control issues; 5) Lack of a clear decision-making process; 6) Unclear roles and responsibilities; 7) Funky communication (including poorly facilitated meetings).

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Knowing you have precious little time to read my rant, I am going to cut to the chase and list ten key "best practices" for you to consider employing as you move forward with your beautiful, inspired, much-needed project. Ready?

1. Get super clear about your vision and be able to communicate it in 60 seconds or less.

2. Attract a core team of trusted collaborators to you -- your so-called "inner circle" who you can jam with, vent to, and get honest feedback from.

3. Do a deep dive with your core team, so you get everything on the table, i.e. WHY each person wants to participate, what skills they bring to the project, your expectations -- and theirs -- of their participation, the specific roles you are inviting people to take on, and what your team's operating agreements will be.

4. Allow your original BIG IDEA to morph, via the input of your core team and other people who will be attracted to your project. HINT: Even though YOU started it, everyone involved needs to treat it like their own. If not, they will end up feeling disengaged or disempowered.

5. Get early feedback on your idea from a diverse group of people. It is easy to get so intoxicated with our ideas that we become blind to their flaws.

6. In collaboration your core team, conjure up a Version 1.0 of a game plan -- a not-yet-cut-in-stone strategy for moving forward. This will inform your need for volunteers, funding, and resources. It will also lower your stress.

7. Define the roles and responsibilities that need to be filled by still-to-be enrolled volunteers. And, when you invite people to participate, make sure you give them a written description of the roles you are asking them to play.

8. Find ways to keep everyone, on the team, updated, informed, and acknowledged for all the efforts they are making.

9. Clear the air quickly, whenever there is a breakdown with anyone on the team.

10. Make sure your meetings are well-designed and facilitated. Always begin with some "personal check in" time and some soulful conversation about WHY this project has the potential to make a huge difference.

Launching Project Teams
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

Innovation from the Inside Out

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These days, almost all of Idea Champions' clients are talking about the need to establish a culture of innovation. Some, I'm happy to report, are actually doing something about it. Hallelujah! They are taking bold steps forward to turn theory into action.

The challenge for them is the same as it's always been -- to find a simple, authentic way to address the challenge from the inside out -- to water the root of the tree, not just the branches.

External systems and protocols, no matter how seductive they are to create, are simply not sufficient to guarantee real innovation. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Systems die. Instinct remains."

This is not to say that organizations should ignore systems and structures in their effort to establish a culture of innovation. They shouldn't. But systems and structures all too often become the Holy Grail -- much in the same way that Six Sigma has become the Holy Grail.

Unfortunately, when the addiction to systems and structures rules the day, an organization's quest for a culture of innovation degenerates into nothing much more than a cult of innovation.

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Organizations do not innovate. People innovate. Inspired people. Fascinated people. Creative people. Committed people. That's where innovation originates -- from deep within the inspired individual who understands that his/her sustained effort is what's required to go beyond the status quo.

The organization's role -- just like the individual manager's role -- is to get out of the way. And while this "getting out of the way" will undoubtedly include the effort to formulate supportive systems, processes, and protocols, it is important to remember that systems, processes, and protocols are never the answer. They are the context, not the content. They are the husk, not kernel. They are the menu, not the meal.

Ultimately, organizations are faced with the same challenge that religions are faced with. Religious leaders may speak passionately about the virtues their congregation needs to abide by, but sermons only name the challenge and remind people to experience something -- they don't necessarily change behavior.

Change comes from within the heart and mind of each individual. It cannot be legislated or evangelized into reality.

What's needed in organizations who aspire to innovation is an inner change. People need to experience something within themselves that will spark and sustain their effort to innovate -- and when they experience this "something," they will be self-sustaining.

They will think about their projects in the shower, in their car, and in their dreams. They will need very little "management" from the outside. Inside out will rule the day -- not outside in. Intrinsic motivation will flourish.

People will innovate not because they are told to, but because they want to. You can create all the reward systems you want. You can reinvent your work space until you're blue in the face. You can license the latest and greatest idea management tool, but unless each person in your organization OWNS the need to innovate and finds a way to tap into their own innate brilliance, all you'll end up with is a mixed bag of systems, processes, and protocols -- the husk, not the kernel -- the innovation flotsam and jetsam that the next administration or next CEO or next key stakeholder will mock, reject or change at the drop of a hat if the ROI doesn't show up in the next 20 minutes.

You want culture change? You want a culture of innovation?

Great. Then find a way to help each and every person in your organization come from the inside out. Deeply consider how you can nurture, and develop the primal need all people have to create something extraordinary.

What is the simplest thing you can do, today, to spark innovation on your team?

Idea Champions

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

October 17, 2017
Bottom Up Innovation!

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If you are working with a team of any kind and are hoping for more innovation, know this: it's a function of "intrinsic motivation", not pep talks, carrots, sticks, or "new initiatives." Find out what people REALLY want to do and, assuming it is aligned with your organization's vision, give your blessings and get out the way. Will every bottom-up effort work? Of course not. But some will. Go ahead. Roll the dice. Empower people to make some magic!

Illustration: gapingvoid
Idea Champions
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:06 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2017
What Some Consultants See That Leads to Them Getting Fired Or Never Hired in the First Place

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

-- R.D. Laing

Idea Champions

Bridging the Gulf
Listening with Impact
Becoming an Adaptive Leader

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

October 12, 2017
What It Really Means to Be a Chief Innovation Officer

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Some sound advice here, from the Harvard Business Review, on what it takes to be a successful Chief Innovation Officer.

Idea Champions
A workshop for innovation leaders
The Current Reality Check Up

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:35 PM | Comments (0)

October 11, 2017
The NBA's new MVP

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And that would be... drum roll please... Mike Kennedy -- the NBA's Associate Vice President of Talent and Learning.

Read more about Mike's leading edge work here, as well as the NBA's renewed commitment, under Commissioner, Adam Silver, to be a robust, learning organization that is as much "on their game" off the court, as they are on.

And just in case you're assuming the article in Chief Learning Officer is some kind of puff piece, it's not. As one of the 40 vendors Mike has brought in to deliver workshops to the NBA's rising leaders, I know, from first-hand experience that Mike is the real deal: super-smart, creative, committed, authentic, funny, and a true team player. I'm not sure if Mike can dunk, but he's definitely got game.

About me
About my company

ME AS A 17-YEAR OLD HIGH SCHOOL POINT GUARD

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My other clients
What my clients say
Mike chose one of Idea Champions' workshops to bring to the NBA

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:14 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2017
SPEED TO KNOWLEDGE: The Curious Roots of Micro-Learning

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Being the first to come up with a good idea does not always make the path to success easy. In fact, often, it's quite the opposite.

For example, the idea of micro-learning may be all the rage these days, but it wasn't always that way. In fact, the company that created the first micro learning programs, AthenaOnline, was kicked out of quite a few offices for even proposing the idea.

The idea of micro-learning -- bite-sized bits of knowledge that are easy to digest and understand -- has been around for ages. It encompasses everything from viewing a short video to reading an article to taking a short quiz. Micro-learning, however, was never a form of enterprise learning until the visionaries at AthenaOnline released its MyQuickCoach application in 1999.

Priot to that, in 1994, Athena had released a number of award-winning, computer-based training programs called The New Leader Series -- an idea inspired by popular game Myst, that created a "learning village" allowing users to explore what they wanted to learn at their own pace. Players would meet experts in various areas of the village and, depending on what they accomplished in the game, new areas to explore would open up. It was one of the first examples of gamification to hit the field of organizational learning.

profilepic.jpg As loved as these programs were, however, Jon Peters, AthenaOnline's Founder, soon noticed a surprising phenomenon. "As we began to repurpose the programs for the internet," said Jon, "we saw a huge number of people dropping out. Upon interviewing our customers, we discovered that people much preferred to approach learning in small chunks -- trying to fit what they could into their busy day."

Seeing a trend forming, Jon and his team made the move to create the QuickCoach concept -- short, video-based modules that people could absorb in 5 minutes or less.

Launching their first programs, in 1999, was no easy task. Remember, this was years before YouTube. Most companies were just beginning to think about moving their internal classes to computer-based learning. Indeed, Athena was told by a number of self-claimed OD savants that "video would never take off on the internet" and that "nobody could possibly learn anything in only five minutes."

It took years for Athena's ideas to take hold, but they kept at it.

As a new generation of managers entered the workplace -- a generation used to YouTube and bite-sized interactions of all kinds -- Athena's ideas began to take hold. (And Idea Champions, for one, is glad they did.)

"Sometimes," explains Jon Peters, "you just have to believe in yourself and your vision, even when nobody else does. What I learned, and am still learning, is that while seeking input from others is always good thing, it's not the only compass of success. Sometimes you just need to believe yourself and persevere."

PS: If you want to know the impact that AthenaOnline's micro-learning has had in organizations, click here to download an article about the University of Iowa where elearning usage increased by a whopping 800%.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What "ahead of its time" project of yours, going more slowly than you imagined, do you need to double down on? And what is your next step

Free weekly micro-lessons from AthenaOnline
Yours truly on MyQuickCoach

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

October 05, 2017
10 Ways to Improve Your Company's Broken Ideation Process

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OK. You're busy. I get it. Which is why I just deleted the first four compelling, context-setting paragraphs to this blog post and will now simply cut to the chase: Your company's "ideation process" is either non-existent, seriously flawed, or a joke.

You know it. I know it. And 99% of the people you work with know it -- a longstanding phenomenon that spawns nothing but frustration, wheel spinning, and resignation. Few people want to deal with the Rube Goldberg-like natureof the beast. And so it continues. Does it always have to be this way? No it doesn't. But someone needs to step up and bell the proverbial cat. Like YOU, for example.

So read on. The following ten "ideation process best practices" are clues for you. It's not like you have to implement all ten of them. But even one or two, applied on the job, will make a huge difference. That is IF you want to increase the odds of new ideas actually making it out the door...

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?

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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 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?

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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?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:32 PM | Comments (0)

Who Are We?

Idea Champions is a consulting and training company dedicated to awakening and nurturing the spirit of innovation. We help individuals, teams and entire organizations tap into their innate ability to create, develop and implement ideas that make a difference.

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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 for the Revolution
Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
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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Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
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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.
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