October 17, 2017
Bottom Up Innovation!

90dbbe9e-ff06-464e-81fe-11e6ae362cc5.jpg

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

UGSP01024_m.jpg

"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

ChiefInno.jpg

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

mike kennedy.png

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

DITKOFF NBA hopeful.jpg

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 07, 2017
Why Don't More People Share Their Best Practices with Each Other?

Listening2.jpg

If you are a member of a team, business, or volunteer organization, there's a good chance you want whatever project you are working on to succeed. Yes? Towards that end, you work hard, think hard, generate ideas, go to meetings, fight fires, and (hopefully) learn from your mistakes. If you are like most people, you sometimes get together with your team and talk about ways to increase your odds of success.

Still, there's a good chance you may be overlooking one of the simplest, most effective ways to make progress -- and that is the sharing of best practices.

"Best practices", a much written about topic in the business literature, is really nothing more than a two-word euphemism for "what works" -- the efforts you and your colleagues make that are already contributing to your success. The good stuff.

Curiously, however, "best practices" are rarely shared in most organizations and, even when they are, they are not shared effectively. Why? There are ten main reasons.

IdeaBalloon7.JPG

TEN REASONS WHY BEST PRACTICES ARE NOT SHARED

1.Command and Control: The leaders of most enterprises, even if they won't admit it, aren't really committed to people sharing their ideas with each other. It sounds strange, but it's true. Why does this phenomenon exist? Because ideas, freely shared, often end up "rocking the boat." Old ways of doing things get challenged. The status quo gets confronted. New possibilities need to be considered, evaluated, and funded. Or not funded. More emails abound. More opinions. More disagreements. More meetings. Cranky-inducing stuff.

2. No Clear, Compelling Vision of Success: If people, working on same project, aren't on the same page about WHY they are working together and WHY they get out of bed in the morning, it is unlikely that they will be motivated enough to go beyond the "same old, same old" syndrome. Without a clear, compelling vision to motivate them beyond the call of duty, many people end up just going through the motions. Rote takes precedence. Old habits rule. Mediocrity prevails.

3. No Sense of Interdependence:
People will not take the time to share their insights, ideas, and best practices with each other if there is no recognition of the need to collaborate. If teamwork is not a clearly articulated (and reinforced) organizational value, there will be very little chance that the people doing the work are going to make the effort to connect with each other.

4. Lack of Trust and Appreciation: People may recognize the need to collaborate with each other, but they may not like or trust each other. It takes effort to reach out to other people -- especially people who are different than you. Sometimes, it's a risk, especially for introverts. Plus, if people are working in remote locations, in different time zones, the degree of difficulty increases. Without trust and a genuine appreciation for the perspective of others, best practices will rarely, if ever, be shared.

5. No Clarity About What a Best Practice Is: If you ask me to bring a tuna fish sandwich to a meeting, I can do that. But if you ask me to bring a "best practice", who knows what you'll get. If you want best practices to be shared in your organization, be very clear about what you are asking people to communicate.

6. No Intention. No Agreement. No Buy-In: It's fine to generically request people to share their best practices, but unless your request is understood, honored, and owned. it's just fairy dust. People are busy. People are maxed. You asking them to do one more thing will likely be met with head nods at best. So, if you want to make this best practice sharing thing real, you will need to make the effort to build a case for it and give people a chance to commit to it from an authentic place.

breakbricks.jpg

7. Fear of Judgment: Some people have a truckload of best practices to share, but they are sometimes concerned that other people may not think their best practices are so hot. Or, if they've done something they think is truly innovative, they may be concerned that others will judge them for not asking permission or going one bridge too far. The result? They clam up and keep things to themselves.

8. The Perception of Lack of Time:
Face it. We live in an ADD world. Even the fact that you have read this far is astounding. If a person thinks they have no time, there is very little chance they are going to say YES to a "best practice sharing process" that will take some time -- even if the process, itself, will yield ideas that will save them time and radically increase their odds of success.

9. Lame Listening: The sharing of best practices requires two things: someone to speak and someone to listen. Most of us, of course, would rather speak than listen. If you and your team are committed to sharing what you are learning with each other, make sure that listening -- real listening -- is baked into the process.

10. No Platform: Sharing best practices with other people requires some kind of communication method or platform. If your team does not have a reliable way to share what they are learning, it's doubtful they will. What platform might work best for your team? Group skype calls? One-on-one phone calls? Monthly meetings? Email? A Facebook Group? An end-of-the-year conference? A blog?

What other obstacles would you add to the above list? But more importantly, what can YOU do in the next seven days to jump start the process of the team you work most closely with sharing their best practices with each other?

Idea Champions
The 27 Best Practices of High Performing Volunteer Organizations

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

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

Ideafrombox.jpg

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

Idea Team Lightbulb.jpg

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 nature of 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?

10135793.jpg


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?

BulbinHand.jpg

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?

50 quotes on the power of ideas
56 reasons why most corporate innovation efforts fail
20 easy ways to spark innovation
Rethinking the role of a manager
The three keys to becoming a masterful brainstorm facilitator
We are Idea Champions

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

October 01, 2017
Enter Our Online Brainstorm Training Raffle Before 10/10

PR idea 5guy.jpg

Does your company need a fresh wave of big, bold ideas? Are you looking for a simple, inexpensive way to radically raise the bar for brainstorming and out of the box thinking? If so, all you need to do is enter Idea Champions quarterly BIG IDEA raffle before October 10th and win a 4-session, online Brainstorm Facilitation training at a 75% discount. Instead of paying our usual $7,500 fee, your cost will only be $1,995. Includes a pre-session poll to determine your company's current reality re: brainstorming. 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 October 11th.

Our clients
What our clients say
The Power of Ideas
Our brainstorm website

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:20 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.
Webinars Powered by
Idea Champions University
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.

"In tune with corporate America." — CNN
© IDEA CHAMPIONS