December 19, 2017
Enter Idea Champions Holiday Season Micro-Learning Raffle

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This just in! None of our clients have any time. Really. Truly. Which is why Idea Champions is launching its MICRO-LEARNING HOLIDAY RAFFLE -- the simplest, least expensive, time-efficient way we could think of to help our clients raise the bar for innovation in 2018. Read about it here. Enter before 12/31/17 and we will enter your name in our raffle. All you need to do is send an email to info@ideachampions.com with the phrase "Micro-Learning" raffle in the subject line. The winner will be announced on January 2nd. No charge. It's free. Hey, it's a raffle with no entry fee.

50 quotes on possibility
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

December 18, 2017
The Singing Contractors

Talk about innovation! The Singing Contractors nail it. Who woulda thunk it?

Idea Champions
MitchDitkoff.com

Thanks to fabulous screen writer, Francisca Matos, for the heads up!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:45 AM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2017
The Six Sides of the So-Called Box

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Unless you've been in a coma for the past 20 years, I'm sure you're familiar with the phrase "get out of the box." It's everywhere. Whole industries have sprung up around it, including mine.

No one can deny that getting out of the box is a good thing to do. Seems like a no-brainer, eh? Kind of like helping little old ladies cross the street. Or tearing down the Berlin Wall. But before you start planning your heroic escape, answer me this: What the heck is the box, anyway? What is this so-called thing that keeps us so contained, confined, caged, trapped, claustrophobic, and otherwise unable to create?

Let's start with the basics. A box has six sides, including the top and the bottom.

If we can understand what these six sides are, we'll know what we're dealing with -- and this knowledge will improve our chances of getting out. Or, as Fritz Perls once said, "Awareness cures." Let us proceed...

1. FEAR: If you want to raise the odds of being trapped in a box for the rest of your life, all you need to do is increase the amount of fear you feel. Fear inhibits. Fear paralyzes. Fear subverts action. Indeed, when fear rules the day, even reacting is difficult. Fear not only puts us in the box, it makes it almost impossible to get out the box.

Fear of what? Fear of judgment. Fear of failure. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being revealed to be an impostor. Fear of this. Fear of that. And fear of the other thing, too.

Do you think it's an accident that Peter Drucker devoted his entire life to driving fear out of the workplace? Or course not.

Fear sucks. And precisely what it sucks is the life right out of you. There is no box without fear. Get rid of fear and you get rid of the box.

2. POWERLESSNESS: Powerlessness is the state of mind in which people think they have no choice -- that they are victims of circumstance, that the act of attempting anything new is futile.It's why Dilbert has become the patron saint of most cubicle dwellers.

Some in-the-box people have dwelled in the state of powerlessness for their entire life, going all the way back to childhood, overpowered (or disempowered) by parents, schools, and who knows what else.

If you work in a corporation, you've seen this powerlessness paradigm in spades -- as the "powers-that-be" don't always take kindly to the ideas, input, and grumblings of the "rank and file." If you're feeling powerless, not only are you in the box, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to muster the energy, intention, or urgency to get out of it.

3. ISOLATION: Boxes are usually small and confining. Rarely is there room for more than one person. Isolation is the result. There's no one to talk to, no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to collaborate with.

Curiously, solitary confinement is the biggest punishment our society doles out -- second only to the death sentence. Being cut off from the tribe has been a very effective "behavior modification" technique for centuries. When you're in the box, that's exactly what's happening.

And while your isolation may give you a momentary feeling of much-needed privacy, safety, and relief from the judgment of others, it's fool's gold. Sitting in the dark, being completely on your own, vision obscured -- all reduce your chances of getting out.

4. ASSUMPTIONS: Assumptions are the guesses we make based on our subjective interpretation of reality. They are short cuts. Lines drawn in the sand. We end up taking things for granted because we are either too lazy to get down to the root of things or too entranced by our own beliefs to consider an alternative.

Ultimately, it is our assumptions that shape our world. The world is the screen and we are the projector, seeing only what we project -- which is all too often merely a function of the assumptions we've made. As one wise pundit once put it, "When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees our pockets."

Bottom line, we see what we are primed to see. Change your assumptions and you change the world -- starting with your own.

5. MENTAL CLUTTER:
If you find yourself in the box, it would be fair to say that the box contains you. But what do you contain?

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If you are like most people in today's over-caffeinated, twitterfied, fast food, information overloaded world the answer is: too much. With the amount of information doubling every few years, most of us have way too much on our minds. Too much to do and not enough time. We have no time for musing. No time for pondering. No time for reflecting. No time for contemplating, incubating, or making new connections -- behaviors that are essential to true out-of-the-box thinking.

The result? Not a good one. We glom onto the first seemingly "right idea" that comes our way -- or else desperately try to declutter our minds with an endless series of mindless distractions that only increase the amount of clutter we need to process. Ouch.

6. TUNNEL VISION:
When you're in a box, it's hard to see. Sight lines are limited. Vision is obscured. We become shortsighted. Our vision conforms to that which confines it. We become, soon enough, narrow-minded. I'm sure you know a few people like this. Their ability to see beyond their immediate surroundings has become disabled.

When this kind of phenomenon becomes institutionalized, we end up with a bad case of "next quarter syndrome" -- especially in organizations ruled by the need to constantly please profit-seeking shareholders. Few people are thinking six months out. Few are thinking 12 months out. And almost no one is thinking five years out. Everyone is trapped by the short-term.

What we call "focus" becomes a euphemism for tunnel vision -- just another form of narrow-mindedness that makes getting out of the box about as likely as my credit card company rescinding their usurious late payment fees.

What are three ways you can reliably get out of the box on the job?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:44 PM | Comments (2)

December 15, 2017
The $995 Online Brainstorm Facilitation Training

Looking for a simple, inexpensive, time-efficient way to raise the bar for brainstorming, ideation, and creative thinking in your organization? Voila! Here it is! Intrigued? I am just an email away: mitch@ideachampions.com

Our brainstorming website
What our clients say
The onsite version

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:52 AM | Comments (0)

INNOVATION MICRO-LEARNING from Idea Champions

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The attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds. The attention span of a human being is 8. Which is why Idea Champions is now offering its time-crunched clients three new, time-efficient ways to raise the bar for innovation. Click the links below for details. Or contact us for more info.

Innovation
Storytelling
Brainstorm Faciltation

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:33 AM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2017
How Einstein Would Solve a Problem If He Only Had an Hour

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Other Einstein quotes
Our half-day workshop on this
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:51 PM | Comments (1)

December 10, 2017
Millennial Job Interview


A Millennial job interview from @TheDanielBrea on Vimeo.

Idea Champions
Micro-Learning for Millennials (and others)
More Micro-Learning (or maybe less)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2017
How to Leverage the Power of Storytelling in 15 Minutes Per Week

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Once upon a time there was a forward-thinking organization that understood what a powerful culture-building tool storytelling was. THEY GOT IT. But what they didn't get, was the fact that the effort to turn theory into practice was way easier than they imagined.

In honor of the fact that a goldfish's attention span (9 seconds) is one second longer than a human being's (8 seconds), Idea Champions is now offering a bold, new, online, micro-learning curriculum for time-crunched people for who want to leverage the power of storytelling in the workplace. Like YOU, for example.

Fifteen minutes a week is all is will take. Or, if you are caffeinated, ten.

HERE'S HOW IT WORKS

1. You and I have a 15-minute phone conversation about WHY you want to bring more storytelling into the workplace.

2. Based on your needs, I create a customized Leveraging Storytelling in the Workplace curriculum for you -- a landing page of links to 52 engaging articles and videos of mine on the topic.

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3. Each week, for the next year, you forward one link to your team (or whatever part of your workforce is participating in the program.)

4. Participants read/view the link in preparation for a weekly meeting that you or one of your surrogates facilitates. All you need to reserve on your agenda is 10 minutes for the storytelling topic. NOTE: This is micro-learning, not head-banging.

5. You (or your designated meeting moderator) facilitates the storytelling-topic-of-the week conversation. This deepens the learning, ensures accountability, quickens the sharing of best practices, sparks creative thinking, and establishes a robust, intrinsically motivated learning community.

OPTION #1: I send you a simple "Moderator's Guide" that includes powerful, conversation-starting questions for each of the 52 topics in the curriculum. Helps ensure that your weekly storytelling meetings are as effective as possible.

OPTION #2: I participate on your launch call to help you set the context, inspire participation, and answer any questions people might have about the value and purpose of the program.

FEE: $695 for an annual license.

WHO CREATED THIS PROGRAM? Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder of Idea Champions, Author of the award-winning Storytelling at Work and the forthcoming Storytelling for the Revolution. Creator of a wide variety of storytelling workshops, keynotes, and trainings. Innovation Blogger of the Year, two years running. And Master storyteller. His clients.

Interested? email Mitch today: mitch@ideachampions.com

Why Create a Culture of Storytelling in the Workplace
Radio interview on storytelling in the workplace
Great Quotes on the Power of Story

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2017
What I Learned from 10 Chemical Salesmen and Some Masking Tape

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As a person infinitely more interested in alchemy than chemistry, not once during my formative years as a young entrepreneur did I ever, once, aspire to sit in a room with 10 middle-aged, overweight chemical salesmen from New Jersey -- modern day Willy Lomans driving 100,000 miles each year to call on purchasing agents from Maine to Virginia in a heroic attempt to sell more of their company's product and, eventually, win the "President's Award" that would be bestowed on them, at their year end pow wow, in the Oakwood Room or the Bellmore Room or some other vapidly named meeting space in a modestly priced hotel still trying to figure out how to reduce their high rate of employee turnover.

But that's exactly where I found myself.

Somehow, their boss, my client, a Regional Manager responsible for convincing upper management that this year was going to be a banner year -- had gotten my name and asked me if I could help his people get out of the box and increase sales by 20%.

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While my more politically correct friends chided me for choosing to work with a chemical company, I had absolutely no problem with my choice -- having long ago made peace with the fact that every business, no matter what industry or how skillful its PR department was in raising its perceived value, had something wrong with it.

Unless I wanted to be a potter in Vermont, there was always going to be something unseemly about the marketplace. And besides, I had a wife and two young kids to support.

The morning session with the ten chemical salesmen was all they hoped it would be -- an upbeat opportunity to bond and brainstorm. The ideas were flowing and so was the coffee. Everyone was happy.

During the lunch break, I stayed back to set things up for the afternoon session -- one I was planning to begin with a hands on activity that required me placing a 20 foot length of masking tape on the floor, parallel to the entrance, which I proceeded to do without a second thought.

At 1:00, the time I had asked everyone to be in their seats, the room was totally empty. Just me and the briefcases they had left behind. Maybe I had the time wrong.

I looked at my watch. I looked at the clock on the wall. Both of them had the exact same time: 1:00, the time the afternoon session was supposed to begin. Then I looked at the door. It was open, but all ten of the chemical salesmen were standing outside the door, in the hallway, unmoving, as if they were waiting for a bus.

"C'mon in guys", I called. "It's time for the afternoon session to begin."

"We can't", they replied, standing their ground.

I walked across the room and asked them why.In unison, they pointed to the 20-foot length of tape on floor.

"Hey it's OK, guys. It's just a piece of tape -- just part of an activity we'll be doing in a little while. It's no big deal."

But they just stood there, looking at me. Frozen in time. As if the tape was electrified. As if they were about to do something very wrong. As if they were going to make a BIG MISTAKE they would, somehow, later regret.

COMMENTARY:

It is now 20 years later and the image of those 10 chemical salesmen, unmoving, convinced they were not allowed to step over the line, is still very much with me, burned into whatever part of my brain is reserved for moments like this.

I owe these gentleman an eternal debt of gratitude because they helped me understand a part of the human psyche that I had never seen as dramatically before -- how the decisions we make about what we can do and what we can't do are often utterly arbitrary, ruled more by the meaning we ascribe to phenomena than by any intrinsic, irreversible Laws of Nature.

The chemical salesman saw the masking tape on the floor and interpreted it as meaning STOP. Their conclusion was a function of their collective generalization of past experiences they had about lines -- unbroken white lines in the middle of a highway, property lines separating neighbor from neighbor, and countless "B" movies where the tough guy draws a line in the sand with a stick and dares anyone to cross it or "else."

Yes, of course, some lines serve a purpose. I'm glad that the guy driving 75 mph in the oncoming lane doesn't cross the line. That's a good thing.

But the moment with the chemical salesmen was not the interstate. It was just a piece of masking tape on the floor in a hotel meeting room. No game was being played. No rules had been set. There was absolutely nothing to lose by stepping over it.

Wherever I go in corporate America, I see this same phenomenon playing out in a thousand different ways -- less visible, perhaps, than my moment with the chemical salesmen, but just as limiting.

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What are we so afraid of? What line are we afraid of stepping over? What imagined consequences paralyze us at the threshold and prevent us from moving forward?

One of the reasons why innovation is inert in so many organizations is because masses of intelligent, innately creative people are interpreting tape on the floor as lines that cannot be crossed. We are fabricating boundaries where none exist. We are drawing lines in space -- lines that separate, isolate, and marginalize. Lines between us and our customers. Lines between the past and the present. Lines between what's possible and what's not.

The bottom line?

All obstacles are no more than 20 foot lengths of masking tape on the floor. Whether you put them there or someone else puts them there, they have no power other than the power you attribute to them. If the lines are no longer useful, remove them. If you try to remove them and you are besieged by a raging hoard of anxious people trying to convince you to stop, it may be time to move on. Find another company with less lines. Or start your own.

"Don't be afraid to take a big step. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps." -- David Lloyd George

"Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." -- Goethe

"Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." -- Helen Keller

"It's not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It's because we dare not venture that they are difficult." -- Seneca

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go." -- T.S. Eliot

This story is excerpted from my forthcoming book, WISDOM AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of Life. If you are a publisher or know of a publisher who would resonate with this kind of material, email info@ideachampions.com.

Excerpted from this book
Another one from the book
Idea Champions
Step over the line
Step over the line with some aspiring innovators
Help others step over the line

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:08 PM | Comments (0)

December 06, 2017
Why AHA and HAHA Are So Related

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I don't think it's an accident that "aha" and "haha" are both almost spelled the same way. Indeed, there is a deep relationship between the Eureka moment and humor -- which is one of the reasons why Isaac Asimov once said "The most exciting phrase in science is not 'Eureka', but 'That's funny!'" And why? Because when something strikes you as funny it is often an indication that your assumptions are being challenged, as in what you were expecting to see was nothing more than a false conclusion cobbled together by the habitual ways in which you interpret the "data."

When a person has a Eureka moment (i.e. Archimedes in the bathtub, Newton under the apple tree), he or she experiences something that surprises them -- something beyond their logic and expectations. In a word, they are "dislocated" from their normal reality and it is this dislocation that sparks a new kind of perception.

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It's the same with humor. When a person laughs upon hearing a story or a joke, it is usually because the storyteller or comedian, "dislocates" the listener. The listener is "set up" so to speak, lulled into believing the story or joke is going in one direction, only to have the logic of what they are listening to veer off in another direction. This unexpected moment of surprise often results in an involuntary reaction called "laughter." Indeed, it is the unexpected left turn or right turn that the storyteller makes -- via a well-told punchline -- that triggers a great release of laughter in the listener.

Bottom line, the AHA moment and the HAHA moment are both powered by the same phenomenon -- an unexpected turn of events... a surprise... a dislocation... and a sudden perceptual shift that opens the mind to new ways of seeing and feeling.

If you want to see your team, department, or organization be more innovative, consider bringing more humor into the workplace -- more opportunities for people to play with possibilities instead of being stuck in the "nose to the grindstone" position -- which, by the way, may give the appearance that people are working when, in fact, they are merely surviving. People who are laughing on the job are not necessarily slackers or goofballs. They may, in fact be out-of-the-box thinkers on the brink of a breakthrough.

A CEO, an ice skater, and proctologist walk into a bar...

Idea Champions
MitchDitkoff.com
What's funny about Ravel's Bolero

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:46 PM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2017
Ask for Permission to Facilitate

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Here's a useful tip for you the next time you find yourself standing in front of a group of people and about to facilitate a meeting of any kind: Before you begin, ask people to give you permission to facilitate.

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This may sound like a complete waste of time, especially if you've been brought in by the powers-that-be to facilitate the meeting, but it's not. It's essential. Here's why:

If your meeting is anything like the other 11 million meetings being held each day in corporate America, chances are good that there will be a time during your gathering when at least one person -- bored, cranky, distracted, or angry that they weren't asked to facilitate, will do something (consciously or unconsciously) to derail the session.

This something can take many forms -- everything from incessantly checking email under the table... to returning late from breaks... to ranting on any number of topics that have absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand -- moments that will require a skillful and well-timed response from the facilitator.

If you haven't bothered to ask for permission to facilitate, people will resist (or ignore) your spontaneous interventions every step of the way. And if they don't resist you every step of the way, they will silently retreat into their own private Idaho, perceiving you, in their fevered mind, as an invasive, disempowering, or egomaniacal facilitator.

Bottom line, you will lose them.

And, if the people you lose should happen to be "tribal chieftains" of any one of the many feudal kingdoms represented in the room that day, you will lose a bunch of other people, as well. Their minions.

This is not the outcome you want -- an outcome that will lead you to triangulating to third parties or wishing you had gone into your father's dry cleaning business.

The way out of this mess? Simple.

Within the first five minutes of your meeting, after establishing a few simple ground rules, let everyone know that you need their permission to play your facilitator role -- that there may be some times, during the meeting, when you may have to ask someone to hold a thought or shift their behavior in some way ... and that unless you have their permission to do so, they will likely end up resenting you or feeling mistreated when, in fact, all you are trying to do is ensure that the meeting is a productive one.

Invariably, meeting participants will gladly give their permission for you to facilitate, even if they chuckle, under their breath, while doing so. And if they just sit there, silently, after your request -- bumps on an analog -- all you need to do is ask them to give you some kind of visible indication that they agree -- either by standing up or giving you the "thumbs up".

This simple act of people visibly giving you permission to facilitate is often the difference between success and failure -- especially when, later in the meeting, someone starts acting out or marching to a drummer from another planet.

Armed with the permission they gave you at the beginning of the meeting, all you need to do is reinforce the ground rule that's been forgotten and remind them that all you're doing is playing the role they gave you permission to play in the first place.

Works like a charm every time.

Idea Champions

A good meeting
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:18 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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