January 31, 2018
What You Can Learn About Innovation from 25 Amazing Artists

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If you are an aspiring innovator, there's a lot you can learn from some of planet Earth's most revered artists. These are the people who stare at a blank canvas or a lump of clay and end up making magic. This is your task as well. Your life is the blank canvas. The idea you are toying with is your first stroke. What will happen next (or not) is up to you. While some pundits have reduced innovation to a science, my experience has shown me that it is at least 50% art. Or maybe 90%.

Here is my invitation to you in order to get the most value from the 25 quotes that follow -- the distillation of a life's work from some of the most creative people on the planet:

1. Bring your most inspired project to mind. See it. Feel it.
2. Read quotes below
3. Choose the quote that most sings to you
4. Apply the message embedded in that quote to your life/project
5. Find someone you love and trust and tell them why

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1." If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint." -- Edward Hopper

2. "The position of the artist is humble. He is essentially a channel." -- Piet Mondrian

3. "The job of the artist is always to deepen the mystery." -- Francis Bacon

4. "Whether you succeed or not is irrelevant, there is no such thing. Making your unknown known is the important thing." - Georgia O'Keeffe

5. "The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity." - Alberto Giacometti

6. "Every good painter paints what he is." - Jackson Pollock

7. "Art is not what you see, but what you make others see." - Edgar Degas

8. "I never paint dreams or nightmares. I paint my own reality. - Frida Kahlo

9. "What moves men of genius, or rather what inspires their work, is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough." - Eugene Delacroix

10. "If I create from the heart, nearly everything works; if from the head, almost nothing." - Marc Chagall

11. "A work of art which did not begin in emotion is not art." - Paul Cezanne

12. "Doubt tempers belief with sanity." -Barbara Krueger

13. "Have no fear of perfection, you'll never reach it." - Salvador Dali

14. "I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free." - Michelangelo

15. "One can have no smaller or greater mastery than mastery of oneself." - Leonardo da Vinci

16. "Painting doesn't freeze time. It circulates and recycles time like a wheel that turns. Those who were first might well be last. Painting is a very slow art. It doesn't travel with the speed of light. That's why dead painters shine so bright." - Marlene Dumas

17. "An artist never really finishes his work; he merely abandons it." - Paul Valery

18. "An artist is not paid for his labor, but for his vision." - James McNeill Whistler

19. "Great things are done by a series of small things brought together." - Vincent Van Gogh

20. "An artist's failures are as valuable as his successes. By misjudging one thing he conforms something else, even if at the time he does not know what that something else is." - Bridget Riley

22. "It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child." - Pablo Picasso

23. "The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless." - Jean-Jacques Rousseau

24. "The object isn't to make art, it's to be in that wonderful state which makes art inevitable." - Robert Henri

25. "I invent nothing, I rediscover." - Auguste Rodin

Photo: Andrian Valeanu, Unsplash
Digital Art: Evelyne Pouget

Idea Champions
MitchDitkoff.com
Poetry is painting with words

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2018
We Were Made for These Times!

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What follows is an extraordinary call of the heart by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. Not only is it worth reading, it's worth reading aloud -- so you hear it and feel it as well as see it. Then, you get to decide who you want to share it with -- and how. This is a piece of deep, soul-inspired, primal writing that deserves to travel to every corner of the Earth.

"My friends, do not lose heart. We were made for these times. I have heard from so many recently who are deeply and properly bewildered. They are concerned about the state of affairs in our world now. Ours is a time of almost daily astonishment and often righteous rage over the latest degradations of what matters most to civilized, visionary people.

You are right in your assessments. The luster and hubris some have aspired to while endorsing acts so heinous against children, elders, everyday people, the poor, the unguarded, the helpless, is breathtaking. Yet, I urge you, ask you, gentle you, to please not spend your spirit dry by bewailing these difficult times. Especially do not lose hope. Most particularly because, the fact is that we were made for these times. Yes. For years, we have been learning, practicing, been in training for and just waiting to meet on this exact plain of engagement.

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I grew up on the Great Lakes and recognize a seaworthy vessel when I see one. Regarding awakened souls, there have never been more able vessels in the waters than there are right now across the world. And they are fully provisioned and able to signal one another as never before in the history of humankind.

Look out over the prow; there are millions of boats of righteous souls on the waters with you. Even though your veneers may shiver from every wave in this stormy roil, I assure you that the long timbers composing your prow and rudder come from a greater forest. That long-grained lumber is known to withstand storms, to hold together, to hold its own, and to advance, regardless.

In any dark time, there is a tendency to veer toward fainting over how much is wrong or unmended in the world. Do not focus on that. There is a tendency, too, to fall into being weakened by dwelling on what is outside your reach, by what cannot yet be. Do not focus there. That is spending the wind without raising the sails.

We are needed, that is all we can know. And though we meet resistance, we more so will meet great souls who will hail us, love us and guide us, and we will know them when they appear. Didn't you say you were a believer? Didn't you say you pledged to listen to a voice greater? Didn't you ask for grace? Don't you remember that to be in grace means to submit to the voice greater?

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good.

What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity.

Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

The reason is this: In my uttermost bones I know something, as do you. It is that there can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good deeds we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here. In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for."

Clarissa Pinkola Estes: American poet, post-trauma specialist, Jungian psychoanalyst, and author of Women Who Run With the Wolves.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:33 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2018
Why I Wrote Storytelling at Work

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In the past few weeks, quite a few people have asked me for the "elevator speech" about the book I wrote in 2015. I get it. These days, if you can't deliver your message in 60 seconds or less you're screwed. So here goes. Consider this my elevator speech (though the building you are riding in is a hundred stories high).

I wrote Storytelling at Work because I wanted to do everything in my power to unleash what I have come to realize is one of the biggest untapped resources on planet Earth -- and that is the collective insight and wisdom of human beings everywhere. No matter what our education, culture, or profession, each of us has a storehouse of brilliance inside of us -- a deep knowing (hiding in our stories) that, when expressed, has the power to uplift, inspire, and transform.

I'm not talking about the rote communication of book learning. Nor am I talking about the transmission of data, facts, and information. I'm talking about the communication of the very best of what human beings have to share with each other.

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Look at it this way: If you want to transport water to a thirsty person, you need a container -- a cup, a bottle, or canteen. If you want to transport wisdom, you also need a container. And the best, most available, container we have is story.

This wisdom conveyance phenomenon has been going on since the beginning of time. It's how our species is wired. It started with cave paintings. It continued around the tribal fire. And it eventually found its way into the wisdom teachings of every civilization on earth.

In modern day business, this storytelling phenomenon has morphed into various, more commercialized forms, all considered to be ways of furthering an organization's success -- branding, advertising campaigns, leadership pep talks, and the sharing of "best practices."

Fine. No problem. But what I'm inviting people to share is not just new ways to sell products, convince others to work harder, or "continuously improve". I'm inviting people to dig deeper and share their "tacit knowledge" with each other -- the harder to express stuff about what they've really learned about themselves, life, and what it means to be a human being -- on or off the job. The juicy stuff. About adaptability. About resilience. About risk taking, courage, creativity, trust, failure, perseverance, passion, intuition, humor, commitment and whatever else they've experienced that is truly meaningful to them.

Without the expression of this wisdom, work can never be more than a job and life can never be more than thanking God for Friday.

Awesome quotes on storytelling
Why your brain likes a good story
Storytelling as a strategic business tool
Why my book matters + excerpts
The shortest elevator speech ever (book excerpt)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2018
ANONYMOUS REVEALED

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I have a confession to make. Actually, it's more like a revelation than a confession.

You know all those fabulous quotes and articles you've read over the years with no attribution other than "Anonymous"? It was me. It's true. I have written thousands of things I've never signed my name to. I couldn't. I mean -- the writing just came through me. Like a storm. In fact, I was in such a state of presence as these pearls of wisdom appeared, there wasn't even a "me" involved, so how could I sign my name?

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

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

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

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

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

MitchDitkoff.com
My latest book on storytelling
BLOG: Storytelling at Work
BLOG: Unspoken Word
BLOG: The Heart of Innovation
BLOG: The Heart of the Matter
Idea Champions

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

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

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

22 Awesome Quotes on Revolution

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My new book, STORYTELLING FOR THE REVOLUTION, will be published in May. The revolution I'm writing about is not a political revolution, its a revolution of the heart and, more specifically, how we communicate wisdom to each other. My weapon of choice is not a gun. It's a story. Actually, 40 stories. The quotes below speak to the spirit of where I'm coming from.

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete."- Buckminster Fuller

"A social movement that only moves people is merely a revolt. A movement that changes both people and institutions is a revolution." - Martin Luther King Jr

"The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can't be any large-scale revolution until there's a personal revolution, on an individual level. It's got to happen inside first." - Jim Morrison

"If I can't dance to it, it's not my revolution." - Emma Goldman

"Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists." - Franklin D. Roosevelt

"Societies in decline have no use for visionaries." - Anais Nin

"Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - John F. Kennedy

"The Revolution introduced me to art, and in turn, art introduced me to the Revolution!" - Albert Einstein

"You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only BE the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere." - Ursula K. Le Guin

"The greatest challenge of the day is: how to bring about a revolution of the heart, a revolution which has to start with each one of us?" - Dorothy Day

"The greatest mistake of the movement has been trying to organize a sleeping people around specific goals. You have to wake the people up first, then you'll get action." - Malcolm X

"We have it in our power to begin the world over again." - Thomas Paine

"But I suppose the most revolutionary act one can engage in is to tell the truth." - Howard Zinn

"Revolution is not something fixed in ideology, nor is it something fashioned to a particular decade. It is a perpetual process embedded in the human spirit." - Abbie Hoffman

"A great revolution in just one single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind." - Daisaku Ikeda

"Revolutions spring not from accident, but from necessity. A revolution is a return from the factitious to the real. It takes place because it must." - Victor Hugo

"If your regime is not strong enough to handle a joke, then you have no regime." - Jon Stewart

"He suddenly understood the message of so many spiritual teachers that the only revolution that can work is the inner transformation of every human being." - Stanislav Grof

"Revolution is the harmony of form and color and everything exists, and moves, under only one law: Life. Nobody is separate from anybody else. Nobody fights for himself. Everything is All and One. Anguish and pain, pleasure and death are no more than a process for existence. The revolutionary struggle in this process is a doorway open to intelligence." - Frida Khalo

"The most heroic word in all languages is revolution." - Eugene Debs

"Personal transformation can and does have global effects. As we go, so goes the world, for the world is us. The revolution that will save the world is ultimately a personal one." - Marianne Williamson

"Don't let it end like this. Tell them I said something." - Pancho Villa

Pre-order your book here
PHOTO: Sabine Schulte, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:30 PM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2018
5 Inexpensive Ways to Jump Start a Sustainable Culture of Innovation

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Trying to create a culture of innovation is a daunting task for even the most committed organization. Cultures take decades to form. Changing them is not an overnight phenomenon, no matter how many outside consultants you've gotten on the case. You might as well try to end world hunger or wipe out Aids overnight. It's gonna take a while.

But if you and your colleagues are game, culture change is possible. The question, of course, is where to begin? Starting is always the hardest part. And, in the absence of clarity about where to start, procrastination creeps in -- and nothing changes.

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OK. Enough preamble. Here are five ways to get started. Pick one or all five -- and don't forget to enjoy the process.

1. Name the Beast: If you want to change something, you will need to begin by understanding the current reality of that which you attempting to change. Make sense?

If you're getting into a new market, for example, you'd expect to do some competitive intelligence gathering, right? And if you've decided to parachute into Iran, it would make sense to do some diligence, before hand, no?

Same with the effort to foster a culture of innovation.

Get closer to the problem. Talk to people. Survey your workforce. Get everyone talking -- not just the C-Suite folks, but the people in the mail room, too.

Get off of the generic, politically correct stand that may be ruling the day and get down to the bones.

Then, when you make your case, more formally, you'll have some meaningful ground to stand on -- and the people listening will listen deeper than if you merely showed up one day with a few powerpoint slides, an anecdote from Google, and your newly expressed burning passion for the cause.

2. Set the Expectation: You get what you expect. That's the deal. Psychology experiment after psychology experiment has borne this out again and again.

You need a very strong intention to do this work and then you need to communicate it in a way that is compelling.

Your workforce needs to understand this is not the job of senior leadership, or HR, or R&D. It's everyone's job. Only when a critical mass of people in your organization embraces this effort will anything substantial happen.

If not, you will be wasting your breath -- and their time.

3. Define Innovation: Google "innovation" and you'll find thousands of definitions.

What do you mean by "innovation?" What is your definition? How do you want people thinking about it?

Is it incremental innovation? Disruptive innovation? Product innovation? Process innovation? Or is the whole thing really just a secret code for "cost cutting?"

Before anything significant can happen, you'll need to get aligned with your senior team about what, precisely, you mean by innovation -- and then communicate that, with some passion, to the workforce.

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4. Frame the Challenges: OK. Let's say you want a sea change of innovation within your organization. Great. But in what specific domains? What are the specific challenges people can get their arms around and actually focus on?

As Charles F. Kettering once said, "A problem well-defined, is a problem half solved."

Towards that end, you and your team will need to dive in and start framing the problem. Not vaguely. Not generically. Very specifically. The clearer you are about communicating the domains in which you are asking people to innovate, the more results will show up.

The framing of the challenge, however, is not just your job. You'll need to invite others to get into the act.

If you've done your "name the beast" effort (see #1), this should be relatively easy.

5. Acknowledge What's Already Working: Lots of organizations who dive into the deep end of "culture change" have a tendency to get a sudden case of amnesia when it comes to their corporate history.

Inspired by the promise of the new, they forget to acknowledge the old -- paying precious little attention to what's already working well.

There are a ton of best practices already going on in your organization. There are many inspired "pockets of creativity" where turned-on-teams are doing exactly what they need to do to succeed.

The only thing is: very few people in the company know about this.

Everyone is so enmeshed in their own silos, that they have no clue what innovation-friendly behaviors are alive and well just down the hall -- behaviors they can learn from, adapt, and get rolling within their own spheres of influence.

Building on past successes will not only encourage people, it will guide their journey forward in ways that are empowering, uplifting, and real. And while you're at it, don't forget to routinely acknowledge current successes, as well -- the good things that happened today.

Idea Champions

Thanks to Tim Gallwey for his refinement of #5.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2018
24 Quotes on Good Communication

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1. "The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said." - Peter Drucker

2. "The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." - George Bernard Shaw

3."Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people." - William Butler Yeats

4. "We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak." - Epictetus

5. "Speak when you are angry -- and you'll make the best speech you'll ever regret." - Laurence Peters

6. "In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do." - Stephen Covey

7. "The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them." - Stephen King

8. "Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language." - Walt Disney

9. "Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after." - Anne Morrow Lindbergh

10. "The two words information and communication are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through." - Sydney Harris

11. "Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing." - Rollo May

12. "Humor is the affectionate communication of insight." - Leo Rosten

13. "Science may never come up with a better office communication system than the coffee break." - Earl Wilson

14. "Communication is everyone's panacea for everything." - Tom Peters

15. "Two monologues do not make a dialogue." - Jeff Daly

16. "Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something." - Plato

17. "Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you've got to say, and say it hot." - D.H. Lawrence

18. "Any problem, big or small, within a family, always seems to start with bad communication. Someone isn't listening." - Emma Thompson

19. "When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen." - Ernest Hemingway

20. "You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time." - Scott Peck

21. "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." - Mark Twain

22. "That which we are capable of feeling, we are capable of saying." - Cervantes

23. "I have an answering machine in my car. It says, 'I'm home now. But leave a message and I'll call when I'm out.'" - Steven Wright

24. "Give me the gift of a listening heart." - King Solomon

Idea Champions

Thanks to Val Vadeboncoeur for locating a bunch of these

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:01 PM | Comments (0)

The Best of My Huffington Post Articles on Storytelling

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You may not know this, but I have been a Huffington Post blogger for the past five years. During that time, I've published a number of well-received articles on storytelling, with a special focus on storytelling in the workplace. Below are links to some of them. Each one will take you less than four minutes to read unless you are multi-tracking, catotonic, or heavily sedated.

Why Create a Culture of Storytelling?
The Art of Using Story to Communicate Big Ideas
The Secret Code of Tacit Knowledge
Storytelling is the Trojan Horse of Wisdom
Why Tell Stories?
How to Tell a Good Story
What Kind of Stories Will You Tell Today?
The Power of Personal Storytelling

The book these are excerpted from

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:36 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2018
A DIFFERENT KIND OF WAY TO CLOSE A SALE

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Anyone who owns a business, whether they've been to business school or not, knows one thing: You need customers. No customers, no business. How you get customers, of course, is the question.

In my business, one of the main ways to get business is responding to RFPs -- requests for proposals. Here's how it works: a company hears about you, checks out your website, contacts you, schedules a call, tries to figure out if you're the real deal and, if you pass their sniff test, asks you to submit a proposal.

In the beginning of my career, I would get very excited whenever anyone asked me to submit an RFP. It meant I had a big one on the line, a horse in the race, my hat in the ring, or whatever other metaphor I could conjure up to reinforce my belief that I was actually going to make a living. Like a beanie wearing college freshman, I dove into the proposal writing process with great zeal.

In time, however, responding to RFPs made me cranky. I came to learn that only one in ten proposals would make the grade and that the other nine, which I had so diligently crafted, were merely my response to bogus fishing expeditions from the client. Either they had already decided on their vendor, were testing the waters, wanted to get free insights, or were merely on the hunt for the low cost provider.

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So when MTV Networks called, I was betwixt and between. Do I play the game and spend the better part of my day writing a proposal or do walk my talk and do something different?

Since I'd already done some work for MTV, I decided the time was right to experiment, so I asked myself a question: "How can I radically reduce the time it takes me to write a proposal that gets results?" The answer came quickly -- the TWO WORD proposal. In 200 point type, I wrote the words "TRUST US" with an asterisk after the "S" -- and, at the bottom of the page, in 8 point type, noted our fee. That was it. Two words and a bottom line.

On the day my proposal was due, I walked into the office of MTV's CFO, Jim Shaw. After the ritual chit chat and cup of coffee, he asked me if I had the proposal.

"Yes, I do, Jim. But first let me ask you a question. 'Do you get a lot of proposals?'"

He laughed, pointing to a huge stack on his desk.

"And do you like reading proposals?"

Jim looked at me as if I had asked him to stick forks in his eyes.

"Good!" I said. "Then there's a good chance you will love my proposal. But in order to give it to you, I need to get further away from you."

And with that warning, I began backing away across the room. When I got as far away as possible, I stopped and held my proposal in the air.

Even from across the room, Jim could read my two words: TRUST US! Smiling, he beckoned me forward, took the proposal from my hands, lowered his eyes to the bottom line, and extended his hand.

"You got a deal," he said.

Two words in big bold type and a bottom line. That's all it took. Two minutes. Not two hours.

FOR YOUR REFLECTION: "We have 60,000 thoughts per day," said Deepak Chopra. "Unfortunately, all of them are ones we had the day before." That's how most human beings roll. Creatures of habit, we find a groove and stay in it until it becomes a rut. Then it's so deep, we have a hard time getting out of it, so we decorate our walls with Dilbert cartoons and pictures of our last vacation.

Sometimes, we need to do something different. Will this "something different" work every time? No, it won't. But it will work sometimes. My two-word proposal was the perfect thing for MTV. It wouldn't have been the perfect thing for a new client or the IRS, but for MTV it got the job done.

NOW WHAT? Think of a proposal, pitch, or presentation you need to make in the next few weeks. On one side of a piece of paper, write down all the reasonable things you can do to get the gig. Then, on the flip side, write down all the unreasonable things -- new approaches, new ideas, and new ways to make your case. After you write your first wave of unreasonable approaches, write your second wave. Then pick one of them and go for it. Inspiration for you.

Excerpted from Storytelling at Work.
Idea Champions
Mitch Ditkoff

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2018
The Creative Personality

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

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

Awake at the Wheel
The Creative Mind Keynote
Illustration

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

January 12, 2018
100 Reasons Why You Definitely Won't Read This Blog Post

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

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

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

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

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

8. You've got to walk the dog.

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

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

11. It's none of my business.

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

14. You're obsessing about cash flow.

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

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

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

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

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

24. You need a break.

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

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

27. You have an acute case of blogitis.

28. You'd rather tweet.

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

30. Your therapist would rather tweet.

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

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

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

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

35. It's time to meditate.

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

37. The oil spill has reached your front door.

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

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

40. These two bloggers walk into a bar.

41. Anyone here from Cleveland?

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

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

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

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

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

47. The tea kettle is whistling.

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

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

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

51. You're waiting for Godot.

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

53. The BIG GAME is on.

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

55. You're still counting hanging chads.

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

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

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

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

60. The Ambien's kicking in.

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

62. The pizza guy is at your door.

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

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

65. The moon is in Aquarius.

66. Your mind is in the gutter.

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

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

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

70. Karma.

71. You think blogging is a fad.

72. Nostradamus didn't predict it.

73. It's not in the Bible.

74. Just because.

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

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

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

78. See # 61.

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

80. You weren't breast fed.

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

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

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

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

85. Someone's on Line 2.

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

87. You've just been acquired by Google.

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

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

90. You live on an asteroid.

91. Your hemorrhoids are acting up.

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

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

94. You haven't read my book yet.

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

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

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

98. You majored in economics.

99. Bottles of beer on the wall.

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

But you MIGHT read my book
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:06 PM | Comments (10)

January 09, 2018
Skillset vs. Mindset

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Yesterday, as one of my clients introduced me to a roomful of people attending a leadership development workshop I was facilitating, something she said caught my attention: Innovation skills. That's what she was telling the 41 business leaders of the future they were going to learn from me.

Yes, it was true. I was going to help these people learn and practice some new skills. But that was only half the story. Actually, less than half. Much less.

If there's one thing I've learned these past 28 years of working as an innovation provocateur, it's this: mindset -- not skillset -- is the name of the game in business these days.

When a person's mindset (i.e. receptivity, curiosity, adaptability, enthusiasm, focus) is in the right place, skillset becomes secondary.

Is acquiring new skills useful? Of course it is. If you're about to have surgery, you want to know the doctor with the scalpel knows what he/she is doing. But all the skills in the world become useless if the mind of the physician is cloudy.

I'm talking attitude. Viewpoint. Approach. It's not what you look at, it's what you see. Psychologists have boiled down the phenomenon to three words: "Motivation affects perception".

If you're driving through a town and are hungry, what do you see? Restaurants. If you're running out of gas, it's gas stations you notice. And if someone you love is dying, you become suddenly amazed at how many funeral parlors there are.

Bottom line, if you want to jump start innovation, begin paying more attention to mindset. Be willing to make the effort required to help yourself and others enter into the frame of mind most conducive to innovating. Because in the end, it's less about where you're going, than where you're coming from.

What can YOU do, on the job, to keep yourself in an innovation mindset?

Idea Champions
MitchDitkoff.com
A simple way to enter into the innovation mindset

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2018
5 Ways to Raise the Bar for Storytelling in Your Organization

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If your organization is looking for an engaging, flexible, cost-effective way to raise the bar for storytelling in the workplace, I'm your man. Below are five ways I can help you stir the storytelling soup:

1. WORKSHOPS
- Creating the Innovation Mindset
- Storytelling at Work

2. KEYNOTES:
- Scroll down to the third keynote

3. WISDOM CIRCLES
- Small group storytelling gatherings
- Train the Trainer also available

4. MICRO-LEARNING:
- Short blasts of online innovation-sparking content,
- A yearlong curriculum of my original content (52 links)
- Can be focused on storytelling or include 11 other topics
- Learn more

5. MY STORYTELLING BOOKS
- Storytelling at Work (bulk discounts available)
- Storytelling for the Revolution (to be published in May)

MitchDitkoff.com

My clients

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:02 PM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2018
How to Be More Creative

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Most people agree that creativity (and it's twin brother, innovation) is a good thing. Accordingly, they want to know how they can become more creative or more innovative. Makes sense, right? The question, however, is a tricky one, not unlike asking "How can I have a good marriage?" or "How can I become a better human being?" There are hundreds of answers and often different strokes for different folks.

Bottom line, there is no blueprint, no follow-the-dots instructions in this realm. That being said, there are time-tested guidelines and principles which, when honored, will increase your chances of increasing your creativity and innovation.

Below are 25 of these principles for your consideration. No doubt, you are already skillful in some of them. Congratulations! But there may be others that are not your strong suit. Those are the one you will need to pay more attention to. Ready? Here goes:

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1. Ask yourself WHY you want to become more creative: If you don't know the answer to this question, the rest of the guidelines that follow will be nothing more than fairy dust. In other words, what's in it for you? Why make the effort to become more creative? Why do you care about this topic?

2. Realize you already are creative: Most of us are subject to the myth that only some people are creative or in a "creative profession." Writers, artists, and filmmakers get lots of points for being creative, as opposed to accountants, tax auditors, and engineers. This is not true. Everyone is creative. The only thing is that sometimes our creativity gets obscured by years of funky habits, programming, and conditioning. Then, the thought "I am not creative" rules the day and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Psychologists tell us that a human being is most creative at the age of five. After that, it's a slow and steady decline into conventionality. From your perspective, what are the characteristics of a five-year old and how can you bring more of those to bear on the job?

3. Identify what blocks your creativity: When Michelangelo was asked how he made his iconic statue, The David, he explained, "I simply took away everything that wasn't." To him, the statue was already in the stone. All he needed to do was remove everythingin the way. This is a good question for you to ask in regard to your efforts to become more creative. What is in your way? What is blocking your creativity? And what can you do to remove or, at least, diminish these factors, on the job?

4. Remember a time when you were creative: All of us have had times in our life when our creativity was flowing. The conditions were ripe for us to do our best thinking/creating. What was that time in your life? What were the conditions that made the expression of your creativity easier than usual? And what can you do to bring more of these conditions to bear on the job?

5. Define what you mean by "creative": If you Google the phrase "Definitions of Creativity", you will find 53,900,000 entries. "Creativity" means different things to different people. What does it mean to you? What is your operational definition of creativity? (Click here for 14 definitions to spark your effort to come up with your own working definition).

6. Identify a project, goal, or vision you want to be creative about: If you don't have a project that inspires you enough to apply your creativity to, your effort to become more creative will be vague, at best. You need to have some skin in the game. What is the project you would most like to infuse with a renewed dose of creativity? (HINT: The most effective way to do this is to frame your challenge, problem, or opportunity in the form of a question that begins with the words "How can I?" or "How can we?")

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7. Immerse: Creative people, no matter what their field or expertise, have the ability to dive in and stay with a project for long periods of time. They don't just hit and run. Instead, they become completely absorbed in their effort and it is often their state of absorption that is their secret sauce. That's why Einstein said, "It's not that I'm so smart. It's just that I stay with problems longer." How can, you, in the next three months create the time to immerse in your hottest, new project?

8. Reframe failure: Creative people are less afraid of making mistakes than most people. They realize that creativity is a volume business -- that many experiments are needed and that trial and error comes with the territory. When Thomas Edison was asked how it felt to fail 800 times before coming up with tungsten as the filament for the light bulb, his reply said it all: "Fail? I didn't fail once. I learned 800 times, what didn't work." How can you and your team launch more experiments? How can you embrace failure more than you currently do?

9. Identify and go beyond your limiting assumptions: Often, the suppositions or conclusions that we make at the beginning of a project are completely fictitious, a function of our past experiences, false beliefs, and expertise. Creative people have a knack for being less bound by limiting assumptions than most people. This state of open-mindedness allows them to proceed in ways that open up vast new territories to explore. What might your biggest limiting assumptions be about your most exciting project? What can you do to go over, around, or through these assumptions?

10. Stay inspired and fascinated: I know of very few depressed or despondent people who are consistently creative. And while it's true, that creative people can sometimes get depressed or despondent, they don't dwell in that place for very long, realizing that their mindset is one of the keys to their success. What are three ways you can stay inspired and fascinated about your hottest, new venture?

11. Ask WHAT IF (and other powerful questions): Creative people have a unique ability to go beyond the status quo. One way they do that is by asking powerful questions -- questions that challenge the status quo and open up totally new horizons. The simplest question to ask in this regard is "What if?" What aspects of your work, these days, might benefit from asking "what if?"

12. Make connections between seemingly disparate elements: One of the qualities of a creative thinker is the ability to synthesize -- to see new kinds of connections between this, that and the other thing. What is MTV? Simply the connection between music and television. Drive-in banking? The connection between cars and banking. The Bloody Mary? Vodka and tomato juice. Most of us are so much "in our boxes" that we too infrequently connect A + B to get C. Tunnel vision has a hold of us. What intriguing new connections do you see in your life? How can you combine two seemingly unrelated variables to create a new product or service or better way of doing business?

13. See through others' eyes: One of the biggest obstacles to creativity is our odd little habit of viewing everything through our own eyes/lenses/filters. Addicted to our own point of view, we tend to be constrained by our habitual ways of perceiving the world. The simplest way to free yourself from this constraint is to look at your problem, project, or opportunity through the eyes of someone else. What if Willie Nelson was responsible with solving your problem? Stevie Wonder? Rosa Parks? Thomas Edison? How would any one of these people go about it? And what clues do you get from their approach?

14.Pay attention to your subconscious: Many brilliant ideas come to people off line, in dreams, or in surprise moments when they are not trying to figure things out. What happen is this: the conscious, problem-solving part of our mind hits a wall and gets stuck. That's when the problem gets turned over to the subconscious mind. (But only if we deeply committed to the project). That's how Elias Howe's invention of the lock stitch sewing machine happened. And that's how Rene Descartes came up with the Scientific Method. And that is what Seymour Cray, the inventor of the Cray Supercomputer attributed his success to -- the ability to walk away from a problem and let his subconscious mind do the work. Where and when do you get your best ideas away from work? And what can you do to be more mindful of ideas that come to you in those situations?

15. Suspend logic and linearity: Most of us think deeply. We like to problem solve And, more often than not, we are very rational beings -- so called "left-brainers." Not that there is anything wrong with that... but there are times, in the creative process, especially in the beginning, when too much logic and linearity get in the way. There is a right-brain, too, that need to be exercised -- the associative, playful, non-rational side of our mind. How can you suspend logic and linearity at the beginning of a new project? In what ways can you allow more time to consider the non-logical?

16. Trust your instincts, intuition, and hunches: Albert Einstein once said, "Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts." Indeed, he used to conduct what he called thought experiments, a fancy name for daydreaming, whenever he got stuck and needed a breakthrough. Simply put, he trusted the intuitive part of himself more than most of us. What are your instincts and intuitions telling you about a project you are currently working on? How can you trust these instincts and intuitions more than you normally do?

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17. Entertain the fantastic: Gary Kasparov, the former Soviet Union Grand Chess Master, had the ability to strategize 26 moves ahead. But when, in 1989, he was asked what enabled him to beat Big Blue, IBM's mainframe computer, in a two game chess match, he attributed his success to "the ability to fantasize" -- to be able to make a quantum leap of thought. Einstein, too, was a big proponent of fantasizing and is famous for having said "the ability to fantasize has meant more to me than my ability to absorb positive knowledge." How can you make more time to dream big?

18. Collaborate: Some people assume that creativity is the result of a lone wolf genius inhabiting some kind of ivory tower and returning to the "marketplace" with an extraordinary insight or breakthrough. And while this sometimes happens, it is mostly a myth. Often, creativity is informed by the so-called lone wolf genius being in relationship to people -- i.e. jamming, brainstorming, talking, and getting feedback. This kind of variable input has the potential to spark all kinds of insight and ahas. The challenge for most of us? To stay in dynamic relationship with each other, especially since the logical, left-brain, problem-solving part of us usually wants to be left along to "figure things out." How can you increase the amount of creative collaboration in your life? Who might you ask to join forces with you this week to develop a new idea or possibility?

19. Have fun: This just in! The words "aha" and "haha" are very much related. In the aha moment, the person with the epiphany ends up surprised, in some way, about a given outcome. He/she is dislocated from their assumptions, i.e. Archimedes in the bathtub and Newton under the apple tree. The "haha" moment is similar. Indeed, the reason why most of us laugh is because our expectations and assumptions have been disrupted by the storyteller or comedian. This surprise moment sparks an involuntary reaction called "laughter." Creativity and humor are joined at the hip. Get too serious and too sober and you diminish the odds of creativity flourishing. In what ways can you infuse your work environment with more humor and playfulness?

20. Look for happy accidents: Do you know what penicillin, vulcanized rubber, Post-It Notes, and Velcro have in common? They were all the results of "accidents in the lab." They were not planned. There were not the result of a brainstorming session or a strategic plan. They showed up unannounced. But instead of being dismissed as a mistake, the innovators associated with these discoveries, got curious. They paid attention. And they played around with this so-called mistake until they discovered its commercial value. Research indicates, in fact, that 75% of all product and service breakthroughs are the results of serendipity, surprise, and happy accidents. What have you been noticing in your life that others may have dismissed as a mistake or failure, when, in fact, it might be the clue you have been looking for?

21. Change environments: Sometimes, the simplest way to spark creativity when you are feeling stuck or stale is to get out of the office and change environments. Socrates knew this. That's why he invented his "Peripatetic School of Education" -- a way to "walk the talk." Indeed, that's why many people get their best ideas during or after exercising. Where can you go, to refresh and renew yourself, whenever you are feeling stuck, on the job?

22. Be comfortable with ambiguity: Creating something new is not a function of an algorithm or a sequential process. It often requires a lot of time spent not knowing or being confused or not having all the answers. This is why Tom Peters, innovation provocateur, likes to say that "innovation is a messy business." Yup. It is messy. And frustrating. And non-linear. And it often requires time in the chaos zone. It comes with the territory with creating something new. If you are not mindful of this phenomenon, you will likely grab onto the "first right idea" just to diminish your discomfort. This is not a good idea. In what ways can you stay with ambiguity longer than you usually do when working on a challenging project?

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23. Acknowledge your progress:
Creating something new is often a frustrating phenomenon. Results don't always come quickly. As a result, we sometimes get discouraged and enter into a curmudgeonly, skeptical, cranky mindset. We lose our inspiration. The simplest way to neutralize this phenomenon is to take a few minutes at the end of each day to pause and acknowledge whatever progress you have made that day, no matter how small. You can do this alone or you can do this with your team. Think of one project of yours that has been especially frustrating. What progress have you made on this project today?

24. Give and receive feedback: Sometimes, aspiring innovators are on the right track, but their addiction to "being right" gets in the way. What they need to do in order open up the floodgates of creativity is get feedback from their peers. All too often, however, we interpret feedback as "criticism", so we are not open to it. Ouch! In what ways can you get more feedback from your peers on the job?

25. Honor the Polarities: People aspiring to become more creative, especially those who are time-crunched, would love there to be some kind of blueprint or map. Guess what? There is none. It doesn't exist. And even if it did exist, it would most likely include contradictory directions. That's because the act of "being creative" is often a contradictory process. That's why Niels Bohr, the Nobel-prize winning physicist, once said: "Now that we have met with paradox, we have some hope of making progress." To the creative person, their process is not either/or. It's both. "Everything has its season" is their mantra. Below is a short list of some classic contradictions/paradoxes that creative people experience. Any of them familiar?

- Patience/impatience
- Solitude/collaboration
- Urgency/relaxation
- Seriousness/playfulness
- Divergence/convergence

What other contradictions/paradoxes do you experience in your own creative process? And what can you do to honor them more than you currently do?

Jump Start Creativity
Idea Champions
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:13 AM | 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 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.
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Highly engaging learning experiences that increase each participant's ability to become a creative force for positive change
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High impact certification training that teaches committed change agents how to lead groundbreaking ideation sessions
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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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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.
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Innovation is a team sport. Brilliant ideas go nowhere unless your people are aligned, collaborative, and team-oriented. That doesn't happen automatically, however. It takes intention, clarity, selflessness, and a new way of operating.
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