February 28, 2018
Teresa Amabile on the Importance of Acknowledging Progress


Why This Book from Teresa Amabile on Vimeo.

MitchDitkoff.com
IdeaChampions

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

February 22, 2018
How to Go Beyond the Email Blues

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In 1999, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blues song about email.
My purpose was to poke fun at some of the email madness going on at that time. (If you want to give a listen, click the link above).

It's 18 years later now and the email scene has become even weirder. If I was going to write a sequel, it wouldn't be the blues, it would be the black and blues -- because that's how bruised most of us are feeling these days about email. Bruised, abused, and beat up.

And so, in service to all of the loyal readers of The Heart of Innovation and all of Idea Champion's awesome clients, it is my privilege to share with you our own email survival strategies -- perhaps the most practical posting you will ever read on this blog.

1. Decide. Phone or email: Before sending off yet another email, ask yourself if email is the appropriate platform to communicate your message.

Maybe a phone call would be better. Or a face-to-face meeting. Or skywriting.

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If your email is more than 2-3 paragraphs, you probably need to talk. Emotionally charged issues are better done on the phone or in
person.

If you require consensus or a quick decision, forget email. Try Skype or the phone or -- this just in -- walk down the hall and actually talk to somebody.

2. Create a simple way to organize your email: I'm not suggesting you sign up for one more poorly facilitated webinar to figure this out -- but you will need to devise a simple and sustainable way to process all the messages flooding your inbox daily.

If you don't have some kind of organizing system in place, you will be a victim of email overload, resulting in the regrettable phenomenon of the people waiting for your response to assume that you've either moved to Mongolia or don't like them (both of which may be true).

When a new email comes in, you have five choices:

1. Read it immediately and respond
2. Read it and delete
3. Keep it in your inbox (which becomes your TO DO list)
4. File it in a folder called "EMAIL" and respond later
5. File it, by subject, in various folders in your sidebar

3. Read the entire email: When you are pressed for time, it is more than likely you will only glance at your emails, instead of actually reading them.

The result? You miss key pieces of information and, without realizing it, subsequently confuse other people down the line or waste their time because you are only partially informed about the topic of the email, but you (madly scrolling through your emails), think you know.

4. Write clear subject lines: Many emails get lost or neglected because their subject lines are confusing

Cease and desist! Snap out of it! Use laser-like. descriptive headlines. You can do this! You can! Do not write "An Idea" in your subject heading. Write "An Idea for Tripling Our Sales: FEEDBACK NEEDED" or SOMETHING that alerts to the reader to what your email is really about.

5. Include "Requests for Action", when appropriate:
If you want readers of your emails to actually respond (not just read your email as if it was the back of a cereal box), be sure to include the response you are requesting in the subject line.

FEEDBACK NEEDED
ACTION REQUESTED
CALL TO ACTION
CALL ME TODAY

NOTE: If you begin an email thread and have received all the input you need, remember to delete the REQUEST FOR ACTION phrase in your subject line. Otherwise, you will get besieged by input you neither need or want.

6. Begin your subject line with "FYI" if all you are doing is sharing information,
i.e.

FYI: Going on vacation
FYI: I just won the Congressional Medal of Honor
FYI: Cool article about muffins

7. Maintain single subject threads: If multiple subjects are embedded in emails, readers lose track and become, functionally (or pathologically), out of the loop.

Do not add new subjects to email threads. If a given email "reminds" you of a new topic you feeling a burning need to communicate, start a new email thread. Or move to Canada.

8. Use ALL CAPS sparingly: Caps, when used selectively, can be very effective, calling attention to key words.

Used indiscriminately, they create the impression of SHOUTING. LOTS OF SHOUTING. IT GETS OLD FAST. VERY FAST. LIKE THESE FEW LINES OF THIS BLOG POSTING WHICH ARE NOW STARTING TO SEEM LIKE AN INFOMERCIAL FOR A HOME EXERCISE MACHINE YOU CAN BUY IN SIX EASY PAYMENTS OF $99.99, BUT YOU WILL NEVER USE.

9. Use "cc: selectively: Before cc'ing everyone in the known universe, PAUSE and ask yourself WHO really needs to read your email? If you have any doubt, check in with your cc minions and ask them to tell you WHAT email topics of yours they really need to be cc'd on.

10. Be Wise About "To" and "Copy" Fields: Remember this, oh multi-tracking and time-crunched sender of emails: Names in the "To" field are for people you are directly speaking to. Names in the "copy/cc" field are for people who will benefit from reading your email email, but your email is not essential to them and you do not need them to respond.

11. Acknowledge the sender: If an email falls in a forest, does anyone hear it?

Please understand that it is a courtesy to acknowledge that you have received and understood SOME of the emails sent you way. If the email you receive cites a deadline two weeks away, don't wait two weeks to respond. Instead, send a quick "thanks" or"'will do" or "can't do" to acknowledge receipt.

If you have an objection to what the email writer is saying, speak up! Say something! Silence, in the email zone, creates nothing but ambiguity and confusion.

12. Follow the 2-minute rule: If it will take you less than 2 minutes to respond to an email and remove it from your inbox, do it.

13. Create some sacred email time: Email can be incredibly distracting. If you continue to check your email throughout the day, your chances of concentrating on any one topic drop lower than the chances of health care, in the US, being affordable before 2050.

Pick a few slow times of the day when you actually have the time to check email, instead of knee jerkily checking your inbox every 30 seconds.

14. Use the phone more: If you need a quick answer, try calling. If you have something long to explain, try calling. If you don't understand an email, try calling. Or just walk to the person's office and TALK to them.

The goal, by the way, is communication, not transmission. Just because you sent an email to ten people and crossed their names off your TO DO list, does not mean you have communicated.

MitchDitkoff.com
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2018
The Innovation Burnout Syndrome

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Most newly launched organizational innovation initiatives have a dark side, a not-much-talked-about shadow side -- the metaphorical alcoholic-father-in-the-basement side. And it is this... fascinating new projects are conceived, senior leaders get excited, game plans are drawn up, but no one gives the "worker bees" any more time to devote to the newly launched projects. They are, in effect, expected to shoehorn their new efforts into their already overloaded schedules.

Bottom line, aspiring innovators' "day jobs" end up colliding with newly launched innovation initiatives and mayhem ensues. People either burn out, get cranky, triangulate to third parties, spend way too much time explaining the newly launched innovation project to others, or else go into martyrdom-mode -- all behaviors that do not bode well for the individual, the company, or its customers. And while every company DOES have a few superstar self-starters who dive in with both feet, this is not a formula for sustainable innovation.

The solution? Either redistribute workloads, offer "innovation project sabbaticals", or provide your front line innovators with enough support services to unclutter their minds, ease their way forward, and allow them the time to focus on the innovation job at hand without frying.

Oh, I almost forgot -- you can stagger the launch of new initiatives so not everything is happening at the same time.

If you don't, expect nothing but a whole lot of chaos, broken promises, unfulfilled expectations, and the kind of innovation backlash you wish you hadn't unleashed.

Three minute video on this phenomenon

Idea Champions
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2018
The Path Is Made By Walking On It

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Back in the late 1990s, in New York City, there lived a world-class architect who had just spent the last two years of his life designing and building what many people were claiming to be the best inner city housing project ever conceived.

Although the world stood up and took notice, the architect's friends were totally baffled why a man of his stature would have taken on such a seemingly mundane project. After all, this was a man who had designed some of the world's finest museums. This was a man who had designed more than 20 celebrity mansions and a yacht club on the French Riviera. Why he had chosen to design an inner city housing project was absolutely inconceivable to them.

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But not to him.

As the son of immigrant parents, he had grown up in a two-room, cold water flat. His bedroom was actually the hallway. He had no TV. In college, he had to work two jobs to pay his tuition and in graduate school, three. Housing was always an issue for him -- a mix of couch surfing, rat infested tenements, and ridiculously small studio apartments.

So when he heard about the inner city housing project, his ears perked up. To him, this was an opportunity of a lifetime, a message from God, a chance to give back.

With great delight, he threw himself headlong into the project. It took every ounce of energy he had, what with the corrupt labor unions and the crazy New York politics, but he pressed on and, in 18 months, had created something so extraordinary that the press was calling it "The Taj Mahal of Inner City Housing".

When the big day came to officially dedicate his creation, everyone was there -- the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, the Assistant to the Deputy Mayor, the Assistant to the Deputy Mayor's Assistant, his parents, wife, kids, therapist, and 500 housing project residents.

Wine was plentiful. So was the cheese and crackers. There was even a reggae band. The Mayor, as you might expect, was the first to speak. Then came the Deputy Mayor and then the Head of the Tenant's Association. Finally, it was the architect's turn. At the end of his talk, he raised a magnum of champagne high over his head and, in the grand tradition of sea captains christening sailing vessels, smashed it on the corner of Building #1.

People were cheering. Flashbulbs were popping. Champagne was guzzled. Everything was as upbeat as humanly possible. That is, until the architect noticed a very large woman, in the back of the crowd, pacing back and forth. She wasn't clapping. She wasn't cheering. She wasn't drinking champagne.

"HEY!" she screamed at the top of her lungs. "Something is wrong here -- very wrong. And with that, began hurriedly making her way forward.

The architect, tapped his mic, quieted the crowd, and invited her to join him on stage.

"Yes, my good woman?" he began. "What seems to be the problem?"

"Please don't get me wrong, sir", she began. "I love what you've created here. And I love that I now have a beautiful home I can afford. But..."

"Yes?" the architect replied."But what?"

"But.." she continued, with a dramatic sweep of her hand in the direction of the courtyard. "There are no sidewalks! Where are the sidewalks? Millions of dollars have been spent on this place and I don't see a single sidewalk."

"Ah..." the architect replied, "a most astute observation. Yes, you are absolutely right. There are no sidewalks. Not a single one. And do you know why?"

"No sir, I don't," she replied.

"There are no sidewalks, because I don't yet know where people walk. So, I've decided to wait a season, notice the paths people naturally make when walking from building to building -- and then pave over them."

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: The Path Is Made By Walking On It

In what ways does the architect's choice to wait a few months before adding sidewalks relate to a project of yours? What patterns or feedback do you need to pay more attention to? Where might you need to let things organically unfold rather than making an arbitrary decision that has no correlation to the real needs of the people you are serving? Where might improv be the path to improvement?

MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2018
CROWDSOURCING STORY: A Request for 3 Minutes of Your Time

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DEAR HEART OF INNOVATION READERS: If you have been receiving any value from my blog, I invite you to respond to this newly posted poll of mine -- my grassroots effort to create the support I need from friends, fans, and clients to help me get the word out about my forthcoming book, STORYTELLING FOR THE REVOLUTION. Since my book is being self-published, I do not have a big marketing machine behind me -- or even a small one -- just the good will of people like you.

Knowing how time-crunched you are, I am not expecting massive efforts on your part. Indeed, some of the ways you can participate will take less than 30 seconds. Click here to respond to my poll. Thanks. It takes a village!

MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2018
Welcome to the Wisdom Revolution!

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Click here for Mitch Ditkoff's (that's me, folks) first article published in Arianna Huffington's recently launched, cooler-than-the-Huffington--Post publication: THRIVE GLOBAL. It's my inspired rant about the emerging storytelling revolution on planet Earth. If you haven't heard about it, you will. The book will be published in May.

MitchDitkoff.com
Idea Champions
Wisdom Circles coming to a city near you

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:23 PM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2018
Increase Your Company's Ability to Innovate in 15 Minutes Per Week

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OK. It's true. We've belled the cat. We have. We've figured out how your organization can spark employees' ability to innovate in just 15 minutes a week. No trainings. No workshops. No online courses. We call it "Micro-Learning for Innovators." Click here to learn more. And if you're interested in raising the bar for organizational storytelling, click here.

Illustration: gapingvoid

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:29 AM | Comments (0)

February 06, 2018
MICRO-LEARNING for Innovators (in just 15 minutes per week)

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Innovation is a huge topic in organizations these days. Every company is looking for new and better ways to do more with less, differentiate themselves from the competition, and unlock the hidden genius of their workforce.

At the same time, many organizations are budget-constrained. Flying in an outside consultant to lead a workshop or training can sometimes be cost prohibitive. This I understand.

Which is precisely why my company, Idea Champions, is now offering Micro-Learning for Innovators, a cost-effective way to stir the innovation soup -- a virtual, self-organizing, just-in-time way to increase everyone's ability to be a proactive innovator on-the-job. And it only takes 15 minutes per week.

TOPICS INCLUDE: Mindset, Culture of Innovation, Creative Thinking, Idea Generation, Brainstorm Facilitation, Storytelling, Leadership, Teamwork/Collaboration, Listening/Feedback, Problem Solving

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HOW IT WORKS:

1. You and I have a 20-minute phone conversation about WHY you want to raise the bar for innovation and creativity in your organization.

2. Based on your needs, I create a year-long, customized Micro-Learning for Innovators curriculum for you -- a landing page of links to 52 engaging articles and videos of mine on the topic (curated from more than 1,200 I have produced).

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

4. Participants read/view the link(s) in preparation for their meeting (real-time or virtual) that you or one of your surrogates facilitates. All you need to reserve on your agenda is 10 minutes for the innovation topic. NOTE: This is micro-learning, not head-banging.

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

OPTION #1: I send you a simple "Moderator's Guide" that helps ensure your weekly innovation-sparking conversations 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 your people might have about the value, purpose, and process of the program.

OPTION #3: At TBD intervals, throughout the year, you invite me to facilitate one of your online meetings/trainings.

FEE: Name your own price for an annual license. (In other words, you quantify the value of my service to your organization and make me an offer. If it's "in the zone," I will say YES. If your offer is below what I consider fair, we will talk and see if we can come to an agreement.

WHO CREATED THE PROGRAM? Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder of Idea Champions, Author of the two award-winning winning books on innovation and storytelling. Creator of a wide variety of storytelling workshops and keynotes. Innovation Blogger of the Year, two years running. Master storyteller. His clients.

Interested? email Mitch today: mitch@ideachampions.com

Our clients
What they say
Our workshops and trainings
One of our micro-learning partners

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:02 AM | Comments (0)

February 04, 2018
The Future of Human Work is Imagination, Creativity, & Strategy

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As 21st century work continues to be automated and robotized (is that a word?), much of what you are doing to make a living will eventually be replaced by smarter, more efficient machines. But there is something that human beings have going for them than even the most extraordinary manifestations of AI do not: Imagination, Creativity, and the ability to Strategize. Read what the Harvard review has to say about it here.

Photo: Pierre Fontaine, Unsplash

Jump Start Creativity
Free the Genie
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2018
Out of the Box, In the Box

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ED NOTE: I just checked the stats/hits on the last eight years of Heart of Innovation blog posts and was surprised to see that the following article about my father's death got the most attention (30% more views than anything else!). I've always assumed I was "supposed" to be writing about innovation and creativity, but maybe there's something else more essential I need to be writing about...

There is a time of life when the time of life is about to end -- the time of last breaths, the time of saying goodbye to everything you have ever known or loved, the time of letting go.

This is the time my father now finds himself in.

He is flat on his back in a hospital bed, but the hospital bed is in his bedroom in West Palm Beach which is where he has chosen to die -- and will.

There will be no more calls to 911, no more paramedics, no more blood transfusions, no needles, no pills, no tests. This is his death bed and we are around it, me, his son -- his daughter, my sister -- my wife, his daughter-in-law -- grandchildren, great grandchildren, and the ever present hospice nurse here to keep him as comfortable as possible.

His mouth is dry. He cannot swallow. Someone swabs his lips as he gathers what's left of his strength to move his tongue toward the precious few drops of water.

The sound track for his last night on Earth is an oxygen machine pumping purified air through transparent tubes clipped to the end of his nose.

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On the counter -- creams. Creams for this and creams for that and creams for the other thing, too. I've never seen so many creams.

Those of us around his bed are very still, holding his hand, rubbing his back, looking at him and each other in ways we have never looked before.

There is very little for my father to do but breathe. This lion of a man whose life was defined by ferocity and action is barely moving now. A turn of the head. A flutter of the eye. A twitch.

Though his eyes are closed, I know he can hear, so I bend closer and talk into his good, right ear. I tell him he's done a good job and that all of us will be OK. I tell him I love him and to go to the light. I tell him everything is fine and he can let go.

The hospice nurse is monitoring his vital signs. They keep getting lower and lower. I touch my father's cheek and it is cooler than before. His skin looks translucent. Almost like a baby's.

He opens his eyes and shuts them once again. None of us around him know what to do, but that's OK because it's clear there is nothing to do.

Being is the only thing that's happening here.

My father had his last shot of morphine about an hour ago. He had his last bowl of Cheerios yesterday at 10am. Cheerios and half of a sliced banana. That was the last time he could swallow.

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It is quiet in the room. Very quiet.

I see my sister, my nieces, my wife, the nurse. All of us are as helpless as my father. The only difference is we are standing.

If only we could pay as much attention to the living as we do to the dying. If only we could stop long enough from whatever occupies our time and truly care for each other, aware of just how precious each breath is, each word, each touch, each glance.

Sitting by my father's side, I am hyper-aware of everyone who enters the room -- the way they approach his bed, what they say, how they say it, the look on their face, their thoughts.

I want to be this conscious all the time, attuned to the impact I have on others in everything I do. It all matters.

Nothing has prepared us for this moment. Not the books on death and dying, not the stories of friends who's fathers have gone before. Not the sage counsel of the Rabbi.

Nothing.

One thing is clear. Each of us will get our turn. Our bodies, like rusty old cars gone beyond their warrantees, will wear out. Friends and family will gather by our side, speak in hushed tones, hold our hands, and ask if we are comfortable.

That's just the way it is. It begins with a breath, the first -- and ends with a breath, the last.

In between? A length of time. A span of years. A hyphen, as my teacher likes to say, between birth and death.

What this hyphenated experience will be is totally up to us.

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Will it be filled with kindness? Love? Compassion? Gratitude? Giving? Delight? Will we be there for each other before it's time to fill out the forms and watch the body -- strapped to a stretcher by two men in black suits -- be driven away like something repossessed?

I hope so. I really do. I hope we all choose wisely. I hope beyond a shadow of a doubt before we walk through the shadow in the valley of death that we choose to hold each others' hands NOW, rub each other's backs, bring each other tea, and listen from the heart with the same kind of infinite tenderness we too often reserve only for those about to depart.

My father is very quiet now, breathing only every 20 seconds or so. Or should I say being breathed?

And then...there is nothing. Only silence. No breaths come. No slight changes of expression on his face. No whispered words of love.

We, around his bed, are in his home, but he is somewhere else.

Bye bye Daddy! Travel well! Know that we love you and will keep the flame of who are deeply alive in our hearts. Thank you for everything. We will meet again. Amen!

On love

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:32 PM | Comments (3)

The Best Written 142-Page Book on Brainstorming That Is Not For Sale

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This is the only 142-page book we know of that teaches people how to facilitate kick-ass brainstorming sessions -- including 18 creative thinking techniques, tips, tools, guidelines, checklists, rants, and the happy distillation of 27 years worth of what we've learned leading ideation sessions for companies like these who have all been very pleased with our services.

Oh, I almost forget, you cannot buy this book anywhere. It's not for sale.

We thought about selling it, but that felt like a sell-out. So we're not selling it. We are, however, giving it away if you bring us in to train your movers and shakers how to run brainstorm sessions. Reading the book is fine, but it's a little like watching a Bruce Lee movie and expecting to break bricks five minutes later. Ain't gonna happen. For that, you need to go to the dojo.

Want to know more? Here's what we're offering. Here's what people say. And here's the whole enchilada. PS: You get your choice of nine covers.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:21 PM | Comments (1)

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 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.
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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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
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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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