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.

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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

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

February 05, 2018
Why Leaders Shouldn't Lead Brainstorming Sessions

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Here's one of the dirty little secrets of corporate brainstorm sessions: When they are led by upper management, department heads, or project leaders, they usually get manipulated.

Because honchos and honchettes are so heavily invested in the topic being brainstormed, it is common for them to bend the collective genius of the group to their own particular point of view. Not a good idea.

Participants -- out of respect for the expertise (or position or parking space) of the facilitator -- will invariably moderate their input. The results? Same old same old.

That's why brainstorm facilitators need to remain neutral. Not neutral like vague. Neutral like free of any pre-determined concept or outcome. An open window, not an empty suit.

A facilitator's role is to facilitate (from the Latin word meaning "to make easy") the process whereby brilliance manifests -- not use their platform to foist their ideas on others.

In the best of all worlds, brainstorm facilitators wouldn't be the people who care the most about the topic. They wouldn't be the content expert, team leader, department head, senior officer, or anyone whose job is described by a three-letter acronym.

There's a HUGE difference between facilitating and leading a brainstorming session. Leaders get people to follow them. Facilitators get people to follow the yellow brick road of their own imagination.

Here are four classic ways that some brainstorm facilitators manipulate the ideation process. Any of them familiar to you?

1. They verbally judge ideas as they are presented
2. They scribe only the ideas they approve of
3. They spend more time pitching their own ideas than listening to the ideas of others
4. They develop only ideas consistent with their own assumptions

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:18 PM | 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
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:27 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2018
Micro-Learning for Storytellers

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Time-crunched as you are, I know you don't even have two-minutes to read this. So thanks for your 119 seconds.

I'm not going to sell you on the power of storytelling. You already know it's powerful. What you don't know is how to make it real in your organization. I know how to do that. That's what my Micro-Learning for Storytellers service is about. And all it takes is 15 minutes a week.

What you will get is 52 weeks of my content (i.e. videos, podcasts, stories, and articles) to distribute to your workforce one bite-sized piece of wisdom at a time. Mind openers. Thought starters. Tips. Tools. Techniques. Guidelines. And just enough inspiration for people to make the effort they need to become storytelling masters on the job. Or in the class. Or wherever.

WHO AM I?: Mitch Ditkoff, President of Idea Champions, author of the award-winning Storytelling at Work and the forthcoming Storytelling for the Revolution. My clients.

Intrigued? Email me today with the word STORYTELLING in the subject line: mitch@ideachampions.com and I will get back to you with more details.

Micro-Learning for Innovators
Photo: Sidney Perry, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:46 AM | 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.

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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.
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Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
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Your "best and brightest" are the future leaders of your company, but unless they know how to foster a culture of innovation, their impact will be limited. A one-day workshop with us is all they need to begin this journey.
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