September 22, 2018
100 Lame Excuses for Not Innovating

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Do you have a great idea you want to manifest, but... er... uh... um... just can't seem to get things rolling? Chances are good your reasons why are on the list below. No problem. Join the club. Without making yourself wrong, simply note the ones that show up the most for you, then try the simple "go beyond excuses" exercise at the end of the list. Hey, it's time to get unstuck...

1. I don't have the time.
2. I can't get the funding.
3. My boss will never go for it.
4. We're not in the kind of business likely to innovate.
5. I've got too much on my plate right now.

6. I won't be able to get it past legal.
7. I'll be punished if I fail.
8. I'm just not not the creative type.
9. I'm juggling way too many projects.
10. I'm too new around here.

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11. I'm not good at presenting my ideas.
12. No one, besides me, cares about innovation.
13. There's too much bureaucracy here to get anything done.
14. Our customers aren't asking for it.
15. We're a risk averse culture.

16. We don't have an innovation process.
17. We don't have a culture of innovation.
18. They don't pay me enough to take on this kind of project.
19. My boss will get all the credit.
20. My career path will be jeopardized if this doesn't fly.

21. I've already got enough headaches.
22. I'm no good at office politics.
23. My home life will suffer.
24. I'm not disciplined enough.
25. It's an idea ahead of its time.

26. I won't be able to get enough resources.
27. I don't have enough information.
28. Someone will steal my idea.
29. It will take too long to get results.
30. We're in a down economy.

31. It will die in committee.
32. I'll be laughed out of town.
33. I won't be able to get the ear of senior leadership.
34. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
35. The concept is too disruptive.

36. I won't be able to get enough support.
37. I don't tolerate ambiguity all that well.
38. I'm not in a creative profession.
39. Now is not a good time to start a new project.
40. I don't have the right personality for this.

41. Our company is going through too many changes right now.
42. They won't give me any more time to work on the project.
43. If I succeed, too much will be expected of me.
44. Nothing ever changes around here.
45. Things are changing so fast, my head is spinning.

46. Whatever success I achieve will be undone by someone else.
47. I don't have enough clout to get things done.
48. It's just not worth the effort.
49. I'm getting close to retirement.
50. My other projects will suffer.

51. Been there, done that.
52. I don't want another thing to think about.
53. I won't have any time left for my family.
54. A more nimble competitor will beat us to the punch.
55. Teamwork is a joke around here.

56. I've never done anything like this before.
57. I won't be rewarded if the project succeeds.
58. We're not measured for innovation.
59. I don't have the right credentials.
60. I need more data.

61. It's not my job.
62. It will hard sustaining the motivation.
63. I've tried before and failed.
64. I'm not smart enough to pull this off.
65. I don't want to go to any more meetings.

66. It will take too long to get up to speed.
67. Our Stage Gate process will sabotage any hope of success.
68. I'm not skillful at building business cases.
69. Summer's coming.
70. The marketplace is too volatile.

71. This is a luxury we can't afford at this time.
72. I think we're about to be acquired.
73. I'm trying to simplify my life, not complicate it.
74. The dog ate my homework.
75. Help! I'm a prisoner in a Chinese fortune cookie factory.

76. My company just wants to squeeze more blood from the stone.
77. My company isn't committed to innovation.
78. I don't have the patience.
79. I'm not sure how to begin.
80. I'm too left-brained for this sort of thing.

81. I won't be able to get the funding required.
82. I'm getting too old for this.
83. Everyone's on a different page.
84. Spring is coming.
85. I'm hypoglycemic.

86. That's Senior Leadership's job
87. I'm thinking of quitting.
88. Market conditions aren't right.
89. We need to focus on the short term for a while.
90. Innovation, schminnovation.

91. What we really need are some cost cutting initiatives.
92. Six Sigma is all that people care about.
93. Mercury is in retrograde.
94. IT won't go for it.
95. Maybe next year.

96. That's my boss's job.
97. That's R&D's job.
98. I would if I could, but I can't, so I won't.
99. First, we need to benchmark the competition.
100.It's against my religion.


HOW TO GO BEYOND THESE LAME EXCUSES

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1. Make a list of your three most bothersome ones.

2. Turn each excuse into a question, beginning with the words "How can I?" or "How can we?" (For example, if your excuse is "That's R&D's job," you might ask "How can I make innovation my job?" or "How can I help my team take more responsibility for innovating?"

3. Brainstorm each question -- alone and with your team.

4. DO something about it within the next 48 hours.

Frame the right problem

Spark innovation in others
Foster a culture of innovation
Tell more meaningful stories

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

September 19, 2018
A Revolutionary New Book for Corporate Storytellers

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BIG THANKS TO JOHN GLINDEMAN, Manager of Product Development and Wellness for United Concordia, for his very supportive review of my new book, Storytelling for the Revolution.

"My job is as a corporate storyteller. That job has had titles ranging from Actuarial Associate to Manager of Product Innovation. But my role in corporate America has always been to take complex things and tell stories about them so executives can make decisions.

Storytelling for the Revolution is a great resource for anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation. The book does not assume that you like, desire, or have an innate gift for storytelling. It simply provides examples and then shows the inner workings of why these stories resonate with an audience. But beyond explaining the art, it showcases the power that storytelling has in the short attention span theater that is modern business. I see myself going back to this book many times as I craft the next big vision of the future my company should consider."

The introduction to the book
11 more Amazon reviews
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2018
How to Attract a Big AHA!

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What is it that allows some people to get creative breakthroughs while others get only creative breakdowns -- alternately blaming themselves, society, their company, and their increasingly suspect astrological configurations?

Is it true that people who experience breakthroughs are "gifted"? Or are there other factors at work -- factors that we (the people) have more control over than we might think?

While nobody can deny that some people seem to be blessed with "creative leanings" (i.e. Mozart at 4), research has shown that anyone can have the much sought after AHA! experience -- that is, IF they immerse themselves in the little understood process of creation.

Time and again, the literature bears this out: great creative breakthroughs usually happen only after intense periods of intention, immersion, struggle -- even madness.

It is sustained and focused effort towards a specific goal -- not luck, wishing, or caffeine -- that ultimately prepares the ground for creative insight. This kind of effort does not always generate immediate results and sometimes leads people to conclude that it's just not in the cards for them.

Alas, they forget during their inevitable encounters with doubt, that the BIG AHA! is never far away and can happen at any time, any place, under any condition. Let's take a look at some classic examples:

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RENE DESCARTES
Recognized as the "father of modern science," Rene Descartes offers a very interesting footnote to the history of creative breakthrough. An exceptionally gifted student in 17th century France, young Rene dropped out of school at the age of 17 upon realizing that the only thing he had learned was that he was completely ignorant.

Law school proved no better, nor did a brief stint in the military, or an aborted career as a gambler. Frustrated with the choices available to him, Descartes decided to retire at the ripe old age of 20.

While his parents, teachers, and friends pleaded with him to change his mind, young Rene was adamant, and for the next two years did little else but stay in bed, read, think, dream, and write.

Curiously, one night in the second year of his retreat, Descartes had a dream in which the essence of what we now know as the "scientific method" was revealed to him. In time, his discovery was shared with the scientific community and Western science had a new hero. Ah, the paradox of it all!

While scientists far and wide heralded Descartes for his contribution to Western, rational science, no one (in their right mind) would acknowledge that the root of Descartes' discovery came to him in a dream - a non-rational, non-linear, altered state of consciousness in the mind of a dropout!

Descartes story is not at all uncommon. The truth, the breakthrough, the AHA! came to him only after years of intense, conscious effort. Like ripe fruit, the answer made its appearance at the right time -- a time when he wasn't trying, but had let himself be receptive to the promptings of his own subconscious mind.

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ELIAS HOWE
Elias Howe had struggled for years in his attempt to invent a lock stitch sewing machine. His early designs, though inspired, were flawed. Indeed, the needle he designed had a hole in the middle of the shank, which simply didn't work. Then, one night, depressed at how slowly things were going, Howe dreamed he was captured by a bunch of savages who took him prisoner before the King.

"Elias Howe," screamed the monarch, "I command you upon the pain of death to finish this machine at once!"

Try as he might, Howe still could not find the solution. The King, making good on his word, immediately ordered his troops to take Howe to the place of "execution" (dream pun intended). As Howe was being led away, he looked up and noticed that the spears the savages were carrying had eye-shaped holes near the top! Voila!

In a flash, Howe awoke, jumped out of bed, and spent the rest of the night whittling a model of the new, improved needle -- the design breakthrough that quickly brought his experiments to a successful conclusion.

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RICHARD WAGNER
At the age of 40, Richard Wagner was going through a serious mid-life crisis. His artistic career was stalled, his marriage was falling apart, and his finances were in shambles. Desperate, he decided to travel, hoping to find some inspiration. Traveling, however, only tired him.

Then, one morning, just at the moment when he finally gave up on his frantic effort to invoke his muse, Wagner heard a musical theme in a dream -- one that was about to change his life and the history of music.

Explained Wagner, "After a night spent in fever and sleeplessness, I forced myself to take a long walk through the country. It looked dreary and desolate. Upon my return, I lay down on a hard couch. Sleep would not come, but I sank into a kind of somnambulance, in which I suddenly felt as though I were sinking in swiftly flowing water.

"The rushing noise formed itself into a musical sound, the chord of E flat major, whence developed melodic passages of increasing motion. I awoke in sudden terror, recognizing that the orchestral prelude to Das Rheingold, which must have lain long latent within me, had at last been revealed to me. I decided to return to Zurich at once and begin the composition of my great poem."

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MOZART
A prodigy? Yes. Gifted? Yes. Unusually receptive? Yes. But also tuned in to the state of mind that preceded great creative breakthroughs.

Explained Mozart, "When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer -- say traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep; it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them."

"Those pleasures that please me, I retain in memory, and am accustomed... to hum them to myself. If I continue in this way, it soon occurs to me how I may turn this or that morsel to account, so as to make a good dish of it....agreeably to the rules of counterpoint, and to the peculiarities of the various instruments."

"All this fires my soul, and provided I am not disturbed, my subject enlarges itself, becomes methodized and defined, and the whole, though it be long, stands almost complete and finished in my mind, so that I can survey it, like a fine picture or a beautiful statue, at a glance."

"Nor do I hear in my imagination the parts successively, but I hear them.....all at once. What a delight I cannot tell! All this inventing, this producing, takes place in a pleasing lively dream."

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RUDYARD KIPLING
Many people who experience supernormal moments of great creativity report a willingness to let themselves be open to the non-logical, non-linear, and unexplainable promptings of an inner voice. Maybe you call it a "hunch" or "intuition," but whatever you call it, know that paying attention to it is often the key to manifesting your vision or idea.

Rudyard Kipling, the English writer, was very much in touch with this faculty. "Most men," wrote Kipling, "keep their personal Daemon (guardian spirit) under an alias which varies with their literary or scientific attainments."

"Mine came to me early when I sat bewildered among other notions. 'Take me and no other,' it said. I obeyed and was rewarded. After that, I learned to lean upon him and recognize the sign of his approach. If ever I held back anything of myself (even though I had to throw it out afterwards), I paid for it by missing what I knew the tale lacked."

"I took good care to walk delicately, lest my Daemon should withdraw. I know that he did not, because when my books were finished they said so themselves with almost the water-hammer click of a tap turned off. 'Note here.'"

"When your Daemon is in charge, do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait, and obey."

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AUGUST KEKULE
It is not only writers and composers that have creative breakthroughs. Molecular scientists do, too. Notes the Flemish scientist, Kekule, "One fine evening I was returning by the last bus through the deserted streets of the metropolis, which are at other times so full of life."

"I fell into a reverie, and lo! the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. Whenever those diminutive beings had appeared to me before, they had always been in motion, but I had never been able to discern the nature of their motion."

"Now, however, I saw how frequently, how smaller atoms united to form a pair; how a larger one embraced two smaller ones; how still larger ones kept hold of three or even four of the smaller, while the whole kept whirring in a giddy dance."

"I saw how the larger ones formed a chain. I spent part of the night putting on paper at least a sketch of these dream forms."

Then, years later, the big illumination made it's appearance.

"I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by repeated visions of this kind, could now distinguish larger structures....long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together; all twining and twisting and snakelike motion."

"But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes! As if by a flash of lightening I awoke. Let us learn to dream, gentlemen."

Kekule had made a most remarkable discovery -- that benzene is a cyclic or ring structure and the carbon chain at the molecular core of the compound does indeed form a chain that "swallows its own tail".

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TCHAIKOVSKY
OK, all you aspiring creators, how about a tip from the man who composed the Nutcracker Suite? "Generally, the germ of a future composition comes suddenly and unexpectedly. It takes root with extraordinary force and rapidity, shoots up through the earth, puts forth branches and leaves, and finally blossoms."

"I forget everything and behave like a mad man. Everything within me starts pulsing and quivering. Hardly have I begun the sketch, before one thought follows another."

"In the midst of this magic process, it frequently happens that some external interruption awakes me from my somnabulistic state. Dreadful indeed are such interruptions. They break the thread of the inspiration."

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I realize there are no stories, in this article, about women with BIG AHA moments. The "literature" is fairly lame in this regard. Most of the anecdotes are about men. I'd like this article to be better balanced. Do you have any examples YOU can share with me -- and I will edit this posting accordingly.

Idea Champions

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

September 06, 2018
A Big Shout Out to All of the Teachers on the Planet

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In the past 12 months I have spent 90 days working very closely with Al Siraat College, an Australian school in the Islamic tradition, located in the suburbs of Melbourne. Working at the school for a month at a time, I've had an extraordinary opportunity, to see, first hand, up close and personal, both the glory and the challenge of what it takes be a teacher in 2018 and also what's required to establish the kind of school culture that is conducive to real learning.

On the glory side of the equation, there is a lot to acknowledge -- countless opportunities for teachers to make a difference in the lives of the next generation of movers and shakers... never-ending chances to open eyes, open minds, and open hearts... chances to listen, connect, nurture, empower, encourage, inspire, awaken, educate, and be a catalyst for positive change. The audience? Kids! Children! Teenagers! Multi-cultural keepers of a very special flame -- the hope for our world. The ones Thomas Edison referred to when he said that "the greatest invention in the world is the mind of a child."

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On the flip side of the equation?

The extremely hard work required of teachers to deliver real value to class after class of kids who sometimes would rather be playing, texting, sleeping, googling, eating, watching TV, daydreaming, or any number of other pursuits far more interesting to them than algebra or sitting quietly at their desks. Toss in a few dozen X factors like one-parent families, stress, English as a second language, a multiplicity of learning styles, social media, distractability, bullying, and the rites of passage most kids go through daily and you have a formula for a very challenging profession.

I want to take this moment in time to deeply THANK all of the teachers in the world for taking on the challenge of educating our children -- and for staying with it even when it seems like nothing they do is noticed, working, or appreciated.

I also want to take this moment to thank all of the hard working teachers of Al Siraat for giving it their best day after day after day after day. I know it's not easy. I know it's not always fun. I know the path forward isn't always clear. But the efforts you are making ARE bearing fruit and will CONTINUE to bear fruit in ways you have not yet imagined. Stay with it! Hang in there! Trust the process! As they say, "Rome wasn't built in a day."

And to the Staff, Administrators, Directors, and Founders of Al Siraat, allow me to take this unofficial cyberspatial moment to acknowledge YOU for all your vision, commitment, perseverance, resilience, flexibility, collaboration, courage, and willingness to learn. The world needs more people like you! Stay with it! You are being called and you are responding, with nobility, love, and respect to the source of that call.

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for the opportunity to be a part of what you are creating -- what one day may very well become a model for Islamic education in the West.

Heads of Learning
School Coordinators
Heads of Year
Middle Years Homegroup Teachers
Senior Years Homegroup Teachers
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Subject teachers
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:52 AM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2018
There Is Wisdom Inside You (and it is hiding in your stories)

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All 7.6 billion people on planet Earth are composed of the same six elements: hydrogen, oxygen, carbon, nitrogen, calcium, and phosphorous. And all 7.6 billion people, no matter where they were born or what language they speak, are composed of 75% water, 23 pairs of chromosomes, and approximately 37.2 trillion cells.

That's the measurable stuff of which we are made. But there is also some unmeasurable stuff -- that which is not immediately visible, even under a microscope. And this unmeasurable stuff is a clue to why our species has been named "homo sapiens" -- the "wise ones."

Hmmm... wise ones... really? Given the sorry state of the world these days, the "wise ones" seems like a misnomer, but in reality, it is our true nature.

Human beings are more than just carriers of viruses, projections, and DNA. We are also carriers of wisdom -- the ability to perform an action with the highest degree of adequacy under any given circumstance. "Truth in action," you might say. What Solomon was famous for. And Socrates. And a whole lot of other sages since the beginning of time. But not only known sages. Nope. Unknown sages, too. And unknown regular people, as well. Like your grandmother, for example... or your grandfather... parents... teachers... friends... neighbors... coaches or, this just in -- YOU!

Sages, Masters, and Elders may be the most historically recognized "keepers of wisdom" on the planet, but they are not the only ones. The rest of us are also keepers of wisdom. The thing is -- we don't always know it. Our wisdom is often invisible to us. Unseen. Unacknowledged. And unexpressed. Not only do we see the glass as half empty, we often don't even see the glass.

Where is our wisdom hiding? More often than not, in our stories -- much like water is hiding in underground springs and gold is hiding in mines. But just because our wisdom is hiding, it doesn't mean it's non-existent. Everybody has wisdom inside them. Everybody has something meaningful to share, based on what they've learned from the own life experiences. And the simplest, most powerful way to communicate this knowing is story.

Story is how the wisdom of the ages has been transmitted since the beginning of time. This is how our ancestors shared the best of what they knew. This is how all spiritual traditions pass on their knowledge. And this is how the best communicators on the planet communicate what is truly worth communicating.

YOU just happen to be one of those people. Your hidden stories are treasures. There is great wisdom, meaning, and inspiration in them. They need to be told. Especially these days, when the daily narrative that rules our lives is often so dark and depressing.

Are you ready? Are you willing? (I know you're able).

PHOTO: unsplash-logoGift Habeshaw

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)

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