January 30, 2019
The Art of REALLY Showing Up at a Brainstorm Session

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So... you've just been invited to participate in a brainstorm session. Congratulations!

SOMEBODY out there thinks you're smart. SOMEBODY out there thinks you're creative. SOMEBODY out there thinks you can help them with... whatever. So, Congratulations! You should feel complimented, honored.

Want a bit of advice from someone who's been facilitating brainstorming sessions since 1990? (Well, you're gonna get it, anyway!) Take advantage of the opportunity!

Show up ready to give 100% of your attention to the task. Show up as if the success of the session depends on YOU... because it kind of does.

Organize your schedule so you won't have nagging issues or problems back on the job tugging at your attention. Clear your head going in. Leave your worries and title at the door. Leave your cellphone in the upright, locked position as well. Be ready for takeoff.

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Bring your best focus and energy to the process. Listen to the ideas of others and see if you can piggyback on them. Come up with an improvement, or tweak, to another's idea or come up with a related idea. Heck, come up with a seemingly unrelated idea as well. Just generate ideas... one after the other.

Realize that, in a brainstorm session, the group is trying to create a LOT of ideas, at least at the start. So, if an idea comes to mind, articulate it immediately. Don't delay because of your own fear that the idea may not be big, new, or cool enough. Your idea, such as it is, may spark someone else to come up with a BIG idea. So, out with it!

Don't be a passenger or extra baggage. Lean in and help... even if it's just with your attention. Every time your mind wanders, for whatever reason, you're hurting the session. Every time you're paying attention, you're helping. So, help.

Don't be the leak in the bucket. Take pride in your own ability to originate and develop ideas. And take pleasure in helping others do the same. Expect others to be great.

Use the session as an opportunity to practice concentration. Use the session as an opportunity to practice creativity. Be open to magic happening. There's magic in several people focusing on one thing together. The key is that they're all FOCUSING on the same thing at the same time!

Be in the moment. Be present. Be playful! Have fun! Explore new possibilities!

Be the guy or gal who EVERYONE wants in their brainstorm session because you bring so much to the table... as in so much of yourself.

Val Vadeboncoeur

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2019
The Innovator's Three Word Mantra

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OK. Here's the deal: There is something you want to create... begin... invent... change... complete... manifest... birth... or quicken. You've been thinking about it for a loooooong time. You may have even been working on it. But it still ain't happening. So, forget the past for a moment and contemplate the cool graphic above. Are you willing to do WHATEVER IT TAKES to bring your idea or project to fruition? If so, what does that look like to you? And what is your next step?

Idea Champions
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The coolest brainstorm facilitation training on the planet
Illustration: gapingvoid

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2019
The Samurai Guide To Managing Difficult Clients (& having a life)

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You are smart. You are creative. You are committed. And you have an awesome grasp of social media. Of course you do, you are a mover and a shaker in a company trying to stay relevant, make some magic, and diffentiate itself from the competition. You are also going slightly insane.

Why? Because your clients routinely make insane demands on you, expecting miracles with very little notice. Part of you actually enjoys this phenomenon, given your fascination for big challenges and the ever-present potential to become heroic. Another part of you does not enjoy this phenomenon, often feeling like the deck is stacked against you. And guess what? It is -- not just because your client --internal or external, older, higher paid, or more experienced -- is constantly disregarding the fact that you have a life outside the workplace, but because this kind of client-driven behavior, unfortunately, has become the norm these days.

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Is there as way out of this madness? Yes there is. And it has everything to do with how you manage your clients. True, there is no formula or algorithm for how to do this, but it can be done. Yes, it can -- all modulated through your own particular style and your client's personality.

For starters, here are ten simple guidelines. Pick one and begin.

TEN SIMPLE WAYS TO BETTER MANAGE YOUR CLIENTS

1. Help your client translate their over-the-top request into a question that begins with the words "How can we?" The effort to frame a pressing challenge in the form of a "How can we?" question will open up the conversation, reveal hidden challenges for the two of you consider, and cut to the chase in an elegant, time-efficient way.

2. Get your client to describe their vision of success. The clearer your clients are about what their "hoped for outcomes" are, the more you will understand what's really required to get results.

3. Establish clear agreements and protocols at the beginning of the relationship. Let your clients know what you can do and what you can't do -- what you will do and what you won't. There will likely be a little voice in your head wondering if this will "fly" with the client. Relax. It will. In fact your client will respect you more for clarifying your boundaries.

4. When asked for a super-quick turnaround of a project, let your client know what you are able to deliver and what you are not able to deliver in the time frame requested. Let he/she know what the trade-offs are. Once your client becomes knowledgeable about the downsides of such a quick turnaround, he/she will be more likely to extend the deadline.

5. Speak the truth. If you know a particular request is impossible to fulfill in the time allotted, say so -- and offer an alternative fall back date. Even an extra day or two on a project can make all the difference in the world.

6. Be sure to ask "by when" your client needs the deliverable. Poke at the so-called deadline. Often, a client's request "by yesterday" means "a week from now," or "by Thursday", not "tomorrow." Don't assume your client's anxiety or lack of planning means you have to work all weekend.

7. Ask your client for the names and contact numbers of key people on their team (or in their company) -- resources you can contact on a moment's notice, especially when your client is unavailable.

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8. Practice "reflective listening" -- sometimes known as "checking for understanding." This is simple to do. For example, if your client makes a request of you at 4:59 pm on Friday (or any time, for that matter), restate your understanding of the request, i.e. "If I understand you correctly, you are asking my team and I to launch a new viral video for your company no later than tomorrow morning -- one that will get 10 million views by Monday. Is that accurate?" If it is (and you agree), at least you know what your mission is. If it's not (or gives your client pause), the two of you will be able to make some last-minute adjustments to your marching orders.

9. Realize that pushing back and saying "no" is not the same thing as being "negative." Your goal is to create a collaborative relationship, not an abusive one. You want to be a partner, not a slave -- a consultant/advisor, not a whipping boy or girl.

10. Feel free to give your clients feedback, not just head nods. Unfortunately, very few people know how to give feedback in a meaningful, effective, non-threatening way. And so they say nothing. Not a good idea. One feedback format you might consider using is called LCS. It takes only a few minutes, sometimes less. Here's how it works.

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When you need big ideas and are super-time crunched
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:58 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2019
BRAINSTORM TRAINING: OnSite, Online, and On-the-Fly

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Do the people in your organization treat invitations to brainstorming sessions like jury duty summons? Do the ideas generated all-too-often underwhelm? Does group think tend to take over? If so, Idea Champions can help.

Brainstorming, in most companies, is seriously flawed, an exercise in wheel spinning, futility, and lost potential -- not because brainstorming, as a method, is flawed, but because the people who lead brainstorm sessions don't fully understand the art and science of eliciting group genius.

For the past 28 years, we've been facilitating groundbreaking ideation sessions for a wide variety of forward thinking organizations -- powerful innovation-sparking gatherings that radically increase the odds of bold, new ideas seeing the light of day. And now, we're teaching what we know to others.

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Our Conducting Genius training is a highly engaging, customizable learning experience that can be adapted to fit the needs, social styles, and experience of just about any participant. And because we know that one size doesn't fit all, we're offering a wide range of training options -- onsite, online, and on-the-fly.

ONSITE: Whenever time, money, and logistics allow, we advise our clients to consider our onsite training. Past experience has shown us that learning goes deeper and lasts longer in this format. Indeed, mastering the art of brainstorm facilitation is a kind of apprenticeship -- a transfer of tacit knowledge that is best sparked live and in-person.

-- Two-hours
-- Half-day
-- One-day
-- Two-days
-- Three-days

The difference between our shorter and longer trainings? The stickiness of the learning. Number of techniques taught. Time available for practice. And confidence level attained. Regardless of the duration of the training you select, all content is adapted from our Master Curriculum.)

ONLINE: If you have a distributed, maxed-out workforce that makes it difficult (or too expensive) for people to get together at the same time and place, we offer an alternative training scenario. Our online Conducting Genius training does not require travel and can be done in 90-minute increments over a TBD period of time. Includes our 142-page workbook, pre-training needs assessment, and customization.

-- One 90-minute module
-- Four 90-minute modules
-- Six 90-minute modules
-- Eight 90-minute minute modules
-- Twelve 90-minute modules

ON THE FLY: (i.e Flipped Learning): If our onsite or online training options don't work for you, perhaps our flipped learning option will. It is especially designed for intrinsically motivated people who prefer to study our instructional content first and then decide if an onsite or online training will be value-added. Our flipped learning process is a simple one: we ship a Conducting Genius workbook and deck of Free the Genie cards to each participant, along with guidelines to get the most out of our materials. Thirty days later, we facilitate a 45-minute Q&A conference call and determine if there is a need for onsite or online follow-up training.

FOLLOW UP: You know the expression "Dying is easy. Comedy is hard?" Well, there is a training corollary to that phrase: "Training is easy. Follow-up is hard." Knowing how busy most of our clients are these days and how much support they need to internalize and apply what we teach them, we offer five ways for graduates to stay in the game. post-training.

1. Micro-Learning: An online curriculum of videos, articles, tips, tools, and techniques that we email graduates, once a week, for an entire year. Each Micro-Learning lesson takes less than ten minutes to imbibe.

2. Phone Coaching: One-on-one coaching calls to keep everyone on top of their game -- a chance to share their successes, progress, challenges, and questions, as well as receive just-in-time support from their Idea Champions Master Trainer. Group calls available.

3. Design of the Times: A chance for Conducting Genius graduates to call their Idea Champions Master Trainer anytime before facilitating a session to get the support they need to make sure they are ready for prime time.

4. Co-Facilitation: It's not uncommon for graduates of a Conducting Genius training to find themselves being asked by management to facilitate high profile client ideation sessions. For these special occasions, Idea Champions can co-facilitate with you.

5. Pinch-Hit Facilitation: If your company has been asked to facilitate a super high-level client ideation session and none of the Conducting Genius graduates feel up to task (or are unavailable), Idea Champions can pitch hit. In other words, we'll facilitate client sessions that might be too difficult or challenging for your staff facilitators.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2019
INTRODUCING: The Wisdom Circles of San Miguel de Allende

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San Miguel de Allende is famous for a lot of things -- its diverse culture, colonial architecture, hot springs, cobblestone streets, affordable living, great restaurants, town square, benevolent people, and Writer's Conference, just to name a few. One thing it is NOT famous for, at least not yet, is its Wisdom Circles.

If you have not heard of Wisdom Circles, you are in good company because they are a new phenomenon in San Miguel. Created by Mitch Ditkoff, organizational change agent, and author of Storytelling at Work, and Storytelling for the Revolution, Wisdom Circles are a fascinating, new way to build community, elevate the conversation, and transmit wisdom one story at a time.

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The premise of a Wisdom Circle is a simple one: inside of each and every human being is a vast storehouse of meaningful experience, insight, inspiration, and life-affirming moments of truth. What's missing, all too often, however, is the opportunity to share this good stuff with people who are listening and present.

That's what happens in a Wisdom Circle.

A small group of people (8-12) get together for two hours at a time, in a relaxed, skillfully facilitated forum (usually in someone's home), to share their stories with each other. Participation is voluntary. Some people, in the circle, are inspired to share their stories. Others are content simply to listen and take it all in. Both are needed. Both are fine. No pressure. No sweat. No problema. Just good energy.

And while participants in a Wisdom Circle may not necessarily perceive themselves to be sages, wizards, or keepers of wisdom, the stories they tell prove otherwise -- especially when their stories are "unpacked" for meaning and resonance by the other people in the circle.

Bottom line, San Miguel's Wisdom Circles are engaging, fun, healing, mind-opening, provocative, and enjoyable gatherings that enable each participant, through the medium of story, to embrace the totality of what it means to be a real human being.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE: 7:00 -- 9:00 pm

January 23
February 6
February 20
March 6
March 20
April 3

COST: 200 pesos (1/23). 300 pesos thereafter.
TO REGISTER: mitch@ideachampions.com

Want to host a Wisdom Circle in your own home with your own circle of friends and neighors? It's possible. Just ask.

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Illustration: PougetDigital
THE FACILITATOR: Mitch Ditkoff
A sample testimonial

PS: In a few months, I will be taking Wisdom Circles on the road, offering them in homes, communities, and businesses around the world. Details to follow. The simplest way to get me to your city is to set up a keynote or workshop for me with an organization. They will pay my expenses. Then, I will already be in your town or city and can do a few wisdom circles, too. Maybe, even, in your home. Whoo hoo!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:42 PM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2019
When You Love What You Do

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We love what we do -- helping forward-thinking organizations go beyond the status quo and tap into the collective genius of their workforce. Here's one way we do it. And here are some others.

What our clients say
Illustration: gapingvoid

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:26 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2019
Why You Need to Ask Why

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Some years ago, there was a big problem at one of America's most treasured monuments -- the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC. Simply put, birds, in huge numbers, were pooping all over it, which made visiting the place a very unpleasant experience. Attempts to remedy the situation caused even bigger problems, since the harsh cleaning detergents being used were damaging the memorial.

Fortunately, some of the National Parks managers assigned to the case began asking WHY -- as in "Why was the Jefferson Memorial so much more of a target for birds than any of the other memorials?"

A little bit of investigation revealed the following:

The birds were attracted to the Jefferson Memorial because of the abundance of spiders -- a gourmet treat for birds.

The spiders were attracted to the Memorial because of the abundance of midges (insects) that were nesting there.

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And the midges were attracted to the Memorial because of the light.

Midges, it turns out, like to procreate in places were the light is just so -- and because the lights were turned on, at the Jefferson Memorial, one hour before dark, it created the kind of mood lighting that midges went crazy for.

So there you have it: The midges were attracted to the light. The spiders were attracted to the midges. The birds were attracted to the spiders. And the National Parks workers, though not necessarily attracted to the bird poop, were attracted to getting paid -- so they spent a lot of their time (and taxpayer money) cleaning the Memorial.

How did the situation resolve? Very simply. After reviewing the curious chain of events that led up to the problem, the decision was made to wait until dark before turning the lights on at the Jefferson Memorial. That one-hour delay was enough to ruin the mood lighting for the midges, who then decided to have midge sex somewhere else.

No midges, no spiders. No spiders, no birds. No birds, no poop. No poop, no need to clean the Jefferson Memorial so often. Case closed.

Now, consider what "solutions" might have been forthcoming if those curious National Parks managers did not stop and ask WHY:

1. Hire more workers to clean the Memorial
2. Ask existing workers to work overtime
3. Experiment with different kinds of cleaning materials
4. Put bird poison all around the memorial
5. Hire hunters to shoot the birds
6. Encase the entire Jefferson Memorial in Plexiglas
7. Move the Memorial to another part of Washington
8. Close the site to the general public

Technically speaking, each of the above "solutions" was a possible approach -- but at great cost, inconvenience, and with questionable results. They were, shall we say, not exactly elegant solutions.

Now, think about YOUR business... YOUR company... YOUR life. What problems are you facing that could be approached differently simply by asking WHY.... and then WHY again... and then WHY again.. until you get to the core of the issue? If you don't, you may just end up solving the wrong problem.

THE FIVE WHYS TECHNIQUE

1. Name a problem you're having
2. Ask WHY it's happening
3. Get an answer
4. Then WHY about that
5. Get an answer
6. Then ask WHY about that -- and so on, five times

Our new, half-day, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM workshop
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:41 PM | Comments (2)

January 09, 2019
INNOVATION MICRO-LEARNING (in less than 15 minutes per week)

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This. Just. In. None of Idea Champions clients have any time. And because they don't, we have recently launched an exciting, new micro-learning service to help them stay on top of their innovation game. In less than 15 minutes per week. Virtually. At whatever time is convenient for them. Click here to take our micro-learning poll and see what micro-learning topics we are offering in 2019.

More about it here

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

January 03, 2019
Sun Tzu on Preparation

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"Every battle is won or lost before it is fought." - Sun Tzu

What challenge or opportunity is coming up for you that will require a higher level of preparation than you usually make? What extra effort are you willing to make in order to prepare? What might prevent you from making the kind of effort you know you need to make?

How can you create the support you need to ensure that your preparation efforts succeed?

MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:04 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.

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
Cultivating Innovation
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.
Our Blog Cabin
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.
Team Innovation
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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Webinars for online training If you enjoy our blog, you will love our newly launched webinars! Our training is now accessible online to the whole world.
Awake at the Wheel, Book about big ideas If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing, Awake at the Wheel is for you. Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
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