February 12, 2019
A Super Simple Way to Upgrade Your Brainstorming Sessions

Looking for a simple, low-cost way to upgrade the quality and impact of brainstorming sessions in your organization. Here it is!



Other ways to upgrade your ideation sessions

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

February 11, 2019
27 Best Practices of High Performing Volunteer Organizations

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Unless you've been in a coma your entire life, chances are good that, at some time in your life (maybe now?) you've been a volunteer for a non-profit organization.

That's the good news.

The not-so-good news is that many volunteer organizations, without even knowing it, sabotage the value their volunteers bring to the table and you, as a result, may have backed off, gone south, or found yourself grumbling to the other volunteers.

I've recently done some informal research on the subject and have identified 27 "best practices" high performing volunteer organizations abide by. Take a peek. Then, volunteer to share the list with the leaders of whatever volunteer organizations you would like to see succeed at a higher level. Can do?

1. Clearly (and often) communicate the vision.

2. Provide clearly written job descriptions.

3. Take the time to authentically welcome volunteers and orient them to their new role.

4. Ensure that volunteers know exactly what's expected of them.

5. Start new volunteers off small. Don't scare them off with too huge of a commitment too soon.

6. Keep the workloads manageable.

7. Communicate progress being made on a regular basis. Volunteers need to see that their efforts are having impact.

8. When there are setbacks or breakdowns, learn from them -- and share your learnings with others.

9. Be prepared so you don't waste people's time.

10. Create a trusting environment that ensures open communication, teamwork, and respect for diversity.

11. Keep everyone on your team informed of the inevitable changes (i.e. direction, policy, timelines, goals, personnel etc.)

12. Provide opportunities for volunteers to switch to different roles they might find more enjoyable.

13. Give and receive feedback (both formally and informally).

14. Provide opportunities for volunteers to learn and grow.

15. Honor your commitments (and if, for any reason, you cannot -- renegotiate them with volunteers).

16. Give volunteers the opportunity to take breaks from the project.

17. Make sure volunteers know they can say "no" if they are overextended or overwhelmed.

18. Enthusiastically acknowledge successes, especially "small wins").

19. Be kind and respectful in all your interactions.

20. Do your best to make sure everyone is enjoying the process of participating.

21. Respond to input, questions, and feedback as soon as possible. Don't leave people hanging.

22. Build some interpersonal "chat time" into your meetings and conference calls.

23. Teach volunteers, in leadership positions, how to delegate.

24. Even when you are stressed or behind deadline, take the time to make sure your emails have a feeling of warmth to them.

25. Fill out Project Briefs on all projects you are inviting volunteer participation -- and share them with volunteers.

25. Conduct exit interviews whenever a volunteer ends their participation or is asked to step aside.

26. Share your learnings from the exit interviews with other managers.

27. Follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:01 PM | Comments (1)

February 09, 2019
The Four Currents of a Culture of Innovation

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I've been doing a lot of thinking these days about "culture of innovation" -- trying to get down to the root of what the heck it's all about.

It's easy to wax poetic about the topic (and a lot of people do), but too much of the stuff I've been reading sounds like bad advertising copy for motherhood and apple pie.

So, at the risk of oversimplifying the whole thing, here's my blogospheric whack at boiling the mumbo jumbo down to the core.

If you want to create a sustainable culture of innovation, you will need to understand that there are always four forces at work -- four currents that are always interacting with each other:

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1. Top Down
2. Bottom Up
3. Outside In
4. Inside Out

1. TOP DOWN: It is essential that the leaders of your organization play a "culture-enhancing role" far more than they currently do. They may not think they have the time or the experience, but they've got to step up to the plate and really own the effort.

The people in the trenches need to know that the head honchos not only care about innovation, but are willing to do whatever it takes to establish a company culture conducive to it.

I'm not advocating phony pep talks from the C-Suite. I'm advocating that senior leaders actually lead the effort. I'm advocating that all those wonderful people with three letter acronyms after their name walk the innovation talk... stir the soup... shake and bake... and do everything they can do to martial company resources in whatever way is necessary to transform "business as usual" to "I love this place and I can't wait to get to work." Yes, it's possible.

2. BOTTOM UP:
If an organization wants to innovate, it will need to get everyone into the act. Not just senior leaders. Not just R&D. Everyone. Ideas -- the fuzzy front end of innovation -- can come from anywhere, anytime. When an organization really GETS this and finds new ways to tap the collective brainpower of the workforce, the culture starts changing for the better. People become more proactive. More energized. More passionate about their work.

Indeed, it could easily be said that the democratization of the workplace is one of the most important social movements of the 21st century. As power and decision-making trickle down, creative output ratchets up. People become self-organizing, self-directed and, on a really good day, selflessly committed to being a force for positive change.

3. OUTSIDE IN: Establishing a culture of innovation is only meaningful if the fruits of the effort yield the kind of results that are valued by your customers. Otherwise, the effort to "change the culture" will turn into some kind of weird, solipsistic ritual that will have no impact on the people you are serving.

Do you know who your customers are? Do you know what they want? Do you have any kind of process in place to track changing market conditions, demographics, and emerging trends? Have you figured out how to get real feedback and input from your customers -- how to include them in your ideation process?

4. INSIDE OUT: Ah... now we're really getting down to it. If you want a culture of innovation, you will need to find a way to unleash the passion, fascination, and inspiration of your workforce.

Not by dangling carrots and sticks (read Dan Pink's new book, Drive, if you doubt me), but by finding a way to activate the innate desire for meaning, enjoyment, and success that is buried deep within the bones of every single person who shows up for work day after day.

Organizations don't innovate. People do.

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If you can find a way to unlock the primal mojo of your workforce, you won't need to manage as much as you do. You won't need to rely so heavily on incentive plans, performance reviews, pep talks, frowns, and punishment.

That stuff only exists because your workforce is disengaged.

But when people are on fire with purpose, in touch with their own authentic desire to create, a culture of innovation will naturally evolve.

A big thank you to Val Vadeboncoeur, Tim Moore, Barry Gruenberg, Paul Roth, and Michael Pergola for their humongous collaboration, insight, creativity, and perseverance on this topic.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:27 PM | Comments (5)

February 04, 2019
Why Tell Stories?

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In the last 60 seconds, here's what happened:

168 million emails were sent, 700,000 Google searches were launched, and 60 hours of YouTube videos were uploaded, not to mention all the spam, banner ads, phone calls, Facebook posts, tweets, texts, and telemarketing calls that found their way to your doorstep.

A whopping 90% of all data in the world has been generated in the past two years alone. Think about this: Before the dawn of civilization, approximately 5 exabytes of information had been created. Now, that much information is created every two days!

The common term for this head-spinning phenomenon is "information overload" -- the inability to absorb and process all of the information we are exposed to.

And while the gory statistics change every nanosecond, the results are the same -- leading to what is increasingly being referred to as "Information Fatigue Syndrome" (IFS) -- a condition whose symptoms include poor concentration, depression, burnout, hostility, compulsive checking of social media, and falling into trance-like states.

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This describes the mindset of many, if not all, of the people you are attempting to influence on a day-to-day basis, be they customers, clients, friends, voters, volunteers, children, or your mother-in-law.

If you are committed to delivering a meaningful, memorable message to another human being, the burning question you need to be asking is this: "How can I cut through all of the background noise so my message can heard and remembered?"

Fear not. It's possible. According to neuroscientists, psychologists, theologians, sociologists, advertisers, linguists, and marketers, the answer is a simple one: storytelling.

Storytelling is the most effective, time-tested way to transmit meaning from one human being to another. It's been going on since the beginning of time when our first ancestors stood around the tribal fire. It's how civilizations pass on their wisdom to the next generation. It's how religions pass on the sacred teachings of their faith. And it's how parents, via the telling of fairy tales, transmit the values they want to impart to their children.

Here are just a few of the reasons why storytelling is so powerful:

It quickly establishes trust and connection between the speaker and listener.

It increases receptivity, captures attention, engages emotions, and allows the receiver to participate, cognitively, in the narrative.

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It communicates values, not just skills, decreases teaching time, builds community, ignites five more regions of the brain than mere fact giving, helps people make sense of their world, shapes perceptions via the subconscious mind, reframes frustration, paradox, and suffering, changes behavior, and provides a dependable way for people to remember, retrieve, and retell a meaningful message.

Think about a message you want to communicate to someone today. How might you do that via story, instead of overloading them with more information, statistics, and pep talks?

Storytelling at Work
Storytelling for the Revolution
My storytelling blog

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

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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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"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.
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