June 29, 2019
What PR Firms Say About Our Brainstorm Facilitation Training

Idea Champions has trained quite a few PR and Marketing firms in the art and science of facilitating breakthrough brainstorming sessions. What follows is a sampling of the feedback we have received.

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"At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Idea Champions' ability to quickly and effectively teach my colleagues and me how to facilitate brainstorming sessions changed the future of our business. We went from being viewed by our clients as their agency to being respected as essential teammates that help them arrive at BIG IDEAS. I can't wait to learn more from Idea Champions. So many good things to come!" - Mandy Kalajian, Vice President, Mirrorball

"Our success as a firm depends on our ability to think about tough challenges in new and creative ways, often on short timelines. The Idea Champions Conducting Genius training gave us the tools to better unleash the full potential of our employees and clients. And we had fun while doing it! Thanks to Val and Mitch, we're challenging our assumptions, asking the right questions, and using creative thinking techniques to bring our best ideas forward." - Natalie Giordano, Director, Purple Strategies

"Idea Champions' three-day Conducting Genius training was engaging, fun and informative. I feel empowered as a facilitator and confident in my skills and ability. Mitch and Val were fantastic teachers -- I was sad when it was over!" - Blue State Digital

"Idea Champions came to consult with MBooth just weeks after we were named 'Creative Agency of the Year' and helped us unlock an even greater level of thinking for our clients across the board. The creative shift came almost immediately after our sessions with Idea Champions began and continued to grow exponentially with each session. Now, our thinking is more innovative, more strategic and reached more efficiently." - Andrew Rossi, Creative Director, MBooth & Associates

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"In just a few weeks since we completed the Conducting Genius training, our facilitators have received numerous pieces of feedback from clients and colleagues saying that the training enabled us to extract more creative and strategic thinking from teams than had been the norm prior to the training." - Diana Muggeridge, Account Coordinator, Purple Strategies

"My co-workers and I spent exactly eight consecutive hours with Idea Champions. The learnings from that session instantly changed the way we run our ideation sessions -- both internally and externally with our clients. The techniques and processes we learned were beyond enlightening and have already garnered exponential returns. And speaking for a business that's fueled on creative thinking, I can think of no better investment of our time." - Steve Papageorge, Creative Director, Mirrorball

"Conducting Genius gave me the foundational skills needed to understand the underlying purpose of building and conducting effective brainstorms and how to apply those skills within my teams." - Caroline Sage, Account Manager, Purple Strategies

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"The skills that Idea Champions taught our group have been invaluable and have changed the way that we do business both externally and internally. They strengthened our ability to lead brainstorm sessions, ensuring that we are asking the most valuable questions, creating the proper environment, and building an agenda of techniques that will best elicit our clients' insights and ideas. The techniques we learned have also been built into our internal brainstorms. The LCS technique has single-handedly changed the way that we approach ideas that we may have had an initial negative reaction to. We are true believers in the power of effective brainstorming, and plan to continue investing in these skills as a company!" - Hillary Daniel, Cultural Programs Director, Mirrorball

"We did the three-day version of Conducting Genius, and I wish it could've been even longer! By far the most fun, useful, productive, and engaging training I've ever attended." - Blue State Digital

"We found Idea Champions in a desperate search for brainstorm facilitation training and haven't looked back. During the past few months, they've helped us harness our naturally innovative spirit and significantly improved the way we execute our ideation process. We now have the tools and process we need to dig deeper into our creativity -- adding a lot more value and power to our company culture." - Jody Johnson, Chief People Officer, M Booth & Associates

"It felt like summer camp for creative nerds." - Blue State Digital

"Everyone who participated in the training felt they walked away with new skills to bring back to the office. I will be leading the charge to change the way our company brainstorms as a result of your training." - Meggan Lawler, BSMG Worldwide

"Not only was the Idea Champions training session extremely informative, it was super fun and engaging. I left the room not only as a more creative thinker, but am also more comfortable and confident in my ability to help others be more creative." - Jennie Liang, Senior Brand Planner, MWW

"After the session, I felt energized and empowered -- ready to lead a brainstorm, boss a meeting, and infuse my work with more creativity and thought. Val and Mitch are magicians -- and they passed some of that magic on to us." - Blue State Digital

"Working with Idea Champions was awesome. Our team walked away from the training with an arsenal full of inspirational tools that we're excited to begin sharing agency-wide. With our takeaways from the training we have a lot of exciting opportunities to use the tools give to us to inspire the adoption of a new collaborative and collective mindset agency-wide." - Laura Hansen, Marketing Manager, MWW

"The Idea Champions training was well-planned with pre-session surveys done of each member, allowing the training to be customized to our specific needs. The training was targeted and informative, resulting in us learning multiple brainstorm tactics to assist in getting better results." - Molly Monceaux, Ideation Manager, Just Marketing International

"The most impactful takeaway for me personally from our team's Idea Champions' training was that something as basic to business as the brainstorm can have an impact on a much larger scale. As an agency-wide team, if we're all willing to accept a new and collective mindset, the act of brainstorming then becomes a catalyst for creating a culture of collaboration and creativity which extends well beyond the brainstorm - it will become ingrained within our agency culture." - Mike Petite, Art Director, MWW

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"Spending a day working with Idea Champions completely changed the way I thought about brainstorming. They provided the insights and tools we needed to conduct far more productive meetings, and reframed what it really means to think creatively. I'm looking forward to putting their techniques into action and coming away with more robust, better informed and far more relevant solutions for our clients' needs.' - Anthony Sorrentino, Director of Data & Analytics, MWW

"The Idea Champions training session was a great one-day experience. I learned a ton of new techniques and exercises that will definitely help spur some innovative and creative thinking at MWW!" - Colleen Finley, Senior Account Executive

"Idea Champions' Conducting Genius training program guided my team and I in four key areas: 1) Specific brainstorming exercises; 2) Best practices in facilitation; 3) Structuring agendas, and; 4) Ways to bring fun and energy to the group. The training played an instrumental role in the success of our future sessions." - Sebastian Koper, Project Manager, Roland Berger Strategy Consultants

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STEVEN COVEY on Listening

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June 27, 2019
Welcome to The Gold Standard of Brainstorm Facilitation

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Here's what Idea Champions' clients have to say about the value they've received from engaging our brainstorm facilitation services.

"Through your brainstorm facilitation, we gained more than 100 original ideas of high quality. The best of these will guide AT&T's development for years to come." - Robert Rubin, CCS Product Development, AT&T

"As a result of Idea Champions' efforts we have implemented more than 250 value-added Big Idea projects." -- Joe Belinsky, Professional Development Manager, Goodyear Rubber and Tire

"Several of the ideas we came up with in the Idea Champions session are being developed into concrete projects that are looking like very profitable opportunities." - Rudy Villa, VP, GE/RCA Licensing

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"I want to note how impressed we all were with Idea Champions' insight and understanding of our business and creative needs, as well as the varied and constructive techniques you used to take us through the creative process." - Gabrielle Del Sesto, VP, MTV Networks

"Thank you for doing such an outstanding job and encouraging participants to step outside their limiting assumptions. Your session definitely helped us generate lots of great ideas to activate our positioning around the world." - Charlotte Oades, Director, Brand Marketing, The Coca Cola Company

"Extremely engaging and enlightening brainstorming sessions" - Karen Lazan, Marketing Director, Pfizer

"Superb! Everyone was impressed with your ability to spark and harness the collective ingenuity of our group." - Craig Harden, Global Risk Manager, Scotia Capital

"Idea Champions helped us generate powerful new ideas and engage with such energy that, six months later, their impact still hasn't worn off! As a direct outcome of the Idea Champions' session, students and faculty are actively working on several new projects that will make our College even more entrepreneurial! Thank you!" -- Candida G. Brush, Chair: Entrepreneurship Division, Babson College

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"The Idea Champions team brings a creative, energetic and fun approach to idea generation. The tools and techniques they have brought to Atlanticare are enabling us to build a true Garden of Innovation."
- Terri Schieder, VP, Clinical Development and Integration, Atlanticare

"Idea Champions has the unique quality to combine zany out-of-box thinking with a pragmatic approach that appealed to every participant in the session. Even those who relish the status quo and the proven way of doing things couldn't help but relax, laugh, and lean into their untapped creativity. Participants left the session feeling hopeful and powerful about their individual ability to create and innovate." - Maureen Toshner, Director, Organizational Development & Learning, Charter Manufacturing

"At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Idea Champions' ability to teach my colleagues and me how to facilitate brainstorming sessions changed the future of our business. We went from being viewed by our clients as their agency to being respected as essential teammates that help them arrive at big ideas." - Mandy Kalijian, VP, Mirrorball

"No organization, especially those in Health Care, can expect to thrive without drawing on the collective talent and ideas of their workforce. Idea Champions helped us discover and apply those talents and ideas in a highly productive and practical system." - Don Parker, President, AtlantiCare Health Care Systems

"Idea Champions came to consult with MBooth just weeks after we were named 'Creative Agency of the Year' and helped us unlock an even greater level of thinking for our clients across the board. The creative shift came almost immediately after our sessions with Idea Champions began and continued to grow exponentially with each session. Now, our thinking is more innovative, more strategic and reached more efficiently." - Andrew Rossi, Creative Director, MBooth & Associates

"Your High Velocity Brainstorming sessions were wonderful. We achieved all the goals we set out to accomplish and more." - Sue Mongeon, Staff Manager, AT&T

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The Paradox of Innovation

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My big insight about innovation these days would make Nobel Prize winner, Niels Bohr, proud.

"Now that we have met with paradox," explained Dr. Bohr, "we have some hope of making progress."

Innovation is full of it -- paradox, that is.

On one hand, organizations want structures, maps, models, guidelines, and systems. On the other hand, that's all too often the stuff that squelches innovation, driving it underground or out the door.

The noble search for a so-called "innovation process" can easily become a seduction, addiction, or distraction whereby innovation is marginalized, deferred, over-engineered, and worn like a badge.

True innovation is about allowing room enough for paradox to be a teacher and guide -- and to accept, at least for a little longer than usual, ambiguity, dissonance, and discomfort -- the age-old precursors to breakthrough.

Remember, there's a big difference between Six Sigma and Innovation.

Six Sigma is about reducing variability. Innovation is about increasing it-- and that often means allowing the kind of "messiness" that process-mavens interpret as a problem needing to be fixed, rather than a pre-condition to breakthrough and the resulting commercialization of that breakthrough that most people refer to as "innovation."

Yes, process, structures, systems are necessary, but they don't have to become overly pre-emptive. If you stay in an innovative mindset and can adapt to emerging needs, they will eventually become self-organizing when the soul of innovation is allowed to flourish.

Can we help the "innovation process" along with the right application of strategy, infrastructure, and planning?

Of course we can.

But beware! "Helping" the process too much often becomes counterproductive -- much in the same way that attempting to catch a milkweed floating through the air with a bold reach of your hand actually repels the object of your desire.

Innovation Physics 101.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:24 AM | Comments (3)

June 24, 2019
How to Tell a Good Story

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Let's start with the basics: You already know how to tell a good story. You do. You've been telling stories your entire life. Today, you probably told at least a few. And later, tonight, you will probably tell some more -- whether they are merely accounts of your day, a memorable encounter you had at work, or a reminiscence from days gone by.

Story is the ocean we are swimming in. And because it is, we don't necessarily feel wet when we're in it, but we are.

Fish aren't taught to swim. And you aren't taught to tell stories. As a child, you didn't need to be taught. All you needed was to hear them and them tell them to others -- which you did -- everything from The Three Little Pigs to Jack and the Beanstalk to the excuses you laid on your teachers for not handing in your homework on time.

Of course, if you had to teach someone how to tell a story in the next ten minutes, you would probably resist because you don't necessarily know how you do it. But just because you don't, doesn't mean you lack the knowledge or the skill. You don't. It's in there. It is.

Storytelling is what psychologists refer to as an "unconscious competence" -- a skill, like walking, eating, or complaining that has become second nature to us. It's in our bones and has been since we were very young. And while you may not be as skillful a storyteller as Garrison Keillor, you don't need to be a Garrison Keillor in order to be a good storyteller. In fact, you don't want to be Garrison Keillor. You want to be yourself. Because being yourself is one of the secrets to being a good storyteller.

Is this just a story I'm telling you -- a way to pump you up and get you past your resistances? No, it's not. Having been a professional communicator for the past 27 years and having worked with thousands of people from just about every industry on planet Earth, I've seen, first hand, the extraordinary, untapped and unexpressed ability people have to go beyond their assumptions of who they are, what they do, and how they do it.

Where to begin? With one simple commitment: To stop telling yourself the story that you don't know how to tell a good story.

Willing? If so, the rest of this essay is for you. Unwilling? No problem. Either skip the next few paragraphs or take a nap. Ultimately, there is only one thing you need to know if you want to tell a good story: Storytelling is part art and part science. And of the two, it's more about the art than it is about the science.

Communicating your humanity is the art. The more human you are willing to be (i.e. not perfect, not an expert, not a superhero), the more likely it is that people will connect with your story.

The key to communicating your humanity? Your passion for telling your story, your respect for your audience, your authenticity, your understanding that people will get what they need without you teaching or preaching, and your ability to engage the attention of the people you are telling your story to. All of the preceding requires the right application of eight subtle factors: voice tonality, body language, facial gestures, hand movement, pacing, adapting to the non-verbal cues from your audience, how evocative you are, and the choice of what details to include, embellish, or ignore.

Can these factors be learned? Of course they can -- much in the same way that aspiring actors go to acting class. But the real key to successful storytelling is less about study than it is about practice. The more stories you tell, the better you'll get. It's as simple as that. Real-time, you'll figure out what works and what doesn't work and then make the necessary adjustments in order to improve.

The science of telling a good story is much less complicated that you think. Fundamentally, it's about structure and the inter-relationships of the elements that comprise the structure. Just like a house needs a foundation, framing, walls, and a roof if it wants to fulfill its purpose, a story needs structure, too. Once you understand the elements of story structure, you're on your way.

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What are those elements? There are five, just like the fingers on the hand you use to make a point.

1. Setting (where your story takes place)
2. Character (the hero/heroine/protagonist who has adventures)
3. Plot (the events that unfold, the arc of what happens)
4. Conflict (the obstacles the characters encounter)
5. Theme (the resolution of the conflict, what's been learned along the way)

What story are willing willing to tell in the workplace -- a story that will inspire and help spark an innovative mindset?

My storytelling blog

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:34 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2019
50 Quotes on Risk Taking

Hand2Mountain.jpg1. "Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it." -- Goethe

2. "Security is mostly a superstition. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." -- Helen Keller

3. "It's not because things are difficult that we dare not venture. It's because we dare not venture that they are difficult." -- Seneca

4. "Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far it is possible to go." -- T.S. Eliot

5. "What you have to do and the way you have to do it is incredibly simple. Whether you are willing to do it is another matter." -- Peter Drucker

6. "I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it." -- Pablo Picasso

7. "Go out on a limb. That's where the fruit is." -- Jimmy Carter

8. "Life is being on the wire, everything else is just waiting. -- Karl Wallenda

9. "If things seem under control, you are just not going fast enough." -- Mario Andretti

10. "Don't be afraid to take a big step. You can't cross a chasm in two small jumps." -- David Lloyd George

11. "It is only by risking our persons from one hour to another that we live at all." -- William James

12. "Do one thing every day that scares you." -- Eleanor Roosevelt

13. "Trust your own instinct. Your mistakes might as well be your own, instead of someone else's." -- Billy Wilder

14. "The dangers of life are infinite, and among them is safety." -- Goethe

15. "Do not fear mistakes. There are none." -- Miles Davis

16. "A man would do nothing, if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done." -- Cardinal Newman

17. "Test fast, fail fast, adjust fast." -- Tom Peters

18. "Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do." -- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

19. "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." -- Mark Twain

20. "Leap and the net will appear." -- Zen Saying

21. "The way to develop self-confidence is to do the thing you fear and get a record of successful experiences behind you. Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved." -- William Jennings Bryan

22. "Pearls don't lie on the seashore. If you want one, you must dive for it." -- Chinese proverb

23. "Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome." -- Samuel Johnson

24. "And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." -- Anais Nin

25. "Are you placing enough interesting, freakish, long shot, weirdo bets?" -- Tom Peters

26. "Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash." -- General George Patton

27. "I can accept failure. Everybody fails at something. But I can't accept not trying. Fear is an illusion." -- Michael Jordan

28. "Opportunity dances with those on the dance floor." -- Anonymous

29. "Yes, risk-taking is inherently failure-prone. Otherwise, it would be called 'sure-thing-taking.'" -- Jim McMahon

30. "People who don't take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year. People who do take risks generally make about two big mistakes a year." -- Peter Drucker

31. "Necessity is the mother of taking chances." -- Mark Twain

32. "99 percent of success is built on failure." -- Charles Kettering

33. "Progress always involves risks. You can't steal second base and keep your foot on first." -- Frederick Wilcox

34. "What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?" -- Robert Schuller

35. "Every society honors its live conformists and its dead troublemakers." -- Mignon McLaughlin

36. "You can only be as good as you dare to be bad." -- John Barrymore

37. "Anything that is successful is a series of mistakes." -- Billie Armstrong

38. "Give me the young man who has brains enough to make a fool of himself." -- Robert Louis Stevenson

39. "If it's a good idea, go ahead and do it. It's much easier to apologize than it is to get permission." -- Rear Admiral Grace Hopper

40. "If you risk nothing, then you risk everything." -- Geena Davis

41. "Taking a new step, uttering a new word, is what people fear most." -- Fyodor Dostoevsky

42. "Remember, a dead fish can float down a stream, but it takes a live one to swim upstream." -- W.C. Fields

43. "Take risks: if you win, you will be happy; if you lose, you will be wise." -- Anonymous

44. "To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself." -- Soren Kierkegaard

45. "You'll always miss 100% of the shots you don't take." -- Wayne Gretzky

46. "It is only in adventure that some people succeed in knowing themselves." -- Andre Gide

47. "Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

48. "One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time." -- Andre Gide

49. "Danger can never be overcome without taking risks." -- Latin Proverb

50. "I'll play it first, and tell you what it is later." -- Miles Davis

Thanks to Val Vadeboncoeur for gathering these goodies. If you have other favorites, let us know.


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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:31 AM | Comments (2)

June 07, 2019
30 Ways to Know If You Have What It Really Takes to Innovate

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Do you have what it takes to innovate? I'm not talking IQ, degree, or job title.

I'm talking the curious confluence of behaviors that come with the territory of being someone who turns top of the line ideas into bottom line realities.


1. You come up with great ideas in the shower and car
2. You like to stay up late... or get up early... or both
3. You're comfortable with ambiguity and chaos
4. While your ducks are rarely in a row, they're happy most of the time
5. You're not worried about failing

6. You've invited at least one friend into your personal think tank
7. You test out your ideas on just about anyone who will listen
8. You know what you don't know, but can't always explain it
9. You like making connections between things that don't go together.
10. You're open to feedback and also don't care what anybody thinks

11. Some of your friends think you're out of your mind
12. You find yourself laughing in the middle of the day for no reason
13. People get inspired around you
14. You've been known to wear two different socks
15. You feel like you're on the brink of a breakthrough a lot of the time

16. Sometimes you figure things out by talking, not thinking
17. You write notes in the margins of books
18. You like to conduct little experiments
19. You have a game plan, but it keeps changing
20. You love to immerse

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21. You find ways to "work in the cracks" even when your day job dominates
21. You wish there were more hours in the day
22. Your passion to make a difference exceeds your doubt
23. You find yourself getting clues about your project in odd places
24. You feel like you're having a spiritual experience
25. You are far more organized than anyone thinks

26. You know you need a collaborator, but are picky about who
27. You have a bold vision of what success looks like
28. Your project has little to do with what your college major was
29. You're looking for someone to head up marketing and sales
30. You can think of another ten items that should be on this list

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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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