September 21, 2019
Why Business Leaders Need to Pay More Attention to Storytelling

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Here's why -- spoken as clearly as possible in a 60-minute radio interview, hosted by Dr. Wanda Wallace, Founder of the Leadership Forum. Wanda and I cover a lot of ground, including how storytelling can change team and corporate culture for the better. If you curious about how storytelling can be used, as a business tool to spark more teamwork, innovation, and engagement, this one's for you.

About me
My storytelling keynote
My book on storytelling
My innovation and storytelling workshop

"The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller." - Steve Jobs

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

September 13, 2019
What I Learned from Being Heckled at a Corporate Keynote Presentation

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Every person who has ever had a job has experienced at least one "moment of truth" in their life -- a time when all the chips were on the table and the decision of whether to go "all in" or not had to be made.

One such moment happened to me a few years ago when I was facilitating a creative thinking session for 110 of Lucent Technology's "best and brightest" -- a room full of brilliant computer scientists with more PhDs than most politicians have excuses.

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There I was, on stage, introducing the day with a slide show of quotes from legendary innovators, when a man in the 10th row stands up and screams, "You are totally wrong! I used to work with that guy and he never would have said anything like that! If you can't get your quotes right, why should I believe anything you're about to tell us?"

If this was the Wild West, I had just been challenged to a duel at High Noon, armed only with a remote and a blueberry muffin.

Standing as I was in the epicenter of the optic fiber universe, I had only a nanosecond to assess the situation. There was no time for a strategic plan, no time for deliberation, no time to call my coach. This was Defcon 7, me face-to-face with one very angry man.

"Well..." I began (stalling for as much time as a single word would allow), "it is possible that you're right. The slides I'm showing today were just finalized yesterday and my assistant may have made an incorrect attribution. I will check with her when I get back to the office. That being said, I invite you to focus on the good stuff that's here for you today, not the possible flaws."

Logical? Yes. Effective? No. My comments only made him angrier, his face growing redder by the moment.

I now had a choice to make -- whether to further engage my corporate heckler in a heroic attempt to win him over or continue with the reason why I'd been hired in the first place -- to help seriously left-brained scientists tap into their lesser-used right brain.

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Choosing the latter, I proceeded to teach a powerful mind-opening technique based on the thinking styles of Albert Einstein and Garry Kasparov (a former Soviet Union Grand Chess Master).

Technique taught, I walked to the side of the stage and observed.

For the next five minutes, everything went smoothly. Everyone in the audience was focused and doing the work.

Then, without warning, Mr. You-Got-Your-Slides-All-Wrong stood up and, with great velocity, began approaching the stage. On a scale of 1-10, with "1" being walking and "10" being storming, he was a 9.8.

The faster he walked, the quieter the room got as I took my stance and readied myself for whatever was next.

Two feet from me, my fast approaching inquisitor stopped dead in his tracks, looked at me fiercely, eyes on fire, and exclaimed, "This is amazing!"

"What is amazing?" I replied.

"The technique you taught," he said. "I just had an incredible breakthrough about a problem I've been struggling with for years."

Happy for him and greatly relieved, I asked if he'd like to share his breakthrough with the group -- a task that would require the two of us to change roles for a few minutes, him taking center stage as teacher, me taking his seat, as student.

Which is exactly what we did.

The man was on a roll, inspired, lucid, and highly expressive. I couldn't have asked for a better spokesperson to convey the message I was trying to communicate that day -- a message about the innate ability all people have to go beyond their limiting assumptions and tap into a realm where breakthrough insights abide.

The dramatic and very visible shift my "heckler" had made from left-brained naysayer to right-brained savant was the embodiment of a teaching I couldn't have scripted in a hundred years. This had never been about me putting this man in his place or him putting me in mine. It was about changing places and seeing the world and ourselves through new eyes.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

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None of us know when the moment of truth will come. None of us know what it will look like and how we will respond.

But we do know this: If we are awake and engaged in our work, it will come. There is no escape. The more we are already "all in", the easier it will be for us to respond to whatever comes our way. The more we are able to flex to the moment and make wise choices that serve the greater good, the more powerful the outcomes will be.

My moment of confrontation, at Lucent, did not allow me the luxury of deep deliberation. I had to trust myself, be in the moment, and go with the flow. But even more than that, I had to be willing to reframe what seemed to be a problem into an opportunity. I had to make lemonade out of lemons, on the spot, and not squirt anything in the eyes of the people I was there to serve.

My task was not to find fault with the fault finder (an easy thing to do), but to transform the moment into deeper understanding.

On the front lines of business, it is extremely easy to find fault in others. Even on a good day, most of us are woefully imperfect -- filled with a lifetime's worth of quirks, projections, fears, habits, and routines -- the kind of stuff that bugs even our closest friends. Throw in the X factor of stress, heavy workloads, and constantly changing priorities and you have a formula for... well... major heckling.

Your mission, should you choose to accept this assignment, is not to take it personally.

The person who is heckling you (at work, on the street, or in your home) is most likely having a bad day, week, month, quarter, year, or life. If Jesus, himself, was to make a sudden appearance, your heckler would probably find fault with his hair, clothes, or accent.

If you react with the same negativity that is coming your way, all you'll end up doing is throwing fuel on the fire. If you hate being judged, but then judge the judgers for judging, you will only end up in a fun house hall of mirrors with no exit.

Make sense?

PS: At lunch, after the high drama Lucent session, my client informed me of three things: 1) The man who heckled me does the same thing to every outside speaker no matter how much coaching he's received; 2) The exchange between the heckler and me was the perfect embodiment of one of Lucent's core values at the time -- allowing creative dissonance -- a value they had been trying, unsuccessfully, to embed it their culture for years and; 3) As a result of the positive impact my session had, Lucent was going to license my company's creative thinking training. Lemons hadn't just turned into lemonade, they turned into some major cash flow, too.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION: Think of a moment of truth you've had in the past year -- a surprise encounter that demanded an intuitive, in-the-moment response from you. What was that like for you? What did you do? What did you learn from the experience? And if, perchance, you did not respond in a way that worked, what might you do differently next time?

The story above is excerpted this book

It is NOT excerpted from this book

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:39 PM | Comments (0)

How to Escape Education's Death Valley

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September 12, 2019
50 Awesome Quotes on Possibility

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1. "Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible." - St. Francis of Assisi

2. "Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Lewis Carroll

3. "I'm grateful for always this moment, the now, no matter what form it takes." - Eckart Tolle

4. "In order to attain the impossible, one must attempt the absurd." - Miguel de Cervantes

5. "The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do." - Henry Moore

6. "It's kind of fun to do the impossible!" - Walt Disney

7."I am where I am because I believe in all possibilities." - Whoopi Goldberg

8. "What is now proved, was once only imagined." - William Blake

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9. "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't." - Mark Twain

10. "The limits of the possible can only be defined by going beyond them into the impossible." - Arthur C. Clarke

11. "Never tell a young person that anything cannot be done. God may have been waiting centuries for someone ignorant enough of the impossible to do that very thing." - John Andrew Holmes

12. "God created a number of possibilities in case some of his prototypes failed. That is the meaning of evolution." - Graham Greene

13. "Whether you believe you can or not, you're right." - Henry Ford

14. "Most people are not really free. They are confined by the niche in the world that they carve out for themselves. They limit themselves to fewer possibilities by the narrowness of their vision." - V.S. Naipaul

15. "I don't regret a single excess of my responsive youth. I only regret, in my chilled age, certain occasions and possibilities I didn't embrace." - Henry James

16. "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few." - Shunryu Suzuki

17. "The future belongs to those who see possibilities before they become obvious." - John Sculley

18. "One's only rival is one's own potentialities. One's only failure is failing to live up to one's own possibilities. In this sense, every man can be a king, and must therefore be treated like a king." - Abraham Maslow

19. "The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react." - George Bernard Shaw

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20. "We all have possibilities we don't know about. We can do things we don't even dream we can do." - Dale Carnegie

21. "An optimist expects his dreams to come true; a pessimist expects his nightmares to." - Laurence J. Peter

22. "When nothing is sure, everything is possible." - Margaret Drabble

23. "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand." - Albert Einstein

24. "I am neither an optimist nor pessimist, but a possibilist." - Max Lerner

25. "If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never. And what wine is so sparkling, what so fragrant, what so intoxicating, as possibility!" - Soren Kierkegaard

26. "All things are possible until they are proved impossible. Even the impossible may only be so, as of now." - Pearl S. Buck

27. "Until you're ready to look foolish, you'll never have the possibility of being great." - Cher

28. "This has always been a motto of mine: Attempt the impossible in order to improve your work." - Bette Davis

29. "You and I are essentially infinite choice-makers. In every moment of our existence, we are in that field of all possibilities where we have access to an infinity of choices." - Deepak Chopra

30. "Some people see things as they are and say 'Why?' I dream of things that never were and say 'Why not?'" - George Bernard Shaw

31. "The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility." - John Lennon

32. "I love those who yearn for the impossible." - Goethe

33. "Every man is an impossibility until he is born." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

34. "If you can't, you must. If you must, you can." - Tony Robbins

35. "A likely impossibility is always preferable to an unconvincing possibility." - Aristotle

36. "If someone says can't, that shows you what to do." - John Cage

37. "You must do the thing you think you cannot do." - Eleanor Roosevelt

38. "Apparently there is nothing that cannot happen today." - Mark Twain

39. "Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done." - Louis D. Brandeis

40. "The possible's slow fuse is lit by the imagination." - Emily Dickinson

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

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42. "If we all did the things we are capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves." - Thomas Edison

43. "Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among the stars." - Les Brown

44. If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." - Henry David Thoreau

45. "Everything you can imagine in real." - Picasso

46. "Everything that is done in the world is done by hope." - Martin Luther

47. "Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today." - James Dean

48. "I don't dream at night, I dream all day. I dream for a living."
- Steven Spielberg

49. "The shell must break before the bird can fly." - Alfred Tennyson

50. "If not you, who? If not now, when?" - Rabbi Hillel

PHOTO: Salwa Osman: Graphic Designer, Al Siraat College
ILLUSTATION: Jesse Ditkoff

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:11 PM | Comments (2)

September 09, 2019
The Perfect Want Ad

Simon Sinek cuts to the chase. This is all you really need to know if you are trying to attract the right people to your team, project, or organization. And notice how he used the Earnest Shackleton story to make his point. Telling the right story is a very powerful way to deliver a message that sticks.

Big thanks to Fazeel Arain for the heads up!

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:02 AM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2019
Changing the Center of Power from the Boardroom to the Living Room

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Since 1987, Idea Champions has been delivering innovation-sparking services to a wide variety of forward thinking organizations in just about every industry on planet earth. Along the way, we have learned a lot about what works and what doesn't work in regard to helping people go beyond the status quo and enter into the kind of mindset that is conducive to meaningful change.

One of the surprising things we've learned is just how powerful storytelling is. Stories carry with them the DNA of whatever it takes for human beings to wake up, tune into their higher selves, and turn wisdom into action.

While the boardroom is one environment where storytelling can work its magic, the living room, in our experience, is the wave of the future. Which is precisely why Idea Champions is in the process of moving the center of its operations from boardroom to living room.

Yes, we will still work with movers and shakers in organizations and, yes, we will still navigate the flora and fauna of the corporate universe, but we are increasingly finding ways to bring what we do into communities. And the center of any community is the home -- the "headquarters" of the people who inhabit planet Earth -- CEO's of their own lives.

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The form our service will take? Wisdom Circles -- small group gatherings of friends and neighbors who get together, from time to time, to share their most meaningful, memorable stories with each other -- stories that connect, inspire, transmit wisdom, and build community.

Our role? Not to be the "experts" or the "traveling consultants", but the ones who train people how to facilitate Wisdom Circles in their own homes. In other words, we are increasingly moving away from the "sage on the stage" model in an attempt to spark a revolution of learning, community building, and wisdom-sharing -- one story at a time.

Imagine, if you will, every night, all around the world, millions of people getting together -- in small groups -- to share the very best of what they have understood about what it means to be a human being -- in a format that honors diversity, lowers stress, builds rapport, and makes it easy for even the the most reserved people to share the very best of what they know.

Stay tuned. We are now deep in the process of developing a low-cost, online training (and support services) that will turn our story of what we want to do into reality.

Want to get an email alert when our training schedule is confirmed? Email: info@ideachampions.com

Here's what people are saying about home-based Wisdom Circles.
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The creator of home-based Wisdom Circles
Storytelling for the Revolution
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:29 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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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.
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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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