November 30, 2019
Are You an Idea Addict?

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There are lots of things in this world people get addicted to: alcohol, nicotine, heroin, sex, and iPhones, just to name a few. But perhaps the biggest addiction of them all is the addiction to our own ideas. Here's how it works:

We think something up. We feel a buzz. We tweak it, we name it, we pitch it, and POOF, the addiction begins.

At first, like most habits, it's a casual pursuit with a thousand positive side effects: increased energy, renewed focus, and a general feeling of well-being. Like wow, man. But then... we think about it in the shower. We think about it in the car. We think about it when people are asking us to think about other things. We even dream about it.

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Soon we want everyone to know about it. We want them to feel the buzz. We want them to nod in agreement. We want them to recognize just how pure our fixation is.

If this is where it ended, it wouldn't be that big of a deal. I wouldn't be calling it an addiction. Maybe I'd be calling it an "inspiration," or a "commitment" or a "visitation from the Muse." But it doesn't end there. It goes on and on and on and on -- often to our own detriment.

If you are launching a new, creative venture, of course, you want to conjure up cool ideas. That's a good thing. But if you cling to ideas just because they're yours, or just because you've invested major time and energy into in them, then it's time to take a good look of what "intoxicating ideas" of yours it might be time to let go. Commitment is one thing. Addiction is quite another.

What hot, new idea of yours might you be just a little bit too addicted to?

Idea Champions
Brainstorm Champions
MitchDitkoff

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:20 PM | Comments (2)

November 26, 2019
20 Reasons Why People Get Their Best Ideas in the Shower

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During the past 25 years, I've asked more than 10,000 people where and when they get their best ideas. I get all kinds of answers, but the one that has always fascinated me is "the shower" -- maybe because I also get so many of my good ideas there. And so, at the risk of overstating my case, I hereby offer you 20 reasons WHY the shower is so conducive to idea generation.

1. Showering signals "a new day" or "new beginning."

2. You're usually alone, with time to reflect.

3. Interruptions are rare.

4. The rush of water creates a kind of "white noise" that makes concentration easier.

5. Shower stalls look like little incubation chambers.

6. Water is associated with "contemplation" (i.e. sitting near a river, lake, or ocean.)

7. Showering is a metaphor for "getting rid of the dirt" -- the stuff that covers up what's beneath.

8. Showering is a ritual. Lots of creative people like to have little rituals to get their head in the right place.

9. You can write your ideas on the walls with a water soluble pen.

10. There's not a lot of judgment or analysis going on in a shower.

11. A hot shower opens the pores -- and by extension, maybe the mind.

12. Showering wakes up you. It makes you more alert.

13. Showering is a relaxing and stress free experience. With nothing to stress about, your mind is free to roam new territories.

14. If you shampoo, you're massaging your head. That's gotta be good.

15. It's hard to check your iphone or Blackberry in a shower.

16. Albert Einstein did his best thinking near a shower. ("Why is it I always get my best ideas while shaving?")

17. Water is associated with "flow." Being in the "flow state" is often a precursor to creative thinking.

18. There is no deliverable expected of you.

19. If you shower with a friend, and he/she happens to be in a brainstorming mode, lots of great ideas get sparked.

20. Showering is easy. Not a lot of thinking is required to make it happen, which frees your mind to think about other things.

Many stories from my book were remembered in the shower

Another place to get ideas
And another
An online shower of ideas
The mothership

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:48 AM | Comments (4)

November 23, 2019
ANTHEMS ON THE RISE TAKES OFF

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Dominos delivers pizzas (547 million per year). FedEX delivers packages (3 billion per year). And Anthems on the Rise delivers custom songs (one, so far, this year).

One? Just one? Yes. But what a one it is -- One Lit Candle (Song for Greta) -- now featured on WAFA's (Water, Food, Air Awards) website in the Youth Climate Awards category.

Hoffman and Edwards' compelling anthem (with gorgeous vocals by Stephen Rivera) has found, in WAFA, the perfect partner to get its message out to the world. Indeed, both WAFA and Anthems on the Rise are kindred spirits, committed, as they are, to shining a bright light on the very best of what it means to be a conscious, caring, creative human being.

WAFA makes it possible for the environment's silent heroes to have a voice and Anthems on the Rise helps make that voice come alive.

If you are inclined to help WAFA accomplish its ambitious planet-saving goals, click here. If your organization would benefit from having its own inspired anthem, click here.

And if you don't feel like clicking on either of the above links, click here for some memorable quotes on possibility -- something which WAFA and Anthems on the Rise, thank God, are both wide open to.

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Illustration: gapingvoid.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)

November 22, 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)

November 15, 2019
The Right Use of LCS

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Of all the techniques Idea Champions has invented and taught since 1987, there is one that continues to be acknowledged as numero uno -- LCS (Likes, Concerns and Suggestions).

LCS is a simple, effective, memorable, easy-to-use technique that has the power to build rapport, spark meaningful feedback, defuse negativity, spark creativity, and increase collaboration. But with one caveat: it needs to be used in the right way, at the right time, with the right people.

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And while LCS has been known to work magic with many of our clients -- some of whom have used it for many years -- it is not a magic pill. Like any tool, technique, or method, it requires practice and a particular kind of sensitivity.

What I've noticed over the years as the co-creator of the method and a teacher of it, is that it's not uncommon for some LCS fans to misuse it. Not knowingly, of course. Unknowingly. Not unlike some tourists who find themselves giving directions to even newer tourists without enough experience or knowledge of the city they're just getting to know to skillfully direct others to their destination.

And so, if YOU have recently learned LCS in one of Idea Champions' trainings or workshops and are looking forward to using it on the job, please consider the following guidelines before doing so with your team, client, spouse, or the frowning State Trooper who just pulled you over to the side of the road:

1. PRACTICE IT IN LOW RISK SITUATIONS: Like any new skill or tool, LCS requires practice. While it is simple to use, it is not necessarily simple to use well. This requires practice. And the best way to do that, to build your confidence and fluidity, is to practice it in low risk situations -- with friends, people you trust, and others you are comfortable with. (Kind of like breaking in a new pair of shoes or jeans.)

2. USE IT SELECTIVELY: Even though LCS works in most situations, it doesn't necessarily work in all situations. For example, if the people you want to use LCS with have a lot of emotional charge about the topic at hand it is likely too soon to be taking them through the LCS process. Perhaps, first, they need to clear the air... or get the full back story from you... or ask a lot of their questions. Requiring them to go through an LCS process too early in the game may leave them feeling like you have put them into some kind of Procrustean bed and that there is not enough room for them to really stretch out.

3. INTRODUCE THE TECHNIQUE, BEFORE USING IT: You may see the value of LCS (because you saw it demonstrated in one of our workshops or had a chance to practice it with a workshop partner), but the people on your team who were NOT in the workshop have no context for it. If you just "spring it on them," it is likely they will feel a kind of "I-wasn't-at-the-same-workshop-you-were-at whiplash" and they will probably shut down or give you the evil eye.

The fix is a simple one. Before using LCS with a group, set the context. Explain that you are about to facilitate a feedback process you've seen work very well. Then explain how LCS works and that you are inviting them to participate it it.

4. LCS IS DESIGNED TO OPEN UP CONVERSATIONS, NOT SHUT THEM DOWN: One thing most people love about LCS is that it gives people an easy-to-follow process to give and receive feedback on a new idea, possibility, initiative, or organizational change. That's the good news. The not-so-good-news is that LCS can easily be used to put artificial constraints on a dialogue that needs more space and time than a quickie LCS session will allow.

5. ASK PEOPLE TO LCS LCS: In the spirit of continuous improvement, consider asking people you take through an LCS process to LCS LCS. In other words, give them a chance, at the end of their LCS experience, to use the technique to give YOU feedback about it. Begin by asking them what they like about it. Then ask them what their concerns are about it and, for each of their concerns, what suggestions they have for resolving their concern. This will not only help you refine your LCS facilitation skills, it will also provide an opportunity for LCS users to practice the technique. Win/Win.

Two things to keep in mind as you proceed:
First of all, if you are using LCS in response to a potentially difficult conversation or meeting, be sure to allow enough time for participants to speak their peace. And secondly, if you know ahead of time that the topic on the table is likely to evoke a lot of disagreement, emotion, complaint, or angst, reconsider whether or not LCS is the tool to use -- at least in the beginning of your team meeting.

In those situations, it may be advisable, for you to provide a bigger back story on the topic at hand and/or open up the floor to everyone's questions. Metaphorically speaking, this is like opening up the valve on a steam-heat radiator so it doesn't clank so loud... or hiss uncontrollably because of the backlog of pressure.

Once the pressure has been relieved and people are feeling more informed and relaxed, LCS will have a much better chance of being effective and everyone enjoying the experience (which, by the way, is one of the goals of the whole thing -- that a diverse group of highly opinionated people find higher ground in service to a collaborative venture.

Feedback illustration: gapingvoid
Idea Champions
Our clients
What they say

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:42 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2019
The Six Sides of the So-Called Box

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Unless you've been in a coma for the past 20 years, I'm sure you're familiar with the phrase "get out of the box." It's everywhere. Whole industries have sprung up around it, including mine.

No one can deny that getting out of the box is a good thing to do. Seems like a no-brainer, eh? Kind of like helping little old ladies cross the street. Or tearing down the Berlin Wall. But before you start planning your heroic escape, answer me this: What the heck is the box, anyway? What is this so-called thing that keeps us so contained, confined, caged, trapped, claustrophobic, and otherwise unable to create?

Let's start with the basics. A box has six sides, including the top and the bottom.

If we can understand what these six sides are, we'll know what we're dealing with -- and this knowledge will improve our chances of getting out. Or, as Fritz Perls once said, "Awareness cures." Let us proceed...

1. FEAR: If you want to raise the odds of being trapped in a box for the rest of your life, all you need to do is increase the amount of fear you feel. Fear inhibits. Fear paralyzes. Fear subverts action. Indeed, when fear rules the day, even reacting is difficult. Fear not only puts us in the box, it makes it almost impossible to get out the box.

Fear of what? Fear of judgment. Fear of failure. Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Fear of being revealed to be an impostor. Fear of this. Fear of that. And fear of the other thing, too.

Do you think it's an accident that Peter Drucker devoted his entire life to driving fear out of the workplace? Or course not.

Fear sucks. And precisely what it sucks is the life right out of you. There is no box without fear. Get rid of fear and you get rid of the box.

2. POWERLESSNESS: Powerlessness is the state of mind in which people think they have no choice -- that they are victims of circumstance, that the act of attempting anything new is futile.It's why Dilbert has become the patron saint of most cubicle dwellers.

Some in-the-box people have dwelled in the state of powerlessness for their entire life, going all the way back to childhood, overpowered (or disempowered) by parents, schools, and who knows what else.

If you work in a corporation, you've seen this powerlessness paradigm in spades -- as the "powers-that-be" don't always take kindly to the ideas, input, and grumblings of the "rank and file." If you're feeling powerless, not only are you in the box, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to muster the energy, intention, or urgency to get out of it.

3. ISOLATION: Boxes are usually small and confining. Rarely is there room for more than one person. Isolation is the result. There's no one to talk to, no one to bounce ideas off of, no one to collaborate with.

Curiously, solitary confinement is the biggest punishment our society doles out -- second only to the death sentence. Being cut off from the tribe has been a very effective "behavior modification" technique for centuries. When you're in the box, that's exactly what's happening.

And while your isolation may give you a momentary feeling of much-needed privacy, safety, and relief from the judgment of others, it's fool's gold. Sitting in the dark, being completely on your own, vision obscured -- all reduce your chances of getting out.

4. ASSUMPTIONS: Assumptions are the guesses we make based on our subjective interpretation of reality. They are short cuts. Lines drawn in the sand. We end up taking things for granted because we are either too lazy to get down to the root of things or too entranced by our own beliefs to consider an alternative.

Ultimately, it is our assumptions that shape our world. The world is the screen and we are the projector, seeing only what we project -- which is all too often merely a function of the assumptions we've made. As one wise pundit once put it, "When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees our pockets."

Bottom line, we see what we are primed to see. Change your assumptions and you change the world -- starting with your own.

5. MENTAL CLUTTER:
If you find yourself in the box, it would be fair to say that the box contains you. But what do you contain?

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If you are like most people in today's over-caffeinated, twitterfied, fast food, information overloaded world the answer is: too much. With the amount of information doubling every few years, most of us have way too much on our minds. Too much to do and not enough time. We have no time for musing. No time for pondering. No time for reflecting. No time for contemplating, incubating, or making new connections -- behaviors that are essential to true out-of-the-box thinking.

The result? Not a good one. We glom onto the first seemingly "right idea" that comes our way -- or else desperately try to declutter our minds with an endless series of mindless distractions that only increase the amount of clutter we need to process. Ouch.

6. TUNNEL VISION:
When you're in a box, it's hard to see. Sight lines are limited. Vision is obscured. We become shortsighted. Our vision conforms to that which confines it. We become, soon enough, narrow-minded. I'm sure you know a few people like this. Their ability to see beyond their immediate surroundings has become disabled.

When this kind of phenomenon becomes institutionalized, we end up with a bad case of "next quarter syndrome" -- especially in organizations ruled by the need to constantly please profit-seeking shareholders. Few people are thinking six months out. Few are thinking 12 months out. And almost no one is thinking five years out. Everyone is trapped by the short-term.

What we call "focus" becomes a euphemism for tunnel vision -- just another form of narrow-mindedness that makes getting out of the box about as likely as my credit card company rescinding their usurious late payment fees.

What are three ways you can reliably get out of the box on the job?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:44 PM | Comments (2)

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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"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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