April 29, 2020
25 Simple Ways to Free Up Your Innate Creativity

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Most people agree that creativity is a good thing. Accordingly, they want to know how they can become more creative. Makes sense, right? The question, however, is a tricky one, not unlike asking "How can I have a good marriage?" or "How can I become a better human being?" There are hundreds of answers and often different strokes for different folks.

Bottom line, there is no blueprint, no follow-the-dots instructions in this realm. But there are some simple principles and guidelines to consider. Below are 25 of them (and all it takes is ONE to get unstuck).

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1. Ask yourself WHY you want to become more creative: If you don't know the answer to this question, the rest of the guidelines that follow will be nothing more than fairy dust. What's in it for you? Why make the effort to become more creative?

2. Realize you already ARE creative: Most of us are subject to the myth that only some people are creative. Writers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers get lots of points for being creative, as opposed to accountants, tax auditors, and engineers. Hey folks, everyone is creative. The only thing is that sometimes our creativity gets obscured by years of funky habits, programming, and conditioning. Psychologists tell us that a human being is most creative at the age of five. After that, it's a slow and steady decline into conventionality. What are the characteristics of a five-year old and how can you bring more of those to bear during this time of the Coronavirus?

3. Identify what blocks your creativity: When Michelangelo was asked how he made his iconic statue, The David, he explained, "I simply took away everything that wasn't." To him, the statue was already in the stone. All he needed to do was remove everything in the way. What is blocking your creativity, these days? And what can you do to remove it?

4. Remember a time when you were creative: All of us have had times in our life when our creativity was flowing. The conditions were ripe for us to do our best thinking/creating. What was that time in your life? And what can you do to bring more of these conditions to bear during these odd times?

5. Define what you mean by "creative": If you Google the phrase "Definitions of Creativity", you'll find 53,900,000 entries. "Creativity" means different things to different people. What does it mean to you?

6. Identify a project you want to be creative about: If you don't have a project that inspires you enough to apply your creativity to, your effort to become more creative will be vague, at best. You need to have some skin in the game. What is the project you would most like to infuse with a renewed dose of creativity? (HINT: The best way to do this is to frame your project in the form of a question that begins with the words "How can I?")

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7. Immerse: Creative people, no matter what their field, have the ability to dive in and stay with a project for long periods of time. They don't just hit and run. Instead, they become completely absorbed in their effort and it is often their state of absorption that is their secret sauce. That's why Einstein said, "It's not that I'm so smart. It's just that I stay with problems longer." How can, you create the time to immerse in your most inspired project?

8. Reframe failure: Creative people are less afraid of making mistakes than most people. They realize that creativity is a volume business -- that many experiments are needed and that trial and error comes with the territory. When Thomas Edison was asked how it felt to fail 800 times before coming up with tungsten as the filament for the light bulb, his reply said it all: "Fail? I didn't fail once. I learned 800 times, what didn't work." How can you launch more experiments? How can you embrace failure more than you currently do?

9. Go beyond your limiting assumptions: Often, the suppositions that we make at the beginning of a project are completely fictitious, a function of our past experiences and false beliefs. Creative people have a knack for being less bound by limiting assumptions than most people. This state of open-mindedness allows them to proceed in ways that open up new territories to explore. What is your biggest limiting assumption about your most exciting project? What can you do to go over, around, or through this assumptions?

10. Stay inspired and fascinated: I know of very few depressed people who are consistently creative. And while it's true, that creative people can sometimes get depressed, they don't dwell in that state for very long. What are three ways you can stay inspired and fascinated about your hottest, new venture?

11. Ask WHAT IF: Creative people have a unique ability to go beyond the status quo. One way they do that is by asking powerful questions -- questions that challenge the status quo and open up totally new horizons. The simplest question to ask in this regard is "What if?" What aspects of your work, these days, might benefit from asking "what if?"

12. Make connections between seemingly disparate elements: One of the qualities of a creative thinker is the ability to synthesize -- to see new connections between this, that and the other thing. What is MTV? Simply the connection between music and television. Drive-in banking? The connection between cars and banking. The Bloody Mary? Vodka and tomato juice. Most of us are so much "in our boxes" that we too infrequently connect A + B to get C. Tunnel vision has a hold of us. How can you combine two seemingly unrelated variables to create a new product, service or better way of doing business?

13. See through others' eyes: One of the biggest obstacles to creativity is our odd little habit of viewing everything through our own eyes/lenses/filters. Addicted to our own point of view, we tend to be constrained by our habitual ways of perceiving. The simplest way to free yourself from this constraint is to look at your problem, project, or opportunity through the eyes of someone else. What if Willie Nelson was responsible for solving your problem? Stevie Wonder? Rosa Parks? Oprah Winfrey? How would any one of these people go about it? And what clues do you get from their approach?

14. Pay attention to your subconscious: Many brilliant ideas come to people off line, in dreams, or in surprise moments when they're not trying to figure things out. What happen is this: the conscious, problem-solving part of our mind hits a wall and gets stuck. That's when the problem gets turned over to our subconscious mind. That's how Elias Howe's invention of the lock stitch sewing machine happened. That's how Rene Descartes came up with the Scientific Method. And that's what Seymour Cray, the inventor of the Cray Supercomputer, attributed his success to -- the ability to walk away from a problem and let his subconscious mind do the work. Where and when do you get your best ideas away from work?

15. Suspend logic and linearity: Most of us think deeply. We like to problem solve and, more often than not, we are rational beings -- so called "left-brainers." Buut there are times, in the creative process, especially in the beginning, when too much logic gets in the way. We also have a right-brain that needs to be exercised -- the associative, playful, non-rational side of ourselves How can you suspend logic and linearity for a while? In what ways can you allow more time to consider that which is beyond the rational?

16. Trust your instincts, intuition, and hunches: Albert Einstein once said, "Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts." Indeed, he used to conduct what he called thought experiments, a fancy name for daydreaming, whenever he needed a breakthrough. Simply put, he trusted the intuitive part of himself. What is your intuition telling your most creative project? How can you trust this intuitions more than you usually do?

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17. Entertain the fantastic: Gary Kasparov, the former Soviet Union Grand Chess Master, had the ability to strategize 26 moves ahead. But when, in 1989, he was asked what enabled him to beat Big Blue, IBM's mainframe computer, in a two game chess match, he attributed his success to "the ability to fantasize" -- to be able to make a quantum leap of thought. Einstein, too, was a big proponent of fantasizing and is famous for having said "the ability to fantasize has meant more to me than my ability to absorb positive knowledge." How can you make more time to dream big these days of the Coronavirus?

18. Collaborate: Some people assume that creativity is the result of a lone wolf genius inhabiting some kind of ivory tower. And while this sometimes happens, it is mostly a myth. Often, creativity is informed by the so-called lone wolf genius being in relationship to people -- i.e. jamming, brainstorming, and getting feedback. This kind of variable input has the potential to spark all kinds of insights and ahas. How can you increase the amount of creative collaboration in your life? Who might you ask to join forces with you this week to develop a new idea or possibility?

19. Have fun: This just in! The words "aha" and "haha" are very much related. In the aha moment, the person with the epiphany gets surprised about a given outcome. He/she becomes dislocated from their normal assumptions, i.e. Archimedes in the bathtub and Newton under the apple tree. The "haha" moment is similar. Indeed, the reason why most of us laugh is because our expectations have been disrupted by the storyteller or comedian. This surprise moment sparks an involuntary reaction called "laughter." Creativity and humor are joined at the hip. Get too serious and too sober and you diminish the odds of creativity flourishing. In what ways can you infuse your life with more humor and playfulness these days?

20. Look for happy accidents: Do you know what penicillin, vulcanized rubber, Post-It Notes have in common? They were all the results of accidents in the lab. They were not planned. They were not the result of a brainstorming session. They showed up unannounced. But instead of being dismissed as a mistake, the innovators associated with these discoveries, got curious. They paid attention. And they played around with this so-called mistake until they discovered its commercial value. Research indicates, in fact, that 75% of all product and service breakthroughs are the results of serendipity, surprise, and happy accidents. What have you been noticing in your life that others may have dismissed as a mistake or failure, when, in fact, it might be the clue you have been looking for?

21. Change environments: Sometimes, the simplest way to spark creativity when you are feeling stuck is to change environments. Socrates knew this. That's why he invented his "Peripatetic School of Education" -- a way to "walk the talk." Indeed, that's why many people get their best ideas during or after exercising. Where can you go, to refresh and renew yourself, whenever you are feeling stuck?

22. Be comfortable with ambiguity: Creating something new is not a function of an algorithm or sequential process. It often requires a lot of time spent not knowing or being confused or not having all the answers. This is why Tom Peters, innovation provocateur, likes to say that "innovation is a messy business." Yup. It is messy. And frustrating. And non-linear. And it often requires some time in the chaos zone. If you are not mindful of this phenomenon, you will likely grab onto the "first right idea" just to diminish your discomfort. In what ways can you stay with ambiguity longer than you usually do when working on a challenging project?

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23. Acknowledge your progress:
Creating something new is often a frustrating phenomenon. Results don't always come quickly. As a result, we sometimes get discouraged, enter into a cranky mindset, and lose our inspiration. The simplest way to neutralize this phenomenon is to take a few minutes at the end of each day to pause and acknowledge whatever progress you have made that day, no matter how small. Think of a project of yours that has been especially frustrating. What progress have you made on this project recently?

24. Give and receive feedback: Sometimes, creative people are on the right track, but their addiction to "being right" gets in the way. What they need to do, at times like this, is get some simple feedback from their peers -- another point of view. All too often, however, we interpret feedback as "criticism", so we're not open to it. Ouch! In what ways can you get more feedback from someone you trust?

25. Honor the polarities: People aspiring to become more creative, especially those who are time-crunched, would love there to be some kind of blueprint to follow. Guess what? There isn't. It doesn't exist. And even if it did exist, it would include contradictory directions. That's because the act of "being creative" is often a contradictory process. That's why Niels Bohr, the Nobel-prize winning physicist, once said: "Now that we have met with paradox, we have some hope of making progress." To the creative person, their process is not either/or. It's both. Below is a short list of some classic contradictions/paradoxes that creative people experience. Any of them familiar to you?

- Patience/impatience
- Solitude/collaboration
- Urgency/relaxation
- Seriousness/playfulness
- Divergence/convergence

What other contradictions/paradoxes do you experience in your own creative process? What can you do to honor them more than you currently do?

Jump Start Creativity
Idea Champions
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:13 AM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2020
SPEED TO KNOWLEDGE: The Curious Roots of Micro-Learning

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Being the first to come up with a good idea does not always make the path to success easy. In fact, often, it's quite the opposite.

For example, the idea of micro-learning may be all the rage these days, but it wasn't always that way. In fact, the company that created the first micro learning programs, AthenaOnline, was kicked out of quite a few offices for even proposing the idea.

The idea of micro-learning -- bite-sized bits of knowledge that are easy to digest and understand -- has been around for ages. It encompasses everything from viewing a short video to reading an article to taking a short quiz. Micro-learning, however, was never a form of enterprise learning until the visionaries at AthenaOnline released its MyQuickCoach application in 1999.

Prior to that, in 1994, Athena had released a number of award-winning, computer-based training programs called The New Leader Series -- an idea inspired by popular game Myst, that created a "learning village" allowing users to explore what they wanted to learn at their own pace. Players would meet experts in various areas of the village and, depending on what they accomplished in the game, new areas to explore would open up. It was one of the first examples of gamification to hit the field of organizational learning.

profilepic.jpg As loved as these programs were, however, Jon Peters, AthenaOnline's Founder, soon noticed a surprising phenomenon. "As we began to repurpose the programs for the internet," said Jon, "we saw a huge number of people dropping out. Upon interviewing our customers, we discovered that people much preferred to approach learning in small chunks -- trying to fit what they could into their busy day."

Seeing a trend forming, Jon and his team made the move to create the QuickCoach concept -- short, video-based modules that people could absorb in 5 minutes or less.

Launching their first programs, in 1999, was no easy task. Remember, this was years before YouTube. Most companies were just beginning to think about moving their internal classes to computer-based learning. Indeed, Athena was told by a number of self-claimed OD savants that "video would never take off on the internet" and that "nobody could possibly learn anything in only five minutes."

It took years for Athena's ideas to take hold, but they kept at it.

As a new generation of managers entered the workplace -- a generation used to YouTube and bite-sized interactions of all kinds -- Athena's ideas began to take hold. (And Idea Champions, for one, is glad they did.)

"Sometimes," explains Jon Peters, "you just have to believe in yourself and your vision, even when nobody else does. What I learned, and am still learning, is that while seeking input from others is always good thing, it's not the only compass of success. Sometimes you just need to believe yourself and persevere."

PS: If you want to know the impact that AthenaOnline's micro-learning has had in organizations, click here to download an article about the University of Iowa where elearning usage increased by a whopping 800%.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What "ahead of its time" project of yours, going more slowly than you imagined, do you need to double down on? And what is your next step

Free weekly micro-lessons from AthenaOnline
Yours truly on MyQuickCoach
Illustration: www.gapingvoid.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:12 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2020
Why Team Leaders at Al Siraat College Want to Be Team Leaders

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Thirty four very dedicated teachers, staff members, and senior leaders from Al Siraat College in Epping, Australia are participating in a long-term Team Leadership Development training. What follows are some of their comments about WHY they have chosen to take on this very demanding role.

"I love responsibility, challenge, mentoring, and making things happen. I feel that being a team leader allows me to add value to others and importantly make valuable changes to my workplace to challenge myself and add value as a professional. Specifically, at Al Siraat, I want to improve student culture and make it the school of choice for all Muslim students. I want students, when they leave, to have had amazing memories of their time here." - Fatema Faoual

"I enjoy assisting people in achieving their potential. This includes teachers and students. I like to inspire a love of knowledge and learning. I encourage and support the development of growing people both ethically and intellectually. I also want to encourage my own growth as a person." - Wayne Semmens

235435200.jpg "I want to be a team leader to help our school become an extraordinary learning place for students to enjoy their 13 years here and beyond -- and to be healthy and active for a lifetime." - Daniel Saleh

"I want to make a difference. I have learned so much from making mistakes. I want to be able to share and apply my knowledge, skills, and at times, my wisdom." - Esra Boz

"To start off, I didn't want to be a team leader, but thanks to Ms. Rahat, who saw the quality in me that I have the personality and commitment to be a Quran team leader. And I am loving it." - Maryam Omer

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"I thrive in an environment that allows me to challenge myself to reach my own potential." - Aseel Tebeileh

"I want to make a difference in the college. I want to be remembered as the person that created a fantastic secondary team at ASC --thereby creating a great secondary school that will be the envy of other schools." - Vis Naidu

"I want to increase the skills I have gained as a teacher to the next level and provide opportunities to engage with my colleagues and benefit from them, as well." - Gulcan Ayvaz

185954154.jpg "I believe that I will have more opportunity to make a difference -- to change and improve the members of my team and pass on my learneng and experience." - Shahzad Syed

"I have passion for my topic! I want the best for my family, students, and colleagues. I want to make a difference." - Adel Ayoubi

"I want to make a bigger contribution to the school, to serve other teachers in the school, and to help improve the standards of the school." - Syed Fareed Bin Abdul Manaf

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"At first, I never thought I could be a team leader. I thought you had to be efficient in your work. Spotless! Flawless! Then my mentor gave me a chance to be a team leader and guess what? I love it! I learned how to manage a group of people to make a difference. I learned to help people enhance their strengths, and I think I Iearn something everyday." - Misbah K. Aqeel

"I want to be able to fulfill the trust that has been given to me to develop inspired individuals of learning and character." - Fazeel Arain

"I want to impact the work of others that will have a positive impact on our children, and ultimately, to gain the pleasure of our Creator." - Rahat Arain

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"I like to mentor individuals within my team, as I believe that we are all constantly learning and can learn so much from each other. I like responsibility, work well under pressure, and I like to know what's going on. I also like to feel as though I am making a difference." - Leah Hamel

"I want to be a voice and servant to my team, while being a teacher in the classroom. I want to help my team with their concerns and get them ironed out, managed, solved efficiently, and addressed comfortably. I want to make and create my department into one people I can look up to rather than look down." - Asim Malik

"I'd like to, in a small way, contribute to the growth of Al Siraat". - Sitki Esenyel

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"I want to be a team leader to have a great impact on students learning and ultimately become of good service to God Almighty." - Suffian Amin

"I have been teaching science for the last 25 years and have had a good experience in science curriculum and other disciplines. I would like to share my knowledge and experience with Al Siraat teachers." - Naga Thayakrishna

"I want to promote positive leadership skills and ideas to ASC staff and students. I want to share learned skills with students. I want to mentor and coach students to be be able to perform better at life skills and explore the hidden talents and skills they possess. I also want to develop trust and training skills that I can use with students." - Noori Ahmed

403694488.jpg "I've been in the school since it first stated and have experienced a huge growth -- personally, as a professional educator, and as a person. I want to be part of a leadership team to offer my skills and expertise that will make a difference and impact our students and others." - Shahidah Osman

"I want to be a team leader at Al Siraat because I am glued to a vision of developing students who are able to fulfill their purpose in life. I want to be a team leader because it is the only school that seems to be ripe to do a lot for our school community. Above all, I was brought here for a reason by the Founders and want to live up to their expectations." - Mohammed Azim

"Education has always been important to me, as I come from a family of less-educated people. Imparting knowledge to people who may have grown up in similar, poor circumstances has also been important to me. I want to use my knowledge and abilities as well as my passion for learning, to impact change on a larger scale." - Terrance Cobb

"I am goal driven and have a natural desire to help and support others. Even if I am not a team leader, I end up doing that role anyway -- so to be given a little more time to do it would be wonderful." - Cheryl Becker

"Everyone brings unique qualities. As a leader, I can share, refine, and learn amongst others. I like to inspire and motivate people to accept and learn from change. I like to move and challenge the people around me to move forward and I like to assist in making things better for all." - Colin McDowell

469662800.jpg "I didn't want to be a team leader. I was selected to be a team leader. I am learning and trying to be a good leader. It has been a difficult journey. Why am I sticking to it is because Ms. Summer and Ms. Evla and other leadership members are supporting, coaching, and guiding me. Plus, Ms. Summer didn't accept my verbal resignation. Also, being a part of Mitch's Team Leadership Training has given me the courage and skills to try to be a better team leader." - Elif Boz

"There are two types of people/professionals in a school -- teachers and people who help teachers. As a leader, it's important to me not just to be of service, but to enable my colleagues to learn continually through reflective practice and dialogue and capacity building. I love the relational experience and opportunities I have as a team leader. I believe there is a strong alignment with my faith values that leadership involves, such as benevolence and stewardship and compassion." - Evla Han

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"I want to bring innovations to my team and ideas and ease in business, so my team can work on its own and work in conjunction with other teams. I want to respect other teams and be respected." - Maqsood Ahmad

"I want to try to make life easier for teachers and administrative staff with respect to mundane activities so that they can focus on objectives. I hope to assist with the above, regardless of my position." - Bilal Deniz

"I want to contribute to the vision and success goals of the school." - Sev Bektash

"I've always loved helping others. As a team leader, I am grateful to be presented with many more opportunities to do what I love; help others." - Amina Zeneli

"I want to be a team leader so I can learn and implement steps in my team to make them happier and help them perform better." - Salman Khan

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2020
One of the Biggest Obstacles to Genuine Communication

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"When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen." -- Ernest Hemingway

One of the biggest obstacles to good communication between two people can be summarized in four words: "I already know that."

This all-too-common phrase heads its ugly rear when the listener, having heard as little as a single sentence from the speaker, assumes they already understand what the speaker is going to say. It is this snap judgment, often made unconsciously, that subverts even the faintest hope of communication. But even more than that, it subverts trust, intimacy, connection, and the possibility of meaningful collaboration.

And while it's possible, of course, that the listener does know what the speaker is about to say -- especially if the two of them have a longstanding relationship -- all too often, the listener does not, at least at the depth of what the speaker wants to express.

In other words, conversational beginnings don't always foreshadow the depth or direction of what's to follow.

Whenever the listener, in a conversation, responds with "I already know that", it is highly likely that the speaker will feel dismissed, diminished, dissed, interrupted, unheard, misinterpreted, or judged -- the kind of reactions that don't bode well for any kind of one-on-one communication. And even more than that, it increases the likelihood that the "unheard" person will retract and become less willing, in the future, to initiate other conversations -- the so-called "vicious cycle."

It doesn't work for marriages. It doesn't work for business relationships. And it doesn't work for even the closest of friends.

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Are there reasons why this conversation interruptus dynamic happens between two people? Absolutely. And here are five of the most common:

1. IMPATIENCE: If the person being asked to listen has a lot on their mind, is busy, overwhelmed, or distracted, he or she will tend to perceive whatever is being said to them as an interruption -- or worse, an invasion of privacy. The result? Impatience and, along with it, the rush to end the conversation as quickly as possible. As a result, curiosity and receptivity go out the window and the person talking ends up concluding that the listener doesn't have the time, interest, or willingness to engage.

2. LIMITING ASSUMPTIONS: An assumption is a belief that's accepted as true without having sufficient proof. In other words, human beings are predisposed to supposing, presuming, projecting, and jumping to conclusions without really knowing what's to come. We may think we know what someone is about to say to us based on past conversations we've had with them, but our presumptive thought doesn't always match up with the content wanting to be shared.

3. CONCERN ABOUT WHERE THE CONVERSATION MIGHT BE HEADING:
It is not uncommon for the listener, in a conversation, to utter the "I already know that" phrase as a way to protect themselves from where they imagine the speaker is about to take them -- a kind of protective, pre-emptive strike on the part of the listener. If the topic on the table is a charged one and the listener is not in the mood to participate in what they project will be an uncomfortable conversation, a sure way to end the exchange is to cut things off at the pass by declaring "I already know that."

4. SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS: All of us have a tinge of self-righteousness in our blood -- the belief we are morally superior, smarter, or wiser than another. When the person, on the receiving end of a new conversation, is coming from this kind of mindset, it is highly unlikely that any real communication will happen. Unspoken judgment? Yes. Social distancing? Sure. Disappointment? That, too. But no real spaciousness for any kind of genuine expression to take shape.

5. THE LISTENER DOES NOT TRUST OR RESPECT THE SPEAKER: Here's the bottom line: If the person being spoken to is not experiencing trust, appreciation, or respect for the person who is speaking, there's a high likelihood that he or she will find a way to end the conversation abuptly. And one of the simplest ways to do that is to trot out the "I already know that" phrase -- a not-so-secret code for "Excuse me, I have better things to do than talk to you right now."

Of course, there is always the flip side of this coin.

While all of the above conversation inhibitors are quite common, there will be times when the listener's declaration of "I already know that" is both appropriate and well-founded. Perhaps the speaker IS obsessing, being neurotic, or repeating themselves for the tenth time. It happens. It does. But even when it does happen, the listener always has the option of moving the conversation (and the relationship) to higher ground. How? By assuming the best in the speaker and responding with graciousness, receptivity, patience, and presence.

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Here's another way to think about this dynamic:

If someone looks into your eyes and says "I love you," you responding with the words "I already know that" probably isn't the best way to establish intimacy. Or if your child comes running into your bedroom and says "there's a monster under my bed", you responding with "I already know that, you told me the same thing last night" isn't likely to calm your child's fears.

Those kinds of responses, while rational, are not what's needed in the moment. What's needed is something else -- receptivity, curiosity, empathy, care, and presence -- all of which are the pre-conditions for genuine communication.

I am not suggesting you become an easy target for another person's neediness, neurosis, or projections. Nor am I suggesting you waste your time entering into conversations you really don't want to have. What I'm suggesting is this: Any time another person seeks you out to speak their mind or express themselves, it's a golden opportunity for you to be of service -- a simple act of human kindness that can be accomplished in three minutes or less. Let go of your fear of being overwhelmed. Your day is not about to be ruined. You are not about to be sucked into a rabbit hole you cannot get out of.

All that's being asked of you is to receive the other, honor their need to express and, by so doing, increase the odds of genuine communication taking place. Towards that end, you have choices. Here are two healthy alternatives to the "I already know this" routine:

1. Pause, take a breath, and become present: In other words, for the moment, let go of your TO DO list and the spinning hard disk of your mind. Unplug from your momentum! See the person standing before you as the perfect person to be standing before you and know that your respectful attention has the potential to work wonders (without taking a whole lot of time).

2. In a gracious way, let the speaker know you DO understand what they are about to say -- then give him or her a chance to express themselves more fully, i.e.

-- "I hear you. I know this is a huge topic for you. Is there anything else you need to say to me about this?"

-- "Yup. I totally get that this topic has been on your mind for a while. What do we need to do to resolve this situation?"

-- "Hmmm. I can see we have some unfinished business here. Is there anything you need from me to get closure on this?"

-- "Thanks for speaking up. I know how important this topic is for you, but this moment isn't a good time for me to have this conversation with you. How about we dig in later tonight?"

-- "Oops! I thought we had already resolved this matter. But maybe not. What do you need from me in order to feel complete about the topic on the table?"

"Give me the gift of a listening heart." -- King Solomon

24 quotes on good communication
Why do people want to listen?
Listening is a superpower
How to know if you talk too much
Illustration: gapingvoid

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:32 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2020
LEADERSHIP SPARK

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What follows is a poem written by Mohammed Azim, the Head of the English Department at Al Siraat College in Epping, Australia.

Mohammed is one of 34 teachers and staff members participating in the Team Leadership Training that I am currently facilitating at the school. Mohammed, as you will note below, is getting a lot of value from the course.

PS: I was hesitant to publish Mohammed's poem because I didn't feel comfortable calling attention to myself -- but just 30 minutes ago, the illustrious Mr. Azim challenged my limiting assumption and requested I publish it, explaining that it might increase the odds of other Islamic schools, in the area, inquiring about the training.

LEADERSHIP SPARK

A little spark from Mitch
and the leaders at Al Siraat were kindled,
ignited by the growth leadership itch
and a mission was born and singled.
With the leadership pitch
and ready we were, as magic sprinkled.
Developing self was the switch
and the path to improvement was signaled,
that deck of cards and the twitch
and worthwhile it was; as discussions jingled.
Talk about those story-telling stitch
and wow, the spectacular effect it trickled,
the juggling balls acted as tow hitch
and in session became metaphor that hinted
those leadership tips to bewitch
and those accompanying notes that truly tickled.
The training diet has made me rich
and lessons learned ...in my life has riffled.
Certainly, we all need experiences that enrich
and not forgetting, a 'Mitch' who is so gifted!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:22 PM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2020
Try to Love the Questions

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"Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer." -- Rainer Maria Rilke

In times of the unknown, like these days of the Coronavirus, most people want answers. Totally understandable. But, like Rilke notes above, there is great value in loving the questions that precede the answers. Towards that end, here is a list of 20 questions for your consideration. Hopefully, at least one of them will resonate with you and begin working its magic.

1. What is the silver lining, for me, in the Coronavirus cloud?
2. These days, what is there to learn about myself?
3. What is the biggest opportunity before me now?
4. How can I find joy in the simple things of life?
5. What am I feeling moved to do or create?
6. What am I thankful for?
7. What is my responsibility during these challenging times?
8. How can stay in a positive frame of mind?
9. What do I really want?
10. How can I best be of service?
11. How can I go beyond worry, doubt, and impatience?
12. Who do I need to forgive?
13. How can I tap into the source of my courage?
14. In what ways are these times a dress rehearsal for my own death?
15. How can I reinvent the way I make a living?
16. How can I truly bloom where I'm planted?
17. What is there at this moment that I lack?
18. How can I better listen to the birds?
19. Who can I reach out to today?
20. What can I do, right now, to nurture myself?

Prem Rawat's series of Lockdown talks

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:54 PM | Comments (0)

CORONAVIRUS WAKE UP CALL! Now's the Time to Reinvent Yourself

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"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change."-- Charles Darwin

And so, dear people scrambling to adapt to the havoc wreaked by the Coronavirus... Idea Champions (my company) is also adapting. Since none of our clients want us anywhere within breathing distance of them, we are transforming the best of what we do into online services.

Below are brief descriptions of the first four of these services. One of them is free and the other three are discounted by 40%, knowing, as we do, how financially strapped most of our clients are these days.

And, at the end of this post, there are ten provocative questions you may want to noodle on if you are also looking to change what YOU do.

1. BUSINESS RE-INVENTION COACHING: One or more online sessions with Idea Champions' Co-Founder and President, Mitch Ditkoff. Just like physicians, these days, are now increasingly delivering their services via tele-medicine, Mitch is now offering tele-innovation services -- more specifically, online coaching, a way to help his clients clear their heads, open their minds, and discover new ways to adapt to these radically changing times. His credentials? Thirty years of sparking-innovation in a wide variety of forward thinking organizations from just about every industry on planet Earth.

2. MICRO-LEARNING FOR INNOVATORS: During the past 30 years, Idea Champions has written and spoken a lot about innovation, creative thinking, brainstorming, collaboration, and storytelling. We've distilled the best of it down to an online treasure trove of innovation-sparking goodies.Our Micro-Learning for Innovators service gives you access to 52 of our videos, articles, tools, and techniques. The service also includes a 60-minute phone coaching session.

3. FREE THE GENIE: Our online brainstorming tool designed to help you go beyond the "same old, same old" and originate bold, new ideas and possibilities. Pre-Covid-19, we used to sell subscriptions to this product, but now we are giving it away. This is not a marketing ploy. It is not a clever way to get email addresses. There is no fine print. It is simply our attempt to pitch in during difficult times. (PS: Where else have you seen a 10-year free trial?)

4. THE TWO-HOUR BRAINSTORM FACILITATION TRAINING: Eternal optimists that we are, Idea Champions is assuming that Covid-19 will end before hell freezes over. And, when it does, we want our clients to be more prepared than ever to facilitate on-site brainstorming sessions. PS: It's not only toilet paper that is in short-supply these days, so are breakthrough ideas for entering into new realms of possibility.

An example of a company that just reinvented what they do
ILLUSTRATION: gapingvoid.com
How Idea Champions began

TEN REINVENTION QUESTIONS TO ASK YOURSELF:

1. What is the silver lining in the Coronavirus cloud for me?
2. What have I always wanted to do, but now's the time?
3. How can I offer my services or products online?
4. What are my instincts telling me?
5. Who can I partner with to make some magic?
6. What does the world need now that I can provide?
7. If I knew I couldn't fail, what would I do?
8. If my fairy godmother granted me one wish, what would it be?
9. How can I combine two of my passions to create something new?
10. What is my next step and when will I take it?

Need more insights or ideas? Ask our online genie.

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Idea Champions
Mitch Ditkoff
What you get when you google "reinvention"

CONTACT: info@ideachampions.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:45 AM | Comments (1)

April 09, 2020
TRAINING TESTIMONIALS: Al Siraat College Team Leaders

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What follows are testimonials from teachers and staff at Al Siraat College, an Austrialian K-12 school in the Islamic tradition, who recently participated in Idea Champions' Team Leadership Training -- a series of seven 90-minute modules delivered onsite over the course of a month. Al Siraat engaged our services to help 23 of their team leaders learn how to raise the bar for teamwork, collaboration, and communication.

THE TESTIMONIALS

"I found the training to be highly relevant to what I do and the success of the organisation. After all, it is people, working on effective teams, that will move us forward." - Fazeel Arain, Principal

"The training was an experience that will live long in my memory. I will constantly use these skills in the challenges I encounter as a coach, trainer, head of department and, above all, as a teacher." - Mohammed Azim, Head of English

"The leadership training was a great opportunity to reflect on the processes, procedures, and relationships within my team and allowed me to develop my skills and knowledge to drive and motivate my team to achieve our shared vision." - Fatema Faoual, Secondary Years Team Leader

"The Team Leadership Training was the best professional development I have ever experienced. I found many aspects of it very useful for my own personal growth and for my growth as a team leader." - Wayne Semmens, Head of Maths

"I found the training extremely beneficial. It provided me with a different perspective of looking at my leadership skills." - Suffian Mohammed Amin, Head of Art & Technology

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"I felt like I was given the required tools to be able to fulfill my duties and be well-equipped with moving my team forward, as well as pushing them to excel more and more." - Asim Malik, Head of Islamic Studies

"Thank you so much for everything you have done for Al Siraat. We are very lucky to have you, at our school, facilitating the leadership training." - Daniel Saleh, Head of Health & Physical Education

"Mitch was very inspiring, well-prepared, and flexible throughout the sessions. He adjusted the speed and content on-the-go, based on the need of our group." - Shahzad Syed, Director Support Services

"The training gave me confidence and a lot to learn about my self before leading my team. I'm sure that, with the ongoing support I will get, I can uplift my team to higher and higher levels." - Maryam Omer, Head of Quran

"The Team Leadership Training provided me with a much-needed pause to not only reflect on my current leadership skills, but also learn important strategies to get better. Well worth the investment of time." - Rahat Arain, Director Student Learning & Achievement

"It was a wonderful experience taking part in the Leadership Training -- a great learning environment for me." - Shukran Chohan, Maintenance Team Leader

"The Team Leadership Training was vital. It highlighted the importance of re-defining a team's role and extending appreciation, rather than the do more approach." - Maqsood Ahmad, Accounts & Finance Team Leader

"The training equipped me with ways to improve meetings and communication with my team. I began thinking outside of current practices and looking for ways to be more streamlined and efficient." - Vis Naidu, Head of Secondary School

"Attending the Team Leadership training gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own leadership style and skills. It encouraged me to think about not only my strengths as a leader, but explore areas where I need more support." - Cheryl Becker, Year 4 Team Leader

"As a result of the training. I gained more confidence in my leadership role." - Naga Thayalakrishna, Head of Science

"The training gave us a very practical approach to deal with any group of people we belong to and how we can maintain a collaborative approach in achieving our personal and team goals." - Salman Khan, Project and Site Manager

A DEEPER DIVE INTO THE TESTIMONIALS:

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"I found the training to be highly relevant to what I do and the success of the organisation. After all, it is people in effective teams that will move us forward." - Fazeel Arain, Co-Founder and Principal

"I found this training to be highly participatory and inclusive. The facilitation was outstanding with plenty of time to reflect and ponder upon our own practices. I am inspired to rethink the way I plan, coordinate, and present my work. It is an experience that will live long in my memory. I will constantly use these skills in the challenges I encounter as a coach, trainer, head of department and above all, as a teacher. Doing this intensive training with our awesome facilitator, made me realise that we need to look at our internal world in order to change our external outcomes. I highly recommend this training for any one in leadership role and even those aspiring to be leaders." - Mohammed Azim

"The leadership training was a great opportunity to reflect on the processes, procedures, and relationships within my team and allowed me to develop my skills and knowledge to drive and motivate my team to achieve our shared vision. The sessions allowed me to really reflect on what my team wants to achieve, including our goals and mission and how we will get there. This is a great addition to any leaders skill set!" - Fatema Faoul

"The Team Leadership Training was the best professional development I have ever done. I found many aspects of it very useful in both my personal growth and as a team leader. In particular, the following: 1) The Receive/Reframe/Request approach to problem solving; 2) Ten ways to become a better listener; 3) The LCS feedback technique; 4) Mitch attending a faculty meeting and facilitating an LCS session on my own improvement as a Head of Learning; 5) One-on-one coaching sessions with Mitch." - Wayne Semmens

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"I found the training extremely beneficial. It provided me with a different perspective of looking at my leadership skills. The importance of re-framing problems and asking a HOW CAN WE? question is very powerful. I thoroughly benefited from Mitch's guidance and expertise, especially when it comes to providing feedback to my team members. The small group size is a must-keep for the next round of training as it allows participants to share in a very non-threatening environment." - Suffian Mohammed Amin

"At first, I was a bit hesitant when I saw all of the modules that were going to be covered, and how overwhelming it seemed. I went into the training not knowing what to expect. Each session became more meaningful and relevant than the previous one, and a lot of my concerns and barriers were broken down and were made less of a problem for me. Coming out of the leadership training, I felt like I was given the required tools to be able to fulfill my duties and be well-equipped with moving my team forward, as well as pushing them to excel, more and more. It gave me the skills to be able to efficiently lead my team, be disciplined, as well as reflect on myself and be able to systematically run things and progress in my department. I highly recommend this training for anyone who is either wanting to build a foundation for leadership, refresh their skills, or learn something new. I can guarantee there are things that will be put into perspective and allow you to be able to structure and organise your way of doing things in a way that suits you and are comfortable with. I'm a person that finds it hard to pay attention when things are boring, but this training was hard for me to divert my attention away from. I know Mitch has a lot more to offer as this was a condensed training, so I'm looking forward to being apart of the next level of his training modules." - Asim Malik

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"Thank you so much for everything you have done for Al Siratt. We are so lucky to have you at our school facilitating the eadership training. I especially liked the way you engaged us, set the team agreements, and gave us opportunities to apply what we learned." - Daniel Saleh

"Mitch was very inspiring, well-prepared, and flexible throughout the sessions. He adjusted the speed and content on-the-go, based on the need of our group. I learned by practicing and applying my learnings on my team. The biggest win for me was to work closely, engage, and build relationship with other team leaders who I may not have come across in my usual day-to-day." - Shahzed Syed

"I loved everything that was taught in this significant time. The training gave me confidence and a lot to learn about my self I'm sure that, with the ongoing support I will get, that I can uplift my team to more higher and higher levels. All the materials were on-the-spot and easy to understand and implement." - Maryam Omer

"The team leadership training provided me with a much needed pause to not only reflect on my current leadership skills, but also learn important strategies to get better. Mitch, through his usual engaging style, invited our group to commit to simple changes that had high impact value. I really enjoyed his style of hosting the training as I was then able to apply it immediately to my own meetings with good effect. Well worth the investment in time." - Rahat Arain

"It was a wonderful experience being part in Leadership Training -- a great learning environment for me. We learned many new ideas which we can adopt to our daily working habits to obtain many positive results. It's always a great outcome when many brilliant minds get together to achieve good for their origination." - Shukran Chohan

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"The Team Leadership Training was vital. It highlighted the importance of re-defining a team's role and extending appreciation rather than the do more approach." - Maqsood Ahmad

"The Team Leadership Training enabled me, to pause, reflect and review my current methods and approaches. It equipped me with ideas and ways of improving meetings and communication with my team. I began thinking outside of current practices and started looking for ways to be more streamlined and efficient in meetings with my team." - Vis Naidu

"Attending the Team Leadership course gave me an opportunity to reflect on my own leadership style and skills. It encouraged me to think about not only my strengths as a leader, but explore areas I need advice and support in as well. Mitch taught us all strategies to use to help lead our teams to their best potential. I am really keen to implement LCS as soon as I can. I am certain it will help me develop not only my own skills, but make my team feel better supported as well." - Cheryl Becker

"As a result of the training, I gained more confidence in my leadership role, such as: 1) How to help my team collaborate and work together; 2) If any problems arise, how to resolve those problems; 3) How to make a quick decision in an urgent situation; 4) How to handle people with different personalities." - Naga Thayalakrishna

"The training enabled us not only look at how we relate to our colleagues, but how we treat others, out of work. It gave us a very practical approach to deal with any group of people we belong to and how we can maintain a collaborative approach in achieving our personal and team goals." - Salman Khan

Idea Champions
Team Leadership Training facilitator
Go beyond the team leader overload syndrome
A clue for team leaders

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:55 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2020
GOOD NEWS! Idea Champions Waiving All Fees for Free the Genie

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Those of us here at Idea Champions don't know anyone who hasn't been affected by the Coronavirus calamity. Many of our clients are in trouble. Friends are out of work. Families are stressed. And yes, people we know are sick.

In response to this global calamity, I have found myself asking, like a lot of people, "How can I help? How can I be of service?" Though I have no face masks to give, no ventilators, and no miracle cures, I do have an online, creative thinking tool that can help people generate bold new ideas to help them navigate their way forward, i.e. ideas to grow their business... ideas to start a new business... or simply ideas to more skillfully adapt to these very stressful times.

And I am giving it away for free.

All you need is a compelling question that begins with the words "How can I?" or "How can we?", some curiosity, and 15 - 30 minutes to dive in.

PLEASE NOTE: Free the Genie is not a magic pill, but it can work magic -- that is, IF you have an open mind and a genuine need to go beyond the status quo.

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So there you have it -- our best shot at helping you give it your best shot. Click here for your free subscription to Free the Genie. (PS: We will never sell, rent, trade or give your email address to anyone, anytime, anywhere. The effort we are making is not a marketing ploy. We are sincerely wanting to be of service to people in need during these very challenging times.)

If online creative thinking tools are not your thing, maybe one of the following articles will be the spark you need to work your magic in the world.

Einstein's approach to problem solving
50 awesome quotes on possibility
Listen to your subsconscious mind
25 ways to free up your creativity
How to attract a breakthrough idea
20 quotes on beginning
101 CreativiTeas for Innovators
The awesome power of immersion
100 quotes on what it takes to innovate

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:36 AM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2020
CHANGE IN THE TIME OF CORONAVIRUS: Freeze or Flow?

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This just in from The Sydney Morning Herald -- a timely story of a company, in Australia, that completely changed their business in just ten days.

Stagekings used to make massive pop-up stages for Miley Cyrus concerts and other big productions. But with the outbreak of Coronavirus and all public gatherings cancelled, they lost 95% of their business. Down? Yes. But not out. Ten days later they transformed themselves into a company that makes stand-up desks and other "isolation furniture". Read about it here.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What can you do to change the way you do business these days? How can your product or service adapt to the needs of the time?

"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change." -- Charles Darwin

Big thanks to Fazeel Arain, Co-Founder of Al Siraat College for the heads up. (PS: Most schools on the planet are also shifting what they do and how they do it. Now's the time, folks. Flex! Adapt! Reinvent!

Idea Champions
Illustration: gapingvoid

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:09 AM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2020
Why Train People to Become Masterful Brainstorm Facilitators

Our brainstorm website
Brainstorm facilitation training
What our clients say

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:39 PM | 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.
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.
Face the Music Blues Band The world's first interactive business blues band. A great way to help your workforce go beyond complaint.

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