May 25, 2020
RALLY THE TROOPS: Does Your Team Have a Mission Statement?

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A team is a group of people who work together toward a common goal -- a group with a defined membership and a set of activities that define the scope of its work.

The key phrase in the preceding sentence? Common goal. When the common goal is clear, compelling, and embraced by team members, good things usually happen. When the common goal is not clear, compelling, or embraced by team members, symptoms of team dysfunction begin to manifest.

The common goal of a team is its mission. Its purpose. Its reason for being. Why people get out of bed in the morning.

A team's mission statement clarifies the what, who, and why it exists. It is not a vision statement. A vision statement evokes what will be. A mission statement declares what is.

What follows are inspiring examples of organizational mission statements. Notice how specific they are... how practical... and how inspiring! If your team is lacking a mission statement, consider the following as "grist for the mill."

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Google: "To organize the world's information and make it universally useful and accessible."

AT&T: "Being the world's best at bringing people together -- giving them easy access to each other and to the information and services they want and need -- anytime, anywhere."

Ben & Jerry: "Make, distribute, and sell the finest quality all-natural ice cream and related products in a wide variety of innovative flavors made from Vermont daily products."

Binney & Smith: "Produce the best quality, safest products for colorful visual expression for enjoyment, learning and work."

Nike: "Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world."

Microsoft: "Empower people through great software -- any time, any place, and on any device."

Steelcase: "Help people work more effectively."

American Red Cross: "Provide relief to victims of disasters and help people prevent, prepare for, and respond to emergencies."

Life Is Good: "Spread the power of optimism."

Nordstrom: "To give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible."

Prezi: "To reinvent how people share knowledge, tell stories, and inspire their audiences to act."

Tesla: "To accelerate the world's transition to sustainable energy."

TED: "Spread ideas."

PS: Words matter. And so does the intention behind the words. For example, if you are a member of an IT team, which of the following mission statements are more likely to get you out of bed in the morning?

"We fix stuff that employees can't figure out or don't have the patience to figure out, so they constantly badger us to work long hours and solve their problems when we have lots of other, more important things to do."

"We empower our colleagues to master the tools of technology so they can achieve extraordinary results in the simplest, most powerful, and least stressful way possible."

Idea Champions
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:15 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2020
What Does It Really Mean to be an Effective Team Leader?

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On planet Earth, there are millions of teams. They are everywhere -- in schools, businesses, communities, sports, organizations, armies, religions, and jails. If you are reading this, it is very likely that you are either a member of a team or a leader of a team.

Some of the teams you belong to are achieving their goals. Some are not. In either case, there is a 95% chance that somebody is playing the role of leader, captain, coach, coordinator, or director. You know, the person where the buck supposedly stops.

While there are thousands of books on the subject, very few people have the time or desire to read even one of these books. And, even if they did, reading a book doesn't guarantee success. Because, in the end, the reader of even the best book on team leadership will need to translate what they read into action.

The reality is this: very few team leaders understand what it really means to be a team leader and how to be a team leader -- especially those who have been drafted into the position by someone further up the food chain.

And so, to save you a ridiculous amount of time and the illusion that there is some kind of formula or roadmap to ensure team success (there isn't), I'm offering you 12 simple principles, insights, and best practices to noodle on. Ingredients, if you will, in the big soup of teamwork.

What follows is not theory. Nor is it fairy dust, pep talks, hype, or consultant-speak. Nope. None of that stuff. Instead, it's the distillation of what I've learned (and am learning) from the past 33 years of consulting with these organizations in 11 different countries. Street smarts. In the trenches stuff. Practical takeaways you can use, starting right now. Take what you can. Leave the rest. And don't forget to wash your hands.

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1. Clarify, Communicate, and Reinforce Your Team's Mission: Unless team members understand the purpose/goal of the team, they will never become a team. A group? Maybe. A club? Possible. A loose affiliation of people being paid by the same employer? Perhaps. But not a team. A team without a clearly defined purpose is like a bathtub without water. It might look good from the outside, but it never really delivers the goods.

2. Elicit Intrinsic Motivation: Lots of team leaders think their role is to motivate people. Well, sort of... but motivating people only goes so far. The real goal of a team leader is to awaken intrinsic motivation in team members -- so motivation comes from within and doesn't depend on the team leader always having to pump people up. That gets old, fast. And it's not sustainable.

3. Foster a Climate of Collaboration: Every team has its own culture, vibe, or feeling to it. When this culture, vibe, or feeling is a positive one and conducive to people bringing their "A" game, your team has a good chance of succeeding. When the culture, vibe, or feeling is negative, stressful, or inhuman, your team does not have a good chance of succeeding. Make sense?

4. Establish and Uphold Standards of Excellence: You, as a team leader, are the standard bearer. You set the tone. You raise the bar and help people understand where that bar is. In other words, your expectations matter. Towards that end, you will need to be very clear with team members about what your standards of excellence are. If you haven't articulated them yet, you have a bit of work to do.

5. Establish and Uphold Team Agreements: These are very much related to Standards of Excellence, but are more specific and behavioral -- the measurable norms of your team, the agreements team members hold sacred. Here is your starter kit.

6. Give and Receive Feedback: Face it. Very few people like getting feedback. Why not? Because they equate it with criticism or judgment of their performance, rather than a way to learn, improve, and grow. As a team leader, one of your roles is to provide humane feedback -- to your team as a whole and to individual contributors. It is also important for you to receive feedback from team members. How to do this well, of course, is another matter.

7. Facilitate Productive Meetings:
Most team meetings are a waste of time. Boring, meandering, and ineffective -- with little meaningful follow-up. But they don't have to be that way. As a team leader, you will need to raise your meeting facilitation game. Will it take some time? Yes, it will, but it will be time well-spent because effective team meetings have a huge, positive impact on morale, collaboration, communication, problem solving, ideation, alignment, fun, decision making, and results. HINT: It all begins with your state of mind.

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8. Express Appreciation and Celebrate Success: This just in. The cup is not half empty. It is half full. No matter how far your team may be from succeeding, the fact of the matter is that progress is being made. Unfortunately, most team leaders infrequently acknowledge that progress, focusing instead on problems, inefficiencies, gaps, disappointments, data, and firefighting. Not a good idea. If you want your team to become more high performing, start looking for ways to regularly acknowledge and appreciate team members.

9. Listen, Coach and Mentor: Sometimes, the only thing team members need is for you to listen to them -- as in giving them a chance to vent, be heard, and make suggestions without the fear of being judged. If you listen more deeply than you currently do, you will soon understand what kind of coaching or mentoring team members need. And if YOU don't have the time or skill to coach and mentor team members, maybe you can find someone who can.

10. Mediate Conflicts: Every team, like every marriage, family, or friendship hits some speed bumps along the way. Feathers get ruffled. Feelings get hurt. Misalignment happens. Welcome to real life. As a team leader, it is your responsibility to notice these conflicts and intercede as necessary. If the conflict needing remediation feels too difficult for you to address, look for someone in your organization better suited to play that role.

11. Secure Resources and Support: One of a team leader's roles is to make sure his/her team has everything it needs to succeed. And that includes equipment, technology, suitable work space, coffee, tea, water, and refreshments. It might also include more support (or recognition) from Senior Leadership.

12. Empower Team Members to Solve Their Own Problems: One of the biggest challenges for any team leader is the "monkey on the back syndrome" -- the phenomenon of team members dumping their complaints and problems at the leader's feet. While, of course, there are times when team leaders need to enter into problem solving mode, most of the time all they really need to do is listen, help team members frame the right questions, and empower them to solve their own problems.

WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD:
Let's assume for the moment that the above makes sense to you. Let's also assume that you are inspired to enact at least one of the above principles. OK. Good start. That being said, none of the above is worth a hill of beans unless you can say YES to the following questions. If you can't (or won't), nothing much will change for the better. Ready?

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-- "I am all-in -- completely committed to being a team leader."

-- "I am willing and able to go beyond the call of duty."

-- "I am looking forward to learning and applying new approaches to helping my team become more high performing."

-- "I am willing to assume the best in others."

-- "As a team leader, I understand what my roles and responsibilities are (and, if I don't, I will find out within the next few days.)"

-- "I fully support the goal/mission of my team (and if I'm not 100% clear on what is is, I will find out soon)."

-- "I am willing to trust and empower the people on my team, even if their abilities and styles are different than mine."

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:58 AM | Comments (0)

May 22, 2020
20 Inspiring Quotes on Commitment

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"Unless commitment is made, there are only promises and hopes; but no plans." - Peter Drucker

"Commitment is what transforms a promise into a reality." - Abraham Lincoln

"There are only two options regarding commitment; you're either in or you're out. There's no such thing as life in-between." - Pat Riley

"The difference between involvement and commitment is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved; the pig is committed." - Martina Navratilova

"People do not follow uncommitted leaders. Commitment can be displayed in a full range of matters to include the work hours you choose to maintain, how you work to improve your abilities, or what you do for your fellow workers at personal sacrifice." - Stephen Gregg

"Commitment is an act, not a word." - Jean-Paul Sartre

"Desire is the key to motivation, but it's determination and commitment to an unrelenting pursuit of your goal -- a commitment to excellence -- that will enable you to attain the success you seek." - Mario Andretti

"The quality of a person's life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor." - Vince Lombardi

"Something in human nature causes us to start slacking off at our moment of greatest accomplishment. As you become successful, you will need a great deal of self-discipline not to lose your sense of balance, humility, and commitment." - Ross Perot

"The relationship between commitment and doubt is by no means an antagonistic one. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt, but in spite of doubt." - Rollo May

"If your energy is as boundless as your ambition, total commitment may be a way of life you should seriously consider." - Dr. Joyce Brothers

"The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment." - Tony Robbins

"It takes a deep commitment to change and an even deeper commitment to grow." - Ralph Ellison

"There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstance permit. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results." - Art Turock

"It's always too early to quit." - Norman Vincent Peal

"Freedom is not the absence of commitments, but the ability to choose and commit myself to what is best for me." - Paulo Coelho

"If you can't value a commitment made by someone else, your own commitments lose their value too." - Ram Mohan

"Commitment is the enemy of resistance, for it is the serious promise to press on, to get up, no matter how many times you are knocked down." - David McNally

"There's a difference between interest and commitment. When you're interested in doing something, you do it only when it's convenient. When you're committed to something, you accept no excuses; only results." - Kenneth Blanchard

"Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person." - Albert Einstein

What are YOU committed to these days? What project, pursuit, cause, creation, effort, or endeavor have you fully embraced? And if, perchance, you haven't fully embraced it yet, what obstacle do you need to overcome? What do you need to do, today, in order to fully commit?

Quotes on mastery
Quotes on Excellence
Storytelling for the Revolution

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:17 PM | Comments (0)

May 17, 2020
WHAT WOULD SOLOMON DO? Can Wisdom Be Taught?

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Thought provoking article here on the real purpose of education, can wisdom be taught, and the choices facing higher education these days.

Photo: Pierre Bamin, Unsplash
Wisdom Circles
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2020
32 Inspiring Quotes on Mastery

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"Mastery" is a fascinating phenomenon -- one that many people speak about, but few attain. Is it possible? Yes, it is. But what is it really? Ah... now that's the question, isn't it? The dictionary defines mastery as "possession or display of great skill or technique." OK. Good start. If you're fluent in French, for example, you have a mastery of the language. If you win every game of chess, you show a mastery of the game. Skill is necessary, of course, in order to be a Master, but it not sufficient. Something else, beyond skill, is also needed. What might that be?

"One can have no smaller or greater mastery then mastery of oneself." - Leonardo DaVinci

"It's easy to get on the path of mastery. The real challenge lies in staying on it." - George Leonard

"If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all." - Michelangelo

"Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person." - Albert Einstein

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"People with a high level of personal mastery are able to consistently realize the results that matter most deeply to them. They approach their life as an artist would approach a work of art. They do that by becoming committed to their own lifelong learning." - Peter Senge

"Clarity precedes mastery." - Robin Sharma

"If you are not willing to be a fool, you can't become a master." - Jordan Peterson

"It took me a lifetime." - Pablo Picasso

"Order and simplification are the first steps towards mastery of a subject." - Thomas Mann

"Over-seriousness is a warning sign for mediocrity and bureaucratic thinking. People who are seriously committed to mastery and high performance are secure enough to lighten up." - Michael J. Gelb

"Mastery is not a function of genius or talent. It is a function of time and intense focus applied to a particular field of knowledge." - Robert Greene

"All practical teachers know that education is a patient process of mastery of details, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day." - Alfred North Whitehead

"Manhood is patience. Mastery is nine times patience." - Ursula. K. Leguin

"The Master doesn't glitter like a jewel, but is as rugged and common as a stone." - Lao Tzu

"If I had known there was such a thing as Islamic Calligraphy, I would never have started to paint. I have strived to reach the highest levels of artistic mastery, but I found that Islamic Calligraphy was there ages before I was." - Pablo Picasso

"I know how to go, go, go. Stopping, I've learned, is the stuff of mastery." - Danielle LaPorte

"Detachment is the beginning of mastery." - Sri Aurobindo

"Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own." - Bruce Lee

"A man has to learn that he cannot command things, but that he can command himself; that he cannot coerce the wills of others, but that he can mold and master his own will: and things serve him who serves Truth; people seek guidance of him who is master of himself." - James Allen

"Mastery of awareness requires that you never take personal offense." - Deepak Chopra

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"Every artist was first an amateur." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Meditate. Live purely. Be quiet. Do your work with mastery. Like the moon, come out from behind the clouds! Shine." - Buddha

"Mastery is not measured by the number of terrible things you eliminate from your life, but by the number of times you eliminate calling them terrible." - Neal Donald Walsch

"A good teacher protects his pupils from his own influence." - Bruce Lee

"You must immerse yourself in your work. You have to fall in love with your work. You must dedicate your life to mastering your skill. That's the secret of success." - Chef Jiro

"Mastery comes via a monomaniacal focus on simplicity versus an addiction to complexity." - Robin Sharma

"Most people have no idea of the giant capacity we can immediately command when we focus all our resources on mastering a single area of our lives." - Tony Robbins

"You cannot control what happens to you but you can control your attitude toward what happens to you. In that, you will be mastering change rather than allowing it to master you." - Brian Tracy

"Self-discipline begins with the mastery of your thoughts. If you don't control what you think, you can't control what you do. Simply, self-discipline enables you to think first and act afterward." - Napoleon Hill

"All of your scholarship, all your study of Shakespeare and Wordsworth would be vain if at the same time you did not build your character and attain mastery over your thoughts and your actions." - Mahatma Gandhi

"Progress comes to those who train and train; reliance on secret techniques will get you nowhere." - Morihei Ueshiba

"How do you best move toward mastery? To put it simply, you practice diligently, but you practice primarily for the sake of the practice itself." - George Leonard

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Photo #2: Blaz Erzetic, Unsplash

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2020
GREAT QUOTES ON EXCELLENCE

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The word "excellence" means different things to different people. Your definition may be different than mine... or your best friend's.... or your customers... or the CEO of the company you work for -- assuming, of course, you are not a freelancer, self-employed, or unemployed. Ultimately, YOU are the one to decide what excellence really means... why it matters... and how to get there. Towards that end, here is a selection of inspiring quotes on that very topic. See if you can find one that calls to you -- then reflect on what you can do to bring more excellence into your life -- on or off the job.

NOTE: The English word excellence comes from the Latin excello -- "to elevate, raise up, surpass."

"Excellence is not a gift, but a skill that takes practice. We do not act rightly because we are excellent. In fact we achieve excellence by acting rightly." - Plato

"The desire of excellence is the necessary attribute of those who excel. We work little for a thing unless we wish for it." - Edward Bulwer-Lytton

"The secret of joy in work is contained in one word: excellence. To know how to do something well is to enjoy it." - Pearl S. Buck

"Excellence is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, and intelligent execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives. Choice, not chance, determines your destiny." - Aristotle

"Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better." - Pat Riley

"Excellence is doing a common thing in an uncommon way."- Albert Einstein

"Every job is a self-portrait of the person who did it. Autograph your work with excellence." - Jessica Guidobono

"Excellence is the unlimited ability to improve the quality of what you have to offer." - Rick Pitino

"The sad truth is that excellence makes people nervous." - Shana Alexander

"Those who attain any excellence, commonly spend life in one pursuit; for excellence is not often gained upon easier terms." - Samuel Johnson

"Aspire greatly; anything less than a commitment to excellence becomes an acceptance of mediocrity." - Brian Tracy

"The price of greatness is responsibility." - Winston Churchill

"I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times." - Bruce Lee

"Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence." - Vince Lombardi

"The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence." - Confucius

Idea Champions
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:52 PM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2020
NON-JUDGMENTAL LISTENING

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This just in! Recently, I polled a community of a thousand people I am working with, asking them to rate 20 different ways they could be of support to their colleagues, peers, neighbors, families, and children during these crazy times of the Coronavirus.

The highest rated of them all? Non-judgmental listening! An excellent choice. Sounds great, but in reality, is not as easy as it sounds.

If you want some tips on HOW to be a non-judgmental listener, click the links below for some sage advice.

Mastering non-judgmental communication

How to listen without judging
Mental Health First Aid

One of the biggest obstacles to communication
On being a better listener
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:05 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2020
Passionate Leaders

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This just in from Mohammed Azim, Head of the English Department at Al Siraat College , in Epping, Australia. Mohammed is a bright light, a dedicated team leader, and an active participant in the Team Leadership Training I am currently facilitating at the school. Mohammed is one of 35 teachers and staff members participating in a series of weekly training sessions to raise the bar for teamwork and collaboration. Al Siraat is onto something big -- and that is, tooling up their teachers and staff with the methods, mindset, tools, techniques, and practice necessary to help the teams they lead become high performing.

PASSIONATE LEADERS

Lead with titles? No!
They lead with their passion.
Assign tasks? No!
They set the pace with magnetic vision.
Drive team? No!
They coach them with compassion.
Use people? No!
They develop them on every occasion.
Depend on authority? No!
On goodwill only is their station.
Say "I" mostly? No!
"We" is the sound in their oration.
Rule with their mind? No.
Heart and soul, it is; without deviation.
Fueled by commands? No!
Contagious positive energy is the sensation.
React to situations? No!
They anticipate as part of their education.
Ambitious, are they? No!
Their mission is their sole obsession.
Focused on consistency? No!
Flexibility is their take and position.
"Do the thing right"? No!
"Do the right thing" is their admission.

Great quotes on leadership
Idea Champions
Skillset vs mindset

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:20 AM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2020
If You Call a Meeting, Please Call It By the Right Name

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Maybe it's just me. Or maybe it's the business I'm in, but I can't help but notice how often people with a pressing need to call a meeting find a way to work the "Let's get together and brainstorm" phrase into their invitation even when their meeting has absolutely nothing to do with brainstorming.

In effect, these kinds of invitations are nothing more than a kind of "bait and switch" in which unwary invitees assume they've been invited to help conjure up new possibilities, when, in fact, their creativity is neither needed, wanted, or recognized. The result? "Brainstorming" gets a bad name, meeting goers get pissed, and the person who called the meeting loses major points. Simply put, not all fruits are bananas.

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And so, if YOU have a tendency to misrepresent the kind of meetings you call, the following list of "non-brainstorm meetings" should help clarify matters. I beseech you -- please do not use the "B" word to describe the meeting you're inviting people to if it has nothing to do with ideation and if any of the five descriptors below more accurately describe the purpose of your meeting.

1. INFORMATION SHARING MEETING: This is probably the most common kind of meeting -- a chance for people to update each other, share research, and reflect on changes impacting whatever projects they are working on together. New ideas are not the goal of this kind of meeting -- just the facts, m'am. (BTW, before calling this kind of meeting, ask yourself if the information to be shared can be shared in any other way).

2. DISCUSS IMPORTANT TOPICS MEETING:
Some meetings require nothing more than a talking head session -- a bunch of people sitting around a table and talking about this, that, and the other thing. This kind of meeting gives people a healthy chance to air out opinions, share concerns, listen, debate, and eat muffins. There's nothing wrong with this kind of meeting, but it does not require brainstorming for it to be effective.

3. TEAM ALIGNMENT MEETING: Sometimes teams simply need to get together to get on the same page. Or, if not on the same page, then in the same book. While this kind of gathering may include the sharing of information (see #1), it may also be a time for team mates to connect, clarify their vision, and reinforce commitments. While this kind of meeting may seem "soft" to some people, it's not. Unless your team is connected and aligned, it's highly unlikely it will be effective. PS: Getting your ducks in a row requires discussion, not brainstorming.

4. FEEDBACK MEETING: Sometimes it's useful for team members to get together for no other reason than to give and receive feedback. This kind of gathering can be as simple as a few "report outs" and a previously agreed upon process for people sharing their perspectives with each other. Ideas may spontaneously emerge from this kind of pow wow, but a feedback meeting is not the same thing as a brainstorm session.

5. DECISION MAKING MEETING: Sometimes the only reason for a team to get together is to make decisions, as in "who's doing what?" or whether it's time to get new bowling shirts. Decision making comes from the left brain. Brainstorming comes from the right. By the way, if your team has no agreement about how it makes decisions, this kind of meeting won't go very well --unless, of course, it's already been decided that the "boss" is the one who will be making decisions on behalf of the team.

So there you have it. Five kinds of meetings that are not brainstorm sessions. Neither are they vacations, coconuts, of the latest viral YouTube video of a cat playing the piano with a tongue depressor.

If you value the time, energy, and expectations of the people you work with, please take the time to clarify what kind of meeting you are inviting them to and declare it, as such, instead of misrepresenting it as a brainstorming session (which it probably isn't).

Description of a brainstorming session
Our brainstorming website

If you are a brainstorming skeptic

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:20 PM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2020
The Innovation Burnout Syndrome

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Most newly launched organizational innovation initiatives have a dark side, a not-much-talked-about shadow side -- the metaphorical alcoholic-father-in-the-basement side. And it is this... fascinating new projects are conceived, senior leaders get excited, game plans are drawn up, but no one gives the "worker bees" any more time to devote to the newly launched projects. They are, in effect, expected to shoehorn their new efforts into their already overloaded schedules.

Bottom line, aspiring innovators' "day jobs" end up colliding with newly launched innovation initiatives and mayhem ensues. People either burn out, get cranky, triangulate to third parties, spend way too much time explaining the newly launched innovation project to others, or else go into martyrdom-mode -- all behaviors that do not bode well for the individual, the company, or its customers. And while every company DOES have a few superstar self-starters who dive in with both feet, this is not a formula for sustainable innovation.

The solution? Either redistribute workloads, offer "innovation project sabbaticals", or provide your front line innovators with enough support services to unclutter their minds, ease their way forward, and allow them the time to focus on the innovation job at hand without frying.

Oh, I almost forgot -- you can stagger the launch of new initiatives so not everything is happening at the same time.

If you don't, expect nothing but a whole lot of chaos, broken promises, unfulfilled expectations, and the kind of innovation backlash you wish you hadn't unleashed.

Three minute video on this phenomenon

Idea Champions
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:28 PM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2020
To Create the Future, See Hidden Patterns (and Challenge Them)

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C_n y__ r_ad th__ se_t_nc_ ?

Probably.

And do you know why you can? Because you've been given just enough information to deduce a meaning. Your brain, drawing on past experiences of letters, words and sentences, recognizes a pattern -- or at least thinks it does.

Human beings are masters at "filling in the blanks." We see something, compare it to our storehouse of past memories, reach a conclusion and then act on it. This pattern-recognizing ability of ours is very useful tool. It saves us time, lets us to make decisions on the fly, and helps us interpret our world.

For example, when driving up a hill, your pattern recognition ability allows you to keep on driving rather than stop your car to make sure the road continues on the other side.

Past experience has taught you that roads continue, even when you can't see where they're going.

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"A genius is only that one who discerns the pattern of things within the confusion of details a little sooner than the average person," explained Ben Shahn.

True. But not always. After an earthquake, for example, some roads do not continue. In that case, it would not serve you to keep on driving. A routine habit that saved you time in the past might now lead to your quick demise. (Bye bye car payments. Bye bye world).

Indeed, more than a few patterns that we live our lives by turn out to seriously mislead us.

Stereotyping is the most obvious manifestation of this phenomenon, causing us to jump to conclusions. But our conclusions are not always true. In our hurry to make sense of the world, we prematurely "fill in the blanks," trading in reality for reactivity. The past, instead of serving us, becomes our ruler.

Patterns are neither good nor bad. They're simply the raw material from which we interpret our world.

Weathermen make their living interpreting patterns. So do stock market analysts, futurists, and astrologers. All of them infer a future based on past trends. Sometimes, however, they misinterpret the clues. Or even more insidiously, cannot detect new patterns inconsistent with their present worldview.

If you want to be more creative, start making a commitment to look for, learn from, and challenge existing patterns. It will help you see the world (and all your problems) in wonderful, new ways -- the fertile ground from which all innovation springs.

AN EXERCISE FOR YOU:
1. What patterns or trends most intrigue you?
2. What can you learn from these patterns or trends?
3. What new ideas for a product or service come to mind when you reflect on these patterns or trends?

Idea Champions
Here's a new trend
MitchDitkoff.com

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:46 AM | Comments (3)

May 01, 2020
THE BEGINNING OF MASTERY: Wax on, Wax Off

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:02 AM | 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.

"In tune with corporate America." — CNN
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