September 08, 2014
The DNA of Sparking Innovation

iStock_000027350952Small.jpg

Most people think that the ability to be innovative is a mystical state available only to the chosen few.

The effort, they imagine, takes a lot of time and hard work. And since they don't have time and don't like hard work, they reason that innovation just isn't in the cards for them.

But innovation is not a mystical state. It's a natural state -- a human birthright. The people in your organization, in fact, already are innovative. The only thing is: their natural ability to be innovative is being obscured by their own habits of mind and a variety of bothersome organizational constraints.

logo-fedex.jpg

Their challenge is the same one as seeing the "hidden" arrow in the FedEx logo (look between the "E" and the "X").The arrow has always been there, but most people never notice it.

This is the work of Idea Champions. We help people see what they already have, but don't know how to access.

We help people make meaningful adjustments of vision, insight, and perception so they can acknowledge, embrace, and apply their innate ability to be more creative on the job -- and, for those clients who want to reinvent their "innovation process", we help them figure it out.

What follows is a brief summary of how we do this...

1. Know Thy Customer:
Long before we ever get into a room with participants, we do our due diligence -- learning about WHO we are serving, WHAT they expect, and HOW our time with them will be the most significant.

Sometimes this takes the form of phone interviews. Or online polls. Or studying key documents our clients send us in order to understand their current reality, industry, business challenges, organizational constraints, and hoped for outcomes.

2. Customization:
Based on our assessment of our client's needs, we put together a game plan to get the job done. Towards this end, we draw on more than 100 "innovation-sparking" modules we've been developing since 1986.

3. Co-Creation:
Early in the design process, we invite our clients to give us feedback about our approach. Their feedback stirs the creative soup and provides us with the input needed to transform a good session design into a great one.

4. Spacing In:
We make a great deal of effort to ensure that the space in which our sessions take place are as ideal as possible. Form may follow function, but function also follows form.

When participants walk into an Idea Champions session, they begin "mind shifting" even before the session begins. It is both our belief and experience that culture/environment is a huge X factor for creativity and innovation.

5. Drive Fear Out of the Workplace:
Peter Drucker, America's sage management consultant, was a big proponent of removing fear from the workplace. So are we. Towards that end, each of our sessions begins with a norm-setting process that makes it easy for participants to establish a dynamic culture of innovation for the day.

electricBrain.jpg

6. Mindset:
Organizations don't innovate, people do. But not just any "people." No. People who are energized, curious, confident, fascinated, creative, focused, adaptive, collaborative, and committed.

People who emerge from our sessions are significantly more in touch with these "innovation qualities" than when they began. Their minds have changed. They see opportunities when, previously, all they saw were problems.

They let go of perfectionism, old paradigms, and habitual ways of thinking. In their place? Open-mindedness, listening, idea generation, original thinking, full engagement, and the kind of commitment that drives meaningful change.

7. Balancing Polarities:
Human beings, by nature, are dualistic, (i.e. "us" vs. "them," "short-term" vs. "long-term," "incremental" vs. "breakthrough," "left brain" vs. "right brain".)

The contradictions that show up in a corporate environment (or workshop) can either be innovation depleters or innovation catalysts. It all depends how these seeming conflicting territories are navigated. Idea Champions is committed to whole-brain thinking -- not just right brain or left brain thinking.

Our work with organizations has shown us that one of the pre-conditions for innovation is a company's ability to strike the balance between these polarities.

Each workshop we lead and each consulting engagement we commit to is guided by our understanding of how to help our clients find the healthy balance between the above-noted polarities.

8. Expert Facilitation: "A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile when someone contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind," wrote St. Exupery.

This, quite simply, is what Idea Champions does. But we do far more than just contemplate. We also architect and build.

Since 1986, we've been facilitating innovation-sparking engagements for a wide variety of industries. We have mastered the art and science of turning lead (or leaders) into gold. And we can train your people to do the same thing we do.

9. Experiential Challenges: "What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand."

So said the great Chinese sage, Confucius. This 14-word quote describes the essence of our work. Simply put, we get people off their "ifs, ands or buts," and into the experience of what's possible.

While we value theory, research, models, data, best practices, business cases, and most of the other flora and fauna of business life, we've come to understand that the challenge of sparking insight, breakthrough, and change, is best accomplished by doing -- not talking.

That's why all of our sessions include experiential challenges that provide participants with visible ways of seeing innovation in action -- what supports it and what obscures it.

10. Emergent Design: Awakening the creativity of an organization's workforce is not a follow-the-dots exercise.

Although all of our interventions begin with carefully crafted project plans and agendas, our facilitators are fluent in the art and science of making the kind of real-time adjustments, refinements, and improvisations that are the difference between a good session and a great session.

Facilitators who attempt to imitate our approach find it difficult to succeed without first learning how to master the art of emergent design. The good news is that it can be learned -- and this is just one of the things we teach in our Train the Trainer programs.

11. Edutainment: Idea Champions sessions are a hybrid of two elements: education and entertainment. We know that when participants are enjoying themselves their chances of learning increase exponentially.

That's why we make all of our sessions a hybrid of education and entertainment. Participants do not get tired. They do not get bored. They do not sneak long looks at their Blackberries.

12. Full Engagement:
Idea Champions sessions are highly participatory. Our facilitators are skilled at teasing out the brilliance of participants, regardless of their social style, job title, or astrological sign.

But perhaps more importantly, our facilitators know how to help participants tease out each others' brilliance. Eventually, everyone gets into the act. The shy people take center stage and the power players take a back seat. The collective wisdom in the room gets a much-needed chance to be accessed and expressed.

13. Convergence: Idea Champions is successful because what we do works. And one of the reasons WHY it works is because our sessions help participants translate ideas into action.

Ideas are powerful, but they are still only the fuzzy front end of the innovation process. Ultimately, they need to turn into results. Creativity needs to be commercialized. Our workshops, trainings, and consulting interventions help our clients do exactly that.

14. Tools, Techniques, and Takeaways: Ideas Champions closes the gap between rhetoric and reality. We don't just talk about innovation or teach about it -- we spark the experience of it. And we do that in very practical ways.

One way is by teaching people how to use specific, mind-opening techniques to access their innate creativity. Another way is by providing our clients with a variety of innovation-sparking guidelines, processes, and materials that can be immediately used on the job.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:06 PM | Comments (1)

September 01, 2014
REAL ROI: Return on Imagination!

If you're a champion of innovation, chances are good you've encountered the ROI beast more than a few times -- senior leaders looking at you cross-eyed and questioning the value of your efforts. Stop the madness! Change the game! Forward this slide show today!

First, get clear about your problem

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:26 AM | Comments (1)

August 03, 2014
Innovation as a Happy Accident

PuzzledBusMan.jpg

A little known fact about innovation is that many breakthroughs have not been the result of genius, but "happy accidents" -- those surprise moments when an answer revealed itself for no particular reason.

The discovery of penicillin, for example, was the result of Alexander Fleming noting the formation of mold on the side of petri dish left uncleaned overnight.

Vulcanized Rubber was discovered in 1839 when Charles Goodyear accidentally dropped a lump of the polymer substance he was experimenting with onto his wife's cook stove.

More recently, 3M's post-it was also the result of an accident in the lab. Breakthroughs aren't always about invention, but the intervention required, by the aspiring innovator, to notice something new, unexpected, and intriguing.

LEARN FROM YOUR HAPPY ACCIDENTS:

SageCartoon.jpg

1. Think about a recent project, pilot, or business of yours that did not turn out the way you expected.

2. Ask yourself if any of the unexpected results offer you a clue or insight about how you might proceed differently.

3. Instead of interpreting your results as "failure," consider the fact that the results are simply nature's way of getting you to see something new -- something that merits further exploration.

Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel
Use this to have a happy accident
Happy accidents on steroids
What we do

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

August 02, 2014
The Challenge of Virtual Brainstorm Training

Laptop man and lightbulb.jpg

For the past six months, Idea Champions has been delivering its Conducting Genius brainstorm facilitation training virtually as well as in person. We've learned a lot along the way and we'd like to take a few minutes, now, to share a little bit of that with you -- just in case YOU are thinking of doing more online training.

First of all, a lot of things you'd assume would be lost in translation by going the virtual route did not turn out to be an issue for us.

If you have a solid online platform and everyone can see and hear clearly, without video hiccups or audio delays, most of the concerns about clarity of communication become moot.

And, there's really no problem with maintaining a high level of engagement and immediacy of experience IF you can keep tossing the proverbial ball back to participants in the form of questions, discussions, online polls, and practice sessions.

JugglingLady.jpg

Indeed, we've found we can keep a high level of engagement for as long as four hours at a time (including breaks, of course.)

Content is also not a problem, as any information you can deliver in person can be delivered virtually.

Powerpoint? We've found it important not to use it too much -- only when absolutely necessary and then get back to directly relating to the participants as soon as possible. Similar to on-site sessions, Powerpoint can put people into a trance and turn them into spectators, not participants.

Additionally, removing the visual presence of the online facilitator and replacing him/her with a Powerpoint slide removes an important aspect of what keeps people engaged -- the human face and the sense that someone can "see" them.

Our challenge, in teaching people, virtually, how to become better brainstorm facilitators is finding ways to replace the modeling we do when we teach onsite.

Alert participants can pick up a lot of nuanced body language and facilitation cues simply by watching someone else facilitate a live brainstorm session. The transmission of tacit knowledge (the kind of knowledge that can only be communicated via apprenticeship or observation) tends to get lost in the virtual sauce.

For example, one of our seven brainstorm ground rules, in a training, is "no side talk." In our live sessions, we promote a fairly strict adherence to the ground rules, but there are several non-verbal ways to remind rule breakers to stay focused -- subtle facilitation methods that become hard to communicate virtually.

Also, if people are having side conversations during a session, all you have to do, as facilitator, to stop this behavior, is walk closer to them physically. This gets their attention and they look up. It is usually enough to extinguish the unwanted behavior. If not, you can then give them the "finger," so to speak -- the index finger indicator for "only one person speaks at a time."

Other peripatetic facilitator moves that are hard to teach virtually are the spontaneous ones that emerge in a session -- the kind where the facilitator chooses to walk around the room, or stand in different places in the room, to give participants a different visual focus -- a move with the potential to literally change the "point of view" for everyone.

Of course, we can TELL our online participants about these subtle facilitation tactics, but it's much more effective, from the learning retention perspective, if they experience them physically and real-time.

Our goal, as brainstorm facilitation teachers, is to create a virtual training experience that is virtually identical to our in-person training. Right now, we figure we're about 90% of the way there.

How long do you think it will be before communicating via holograms becomes the norm?

Thanks to Val Vadeboncoeur, Idea Champions Director of Training, for sharing his insights and wisdom on this most important topic.


Brainstorm facilitation training

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:01 PM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2014
How to Sell Without Selling

bigstockphoto_Turkey-Rug-Merchant-700357.jpg

Two years ago, my wife and I bought a Turkish rug from Mehmet, Istanbul's Steve Jobs of rug merchants.

If I could run my company as well he could sell, I'd be a very wealthy man.

Technically, speaking, Mehmet didn't really sell us anything. He simply created the conditions that allowed us to buy (which some people, I know, will think is really just a clever form of selling, but it wasn't.)

How did Mehmet work his magic, when all we did was sit down at his cafe to drink some coffee with no conscious desire to buy a rug?

MEHMET'S MAGIC

1. He effortlessly established rapport

2. He gave us all the space we needed

3. He shared his knowledge with great feeling

4. He had beautiful rugs and knew them better than most people know themselves

5. He loved what he did

6. He had a wonderful sense of humor

7. He had kind eyes and a big heart

8. He conducted the transaction in the spirit of service

9. He asked us how much we thought the rug was worth and then sold it to us for less.

10. He knew what he was doing and he did it with the perfect blend of flair and humility.

Take a moment to think about the way that you currently sell your product or services. If it's not going quite as well as you'd like, ask yourself: "What can I learn from Mehmet the Rug Merchant?"

Idea Champions
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:09 AM | Comments (2)

July 14, 2014
10 Things You Can Do in the Next 3 Minutes

Dog sunglasses.jpg1. Eat an apple
2. Brush your teeth
3. Sing a song
4. Make a to do list
5. Google yourself
6. Take your dog for a very short walk
7. Forgive your parents for being imperfect
8. Complain about the government
9. Write a mediocre haiku
10. Submit a 10-minute-or-less peace-themed video (or a link to a video) to PeaceCast, an organization of inspired volunteers who are producing a 48-hour livestream, on September 21st, to celebrate the UN-sanctioned International Day of Peace. Three minutes. That's all it takes. Three minutes to communicate a message of peace to a world that sorely needs it. Or you could brush your teeth. Click here.

Sample #1 from 2013
Sample #2 from 2013
Sample #3 from 2013
PeaceCast on Facebook

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:11 AM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2014
Rene Descartes Had It Backwards

palin_wink.jpg

Rene Descartes, the famous French philosopher, mathematician, and writer is remembered by many as the author of the famous phrase, "I think therefore I am."

With all due respect to the probably-way-smarter-than-me Mr.Descartes, I don't buy it.

Based on my non-Aristotelian, late night sojourns into the flip side of thinking, it's become very clear to me that a more accurate statement would be "I am therefore I think."

Then again, since we all know Werner Heisenberg irrefutably proved that the experimenter affects the experiment, it is likely that the truest philosophical statement of being would probably take on the shape of the person who said it.

And so, in a highly non-caffeinated fit of blogospheric bravado, I present to you 15 alternate statements of epistemological coolitude that give Descartes' tired phrase (and mine) a run for their money.

1. "I wink, therefore I am." - Sarah Palin
2. "I blink, therefore I am." - Malcolm Gladwell
3. "I link, therefore I am." - Larry Page and Sergey Brin
4. "I sink therefore I am." - Davey Jones and his Locker
5. "I stink therefore I am." - Pepe LePew

6. "I drink, therefore I am." - WC Fields
7. "I ink, therefore I am." - Kinkos
8. "I slink, therefore I am." - Marilyn Monroe
9. "I rink, therefore I am." - Wayne Gretzky
10. "I kink, therefore I am." - Ray Davies

11. "I clink, therefore I am." - Moet Chandon
12. "I fink, therefore I am." - Vinny "The Rat" Scalucci
13. "I pink, therefore I am." - Mary Kay
14. "I tink, therefore I am." - Bob Marley
15. "I plink, therefore I am." - Ernest Kaai

Got others? Lay them on me.

A big thank you to Cary Bayer and Barney Stacher for a bunch of the aforementioned pearls of wisdom

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:39 PM | Comments (5)

June 27, 2014
We Speak Right Brain AND Left Brain

Two Electric Heads.jpg

Because our blog is entertaining and our home office is in Woodstock, some organizations overlook us -- assuming we are a niche player. Not true. Here's a sampling of our clients And, by the way, we were the first company ever hired by AT&T to teach creative thinking to their work force. We speak right brain AND left brain.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:47 PM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2014
When a Best Practice Is a Worst Practice

chickenoriginal.jpg

I'm a collector of best practices. I like to find out what forward thinking individuals and organizations have done to accomplish extraordinary results.

Sometimes I share these stories in my keynotes or workshops.

Invariably, my stock rises when I tell these stories. People think I know stuff. They get giddy. They take notes. They think about how to adapt these best practices to their organization. But then things get weird.

People start becoming satisfied with emulating other people's lives. Instead of thinking up their own best practices, they imitate. Ouch!

The spirit of innovation gets replaced by the religion of innovation.

Gone is reflection. Gone is the process of discovery. Gone is the ownership that comes with birthing new insights. In it's place? Simulation. Imitation. And, all too often, the blind following of pre-packaged solutions.

IdeaHead.jpg

I'm not saying there isn't value in paying attention to other people's best practices. There is.

But when when imitation replaces creation, something invariably gets lost -- and innovation eventually goes down the drain.

Idea Champions
My Keynotes
Cartoon
Create your own best practices

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:47 PM | Comments (2)

May 17, 2014
The DNA of an Idea Champions Session

When my dear mother was alive, she told me she had no idea what I did for a living. Around the canasta table, with her friends, she would say I was a "motivational speaker", no matter how many times I explained what I actually did. The following slide show is dedicated to her and to YOU, too -- especially if you are wondering what the heck goes on in one of Idea Champions' innovation-sparking workshops.

Here's a simple way to get your arms around WHAT we do and HOW we do it -- the essence of our highly engaging way of helping organizations raise the bar for innovation. WHY we do it? Because we are on a mission to unleash insight, brilliance, and possibility in the world. Intrigued? Call us: 845.679.1066.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:18 PM | Comments (0)

May 08, 2014
10 Keys for Giving a Great Keynote

LightThruKeyhole.jpg

Actors want to direct. Directors want to produce. And consultants want to be kick ass speakers. And why not? The pay is good. It doesn't take much time. And it's a lot less heavy lifting than most consulting gigs.

Easier said that done, however. Delivering a kick ass keynote is not as easy as it looks. If you want to get into the game, begin by reviewing the following guidelines to see if you have what it takes.

1. Be in tune with your purpose: If you're going to hold an audience's attention for more than 10 minutes, you've got to begin by holding firm to your purpose... your calling... what gets you out of bed in the morning. If it's missing, all you could ever hope to deliver is a speech -- which is NOT what people want to hear. If your purpose is clear, you're home free and won't need a single note card.

CelebratingMan.jpg

Mark Twain said it best: "If you speak the truth, you don't need to remember a thing."

2. Be passionate: Realize you are on the stage to let it rip. Completely. People are sitting in the audience because they want an experience, not just information. They want to feel something, not just hear something.

So play full out. Pull the rip cord. Jump!

3. Connect with the audience: You may know a lot of stuff. You may have a double Ph.D, but unless you know how to connect with the audience, your knowledge ain't worth squat.

If you were a tree falling in a conference room, no one would hear it.

So tune in! Establish rapport! Connect! And that begins by respecting your audience and realizing you are there to serve.

4. Tell stories: That's how great teachers have communicated since the beginning of time. Storytelling is the most effective way to disarm the skeptic and deliver meaning in a memorable way.

"The world is not made of atoms," explained poet, Muriel Rukyser. "It's made of stories."

No bull. Parable!

5. Have a sense of humor: There's a reason why HAHA and AHA are almost spelled the same. Both are about the experience of breakthrough. And both are sparked when the known is replaced by the unknown, when continuity is replaced by discontinuity.

Hey, admit it. At the end of the day, if you can't find the humor in business, you're screwed. So, why wait for the end of the day. Find the humor now.

6. Get visual: It's become a corporate sport to make fun of power point, but power point can be a thrill if done right. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

If you want to spark people's imagination, use images more than words. The root of the word imagination is image.

7. Have confidence: Do you know what the root of the word "confidence" is? It comes from the Latin "con-fide" -- meaning "to have faith." Have faith in what? Yourself.

That's not ego. It's the natural expression of a human being coming from the place of being called.

So, if you're about to walk out on stage and are feeling the impostor syndrome coming on, stop and get in touch with what is calling you.

Let that guy/gal speak.

8. Trim the Fat: When Michelangelo was asked how he made the David, he said it was simple -- that he merely took away "everything that wasn't."

The same holds for you, oh aspiring-kick ass-presenter-at-some-future high-profile-conference (or, at the very least, pep-talk-giver to your kid's Junior High School soccer team).

Keep it simple. Or, as Patti LaBarre, the delightful MC at last year's World Innovation Forum put it, "Minimize your jargon footprint."

9. Celebrate what works: If you want to raise healthy kids, reinforce their positive behaviors -- don't obsess on the negative. The same holds true for keynote presentations.

If you want to raise a healthy audience, give them examples of what's working out there in the marketplace. Feature the "bright spots," as Chip Heath likes to say. Share victories, best practices, and lessons learned. Save the bitching and moaning for your therapist.

10. Walk the Talk: Good presenters are genuinely moved. Being genuinely moved, it's natural for them come out from behind the podium and actually move around the stage -- as in, walking the talk.

Don't hide behind the podium. Screw your notes. If you have to depend on notes to give your presentation, guess what? You're not being present.

People aren't sitting in the audience to watch you read from your notes. They're sitting there to watch you blast off and inspire them to get out from behind their podium and accomplish the extraordinary.

Yes, I speak
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:04 PM | Comments (2)

April 22, 2014
30 Ways to Know If You Have What It Really Takes to Innovate

LightHands.jpg

Do you have what it takes to innovate? I'm not talking IQ, degree, or job title. I'm talking the curious confluence of behaviors that come with the territory of being someone who turns top of the line ideas into bottom line realities.

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

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

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

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

69536d1313984612-cirque-du-soleil-cirque-du-soleil-pictures.jpg

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

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

Illustration
Idea Champions
If you need a jolt

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:58 PM | Comments (2)

April 19, 2014
25 Reasons Why Brainstorming Sessions Fail in Your Company

6407727.jpg

Whenever I ask my clients to tell me about the quality of their company's brainstorming sessions, they usually roll their eyes and grumble, noting several of the phenomena below.

Recognize any of them in your organization?

1. Lame facilitation
2. Wrong problem statement
3. Unmotivated participants
4. Hidden (or competing) agendas
5. Insufficient diversity of participants

6. Addiction to the status quo
7. Lack of clear ground rules
8. Sterile meeting space
9. No transition from "business as usual"
10. Lack of robust participation

11. The extroverts take over
12. Habitual idea killing
13. Attachment to pet ideas
14. Discomfort with ambiguity
15. Hyper-seriousness

Meeting boredom.jpg

16. Endless interruptions
17. People come late and leave early
18. Premature adoption of the first "right idea"
19. Group think
20. Hierarchy, turfs, and competing sub-groups

21. Imbalance of divergent and convergent thinking
22. No tools or techniques to spark creativity
23. Inadequate idea capture methods
24. Premature evaluation
25. No real closure or next steps

Who can you meet with, this week, to explore new and better ways of improving the quality of your company's brainstorming sessions?

In Defense of Brainstorming
One way to turn things around
Why train people to be brainstorm facilitators

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:45 AM | Comments (5)

April 10, 2014
The Art of Self-Acknowledgment

Blue Sky.jpg

If you're a creative person regularly involved with starting new projects -- the kind unlikely to get results overnight -- here is a simple practice that will keep you in a positive frame of mind and save you from the all-too-familiar phenomenon of depressing yourself by focusing on the cup (or your life) being half empty.

At the end of each work day, acknowledge yourself for all of your accomplishments, small, medium, and large. But not just silently, in your head, verbally -- aloud.

Most cultural creatives, no matter how inspired they are at the beginning of a project, eventually end up feeling down in the dumps. They start focusing on everything they haven't done and everything that hasn't happened instead of focusing on their progress and the fact that they are actually getting closer to their goal.

What I do at the end of each work day that works like a charm, whether I'm in my car, walking the dog, or just laying around, is SPEAK OUT, to myself, everything I've done that moved my project forward that day -- whether it was a phone call made, research done, task accomplished, proposal accepted, or whatever.

Almost always, I'm surprised at the ground I've covered and I feel my mood changing from dread and impossibility to a buoyant sense of victory and "I'm on my way."

GiftBox.jpg

I'm not suggesting you BS yourself, just acknowledge what you've done, no matter how small. And announce it to yourself so you get to HEAR it, not just THINK it.

This simple self-acknowledgment-process establishes a sense of closure for the day, so you can let go of "work mode" and transition to an evening of rest, renewal, and incubation -- an actual night off without having to carry that heavy load of incompletes that not only weigh YOU down, but weigh down all those wonderful people around you who can FEEL your low grade virus of "not good enough."

Drop it. It's useless. You don't need it anymore. And the simplest way to get rid of it is to simply announce, in the pleasure of your own company, the progress you've made that day -- a nice little gift you can give yourself and everyone else who shares your home or life.

Three minutes. That's all it takes. Try it.

Here's a related book on the subject.
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2014
What Makes a High Performing Innovation Council?

Change for the better.jpg

During the past 25 years I've seen a lot of innovation councils (aka "innovation task forces") come and go.

Some of them looked good at the beginning and died a slow death. Some of them looked bad at the beginning and died a quick death. And some of them actually succeeded.

Before diving in, pause, take a breath, and consider the following guidelines.

They will save you time. They will save you headaches. And they may even save your company.

20 TIPS FOR LAUNCHING AN INNOVATION COUNCIL

1. Quit now if you're not really into it.

2. Be mindful of who you invite to participate. Just because someone is a "senior leader" doesn't automatically mean they should be on the Innovation Council. If they don't have the time, passion, or willingness to push the envelope, there's no reason for them to participate.

3. Create a charter. Define tasks. Make sure everyone knows exactly what's expected of them.

4. Establish clear agreements at your first meeting. Otherwise, prepare for chaos, wheel spinning, indecision, and the corporate hoky poky.

5. Build accountability into the process. Innovation Council members, no matter how high up they are on the corporate food chain, need to keep their word to each other. No slacking.

6. Clarify the lines of communication to key stakeholders who are not Innovation Council members. Do not fall prey to the Ivory Tower Syndrome.

7. Feel free to include senior leaders on the council, but only if they really want to do the work. This is NOT a committee or a plum ambassadorship to a fictitious country called "innovation." This is a working group that really needs to be on top of its game, honor its commitments, and model the very best of what real innovation is all about.

8. Meet more often than you want to. (If you only meet once a quarter, fuggedaboutit.)

9. Make sure the person who facilitates your meetings knows what they're doing -- and is prepared for each meeting.

10. Limit the size of your Innovation Council to seven. Any more than ten and you'll have an Innovation Swamp.

11. Have a sense of urgency, not panic.

12. Celebrate your successes, even if they're small.

13. Honor confidentiality.

14. Be lifelong learners about innovation. Put together a reading list. Teach each other.

15. If an Innovation Council member starts to flake out, ask them to either step up or step out.

16. Take notes at each meeting and distribute them within 24 hours.

17. Invite non-Council members to participate in your meetings every once in a while. Don't become a cult.

18. Speak your truth to your "executive sponsors", or whoever the Innovation Council reports to. If they're not holding up their end of the bargain, you're wasting your time.

19. Communicate what you're doing to the rest of the company. Don't keep it a secret. Transparency is the name of the game.

20. Do whatever is necessary to stay inspired. All too often Innovation Councils implode under the collective weight of their own busyness, ridiculous work loads, and stress. PS: Have fun with this!


What have I forgotten? Please add to this list, oh esteemed present and former Innovation Council members. Let it rip!

Idea Champions

Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:29 AM | Comments (7)

March 29, 2014
56 Reasons Why Most Corporate Innovation Initiatives Fail

homer-simpson-pop-art.jpg

Innovation is in these days. The word is on the lips of every CEO, CFO, CIO, and anyone else with a three-letter acronym after their name.

As a result, many organizations are launching all kinds of "innovation initiatives" -- hoping to stir the creative soup. This is commendable. But it is also, all too often, a disappointing experience.

Innovation initiatives sound good, but usually don't live up to expectations. The reasons are many. What follows are 56 of the most common -- organizational obstacles we've observed that get in the way of a company truly raising the bar for innovation.

See which ones are familiar to YOU. Then, sit down with your Senior Team... CEO... innovation committee, or best friend and jump start the process of going beyond these obstacles.

56 Reasons Why Most Corporate Innovation Initiatives Fail

1. "Innovation" framed as an initiative, not the normal way of doing business

2. Absence of a clear definition of what "innovation" really means

3. Innovation not linked to company's existing vision or strategy

4. No sense of urgency

5. Workforce is suffering from "initiative fatigue"

6. CEO does not fully embrace the effort

7. No compelling vision or reason to innovate

8. Senior Team not aligned

9. Key players don't have the time to focus on innovation

10.Innovation champions are not empowered

11. Decision making processes are non-existent or fuzzy

12. Lack of trust

13. Risk averse culture

14. Overemphasis on cost cutting or incremental improvement

15. Workforce ruled by past assumptions and old mental models

16. No process in place for funding new projects

17. Not enough pilot programs in motion

18. Senior Team not walking the talk

19. No company-wide process for managing ideas

20. Too many turf wars. Too many silos.

21. Analysis paralysis

22. Reluctance to cannibalize existing products and services

23. NIH (not invented here) syndrome

24. Funky channels of communication

25. No intrinsic motivation to innovate

26. Unclear gates for evaluating progress

27. Mind numbing bureaucracy

28. Unclear idea pitching processes

29. Lack of clearly defined innovation metrics

30. No accountability for results

31. No way to celebrate quick wins

32. Poorly facilitated meetings

33. No training to unleash individual or team creativity

34. Voo doo evaluation of ideas

35. Inadequate sharing of best practices

36. Lack of teamwork and collaboration

37. Unclear strategy for sustaining the effort

38. Innovation Teams meet too infrequently

39. Middle managers not on board

40. Ineffective roll out of the effort to the workforce

41. Lack of tools and techniques to help people generate new ideas

42. Innovation initiative perceived as another "flavor of the month"

43. Individuals don't understand how to be a part of the effort

44. Diverse inputs or conflicting opinions not honored

45. Imbalance of left-brain and right brain thinking

46. Low morale

47. Over-reliance on technology

48. Failure to secure sustained funding

49. Unrealistic time frames

50. Failure to consider issues associated with scaling up

51. Inability to attract talent to risky new ventures

52. Failure to consider commercialization issues

53. No rewards or recognition program in place

54. No processes in place to get fast feedback

55. Inadequate sense of what your customers really want or need

56. Company hiring process screens out potential innovators

Others we may have missed?

Applied Innovation workshop

Ingenious Leadership workshop
My innovation-sparking keynotes
What our clients say

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:31 PM | Comments (3)

March 27, 2014
The 10 Personas of a Really Effective Brainstorm Facilitator

Idea Faciitator Wall.jpg

Allow me to make a wild guess. You have participated in more than a few brainstorm sessions in your life. Yes?

And allow me to make another wild guess. Many of those sessions left you feeling underwhelmed, over-caffeinated, disappointed, disengaged, and doubtful that much of ANYTHING was ever going to happen as a result of your participation.

Yes, again? I thought so.

There's a ton of reasons why most brainstorming sessions under-deliver, but the main reason -- the Mount Olympus of reasons (drum roll, please....) is the brainstorm facilitator.

Armed with a short list of ground rules, a flipchart marker, and a muffin, most brainstorm facilitators miss the mark completely.

The reason has less to do with their process, tools, and techniques than it does with their inability to adapt to what's happening, real-time, in the room.

In an all-too-professional attempt to be one-pointed, they end up being one-dimensional, missing out on a host of in-the-moment opportunities to spark the ever-mutating, collective genius of the group.

walt_whitman.jpg

If only our well-intentioned brainstorm facilitators could abide by the words of Walt Whitman, when he confessed that he "contained multitudes."

Translation? If you or anyone you know is going to lead a diverse group of time-crunched, opinionated, multi-tracking, people through a process of originating breakthrough ideas, DON'T BE A ONE TRICK PONY! Be a multitude -- or, at the very least, be multi-faceted. Let it rip. Hang ten. Pull out the stops.

Use your right brain and your left. Let all the cats out of the proverbial bag -- and by so doing, exponentially increase your chances of sparking brainpower, brilliance, and beyond-the-obvious ideas.

OK. Enough bloggy pep talk. Let's get down to business.

Take a few minutes now to rate yourself, on a scale of 1-10, for how skillful you are at embodying the following personas of a high flying brainstorm facilitator

Then tune into your biggest strength and ask yourself how you can amplify that quality. Then identify your biggest weakness and figure out how you can improve in that arena.

LightHands.jpg

1.CONDUCTOR
A skilled brainstorm facilitator knows how to orchestrate powerfully creative output from a seemingly dissonant group of people. In the conductor mode, the facilitator includes everyone, evokes even the subtlest contributions from the least experienced participant, and demonstrates their commitment to the whole by offering timely feedback to anyone who "gets lost in their own song."

2.ALCHEMIST
A good brainstorm facilitator is able to transmute lead into gold -- or in modern terms -- knows how to help people "get the lead out." This talent requires an element of wizardry -- the ability to see without looking, feel without touching, and intuitively know that within each brainstormer lives a hidden genius just waiting to get out.

3.DANCER
Light on their feet, brainstorm facilitators move gracefully through the process of sparking new ideas. Able to go from the cha-cha to the polka to the whirling dervish spinning of a brainstorm group on fire, savvy facilitators take bold steps when necessary, even when there is no visible ground underfoot. "The path is made by walking on it," is their motto.

4. MAD SCIENTIST
Skillful brainstorm facilitators are bold experimenters, often taking on the crazed (but grandfatherly) look of an Einstein in heat. While respecting the realm of logic and the rational (the ground upon which most scientists build their homes), the enlightened facilitator is willing to throw it all out the window in the hope of triggering a "happy accident" or a quantum leap of thought. Indeed, it is often these discontinuous non-linear moments that produce the kind of breakthroughs that logic can only describe, never elicit itself.

BusManPaint.jpg

5.DIAMOND CUTTER
Fully recognizing the precious gem of the human imagination (as well as the delicacy required to set it free), the high octave brainstorm facilitator is a craftsman (or craftswoman) par excellence -- focused, precise, and dedicated. Able to get to the heart of the matter in a single stroke without leaving anything or anyone damaged in the process.

6. ACTOR
Brainstorm facilitators are "on stage" whether they like it or not. All eyes are upon them, as well as all the potential critical reviews humanly possible. More often than not, the facilitator's "audience" will only be moved to act (perchance to dream) if they believe the facilitator is completely into his or her role. If the audience does not suspend this kind of disbelief, the play will close early and everyone will be praying for a fire drill or wishing they were back home eating a grilled cheese sandwich.

7.ENVIRONMENTALIST
Brainstorm facilitators are the original recyclers. In their relentless pursuit of possibility, they look for value in places other people see as useless. To the facilitator in full mojo mode, "bad ideas" aren't always bad, only curious indicators that something of untapped value is lurking nearby.

8. OFFICER OF THE LAW
One of the brainstorm facilitator's most important jobs is to enforce "law and order" once the group gets roaring down the open highway of the imagination. This is a fine art -- for in this territory speeding is encouraged, as is running red lights, jaywalking, and occasionally breaking and entering. Just as thieves have their code of honor, however, so too should brainstormers. Indeed, it is the facilitator's task to keep this code intact -- a task made infinitely easier by the ritual declaration of ground rules at the start of a session.''

9.SERVANT
Some brainstorm facilitators, intoxicated by the group energy and their own newly stimulated imagination, use their position as a way to foist their ideas on others -- or worse, manipulate the group into their way of thinking. Oops! Ouch! Aargh! Brainstorm facilitating is a service, not a personal platform. It is supposed to be a selfless act that enables others to arrive at their own solutions -- no matter how different they may be from the facilitator's.

10. STAND-UP COMIC
Humor is one of the brainstorm facilitator's most important tools. It dissolves boundaries, activates the right brain, helps participants get unstuck, and shifts perspective just enough to help everyone open their eyes to new ways of seeing. Trained facilitators are always on the lookout for humorous responses. They know that humor often signals some of the most promising ideas, and that giggles, guffaws, and laughable side-talk frequently indicate a rich vein of possibility to explore. Humor also makes the facilitator much more "likable" which makes the group they are facilitating more amenable to their direction. Ever wonder why the words "Aha!" and "Ha-Ha" are so similar?

Excerpted from Conducting Genius
High Velocity Brainstorming
What our brainstorming clients say
VIDEO: The 8 Dimensions of a Brainstorm Session

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:11 AM | Comments (3)

March 22, 2014
Secrets of the Best TED Speakers

TEDTalksTop100.jpg

Want to perk up your public presentations? Take a look at Carmine Gallo's new book TALK LIKE TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds. Gallo studied more than 500 TED presentations and has distilled what he learned into bite-sized insights for the rest of us. Here are a few highlights:

1. Start with personal stories.
2. Be passionate about how your idea will change the world and inspire lives.
3. Use humor (but sparingly).
4. Feature visuals on your slides, not data.
5. Use body language to focus the audience on you and accentuate the most important parts of your talk.
6. Be yourself. Be authentic!
7. Practice! Practice! Practice!

Good interview with Carmine Gallo on Mark May's fine blog.
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2014
What You Can Learn, in the Next Five Minutes, from a Ping Pong Ball

6394167.jpg

Big thanks to Val Vadeboncoeur, Idea Champions' Director of Training, for this insightful post on an important topic.

I have a handyman friend, Paul Duffy, who is a real-life MacGyver and possesses an uncanny ability to improvise an inexpensive and elegant solution for just about any electrical, plumbing, or construction problem that exists.

For example, just last week he correctly diagnosed a stopped kitchen drain as being the fault of a cheaply-made plastic vent not operating properly. After providing him with a pin, I watched him tweak the device with the pin and his trusty pocket knife so it did what it was supposed to do. No roto-rooting, no run to the hardware store, and no plumbing-related costs.

Paul says he learned this skill from his mother back in Ireland -- a woman who could solve any household problem with whatever was at hand.

MacGyver, as you might recall, was a very popular American TV hero back in the late '80's and early '90's -- a "troubleshooter" who displayed an amazing ability, usually in life and death situations, to simulate just about any complex device with everyday materials needed within a matter of minutes.

MacGyver-macgyver-30218048-1024-768.jpg

Household cleansers could be turned into explosives or made into poisons. Engines could be fixed with flip-flops, coins, and bubble gum -- that kind of thing.

Both the real-life Mr. Duffy and the fictional Mr. MacGyver demonstrate an important innovation skill -- overcoming the human propensity to be hypnotized by current reality -- a thinking box called functional fixity -- whereby it is difficult to imagine any object operating outside of its already-known function.

Functional fixity is a kind of near-sightedness of the mind -- a psychological phenomenon that demonstrates how the more familiar we are with an object or tool, the more we see that object or tool's uses as fixed.

A hammer stays a hammer and a blender stays a blender. They never become an emergency can opener or doorstop.

In the business world, this type of psychological straightjacket shows up as an inability to imagine new uses for the products and services we've created or new applications for the tools and processes we use every day.

Unchecked, it leads to statements like "that's the way this works" or "that's the way we do things around here."

It also enthrones the "expert" or the "experienced ones" as the arbiters of what is possible and what is not possible, which, for an organization, is the road to total paralysis and it's eventual mummification.

This kind of self-hypnosis or "spell" can and must be broken if new ideas are to be generated and developed.

In the brainstorm sessions I facilitate, I break this spell by asking participants to perform a simple exercise. I give them the task of coming up with as many possible uses of a ping-pong ball as they can imagine in three minutes.

With nothing on the line, and no identification with the object at hand, it becomes easy for people to generate alternative uses -- necklaces, tiny boats, toys, packing material, mobiles, Christmas tree decorations, Kermit the Frog's eyes, etc.

Then, I ask people to come up with alternative uses for their own company's products, services, or processes.

303078_10150340748144113_683687758_n.jpg

What people notice is that it's harder to generate multiple alternative uses for something they are very familiar with. In other words, they are bound by functional fixity.

Having done the ping pong ball exercise just minutes before, however, people become much more able to expand their thinking horizons and see everyday objects in a new light.

Maybe data collected via a particular manufacturing process can be used somewhere else in the organization. Maybe a core competency in molding plastic can be used in another line of business. Maybe there are new markets for a flagship product.

Once freed from functional fixity, our creativity expands. We have more choices and more freedom to move.

My invitation to you?

For the next seven days, notice the functional fixity in yourself as you go about your daily routines. Then look for alternative uses of the objects all around you. See how many new ways you can use common household items -- elastic bands... forks... or your favorite hat.

Then consider your company's poorest-selling product or service and ask: "How else could this product or service be used? What non-obvious need might it fulfill?"

Or look at your own skills and ask: "How can I use these skills to help others in new ways?"

The answer will probably be right under your nose. You just have to un-hypnotize yourself to see it.

Excerpted from our Brainstorm Facilitation Training

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:46 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2014
How to Spark Wisdom in the Workplace

Mitch 1.JPG

Dear Heart of Innovation Readers:

If you have received any value from this blog and would be interested in supporting my next, big project -- now launched as a GoFundMe campaign -- click here for a 3-minute video of me describing it and a written description of what the whole thing is all about -- a venture which includes the writing, publication, and promotion of a new book, Wisdom at Work, along with the launching of WISDOM CIRCLES in organizations around the world.

Whatever support you can provide is very much appreciated, Plus, you will be sent a copy of the book when it's published, if you want.

Mitch Ditkoff's GoFundMe campaign

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:35 AM | Comments (0)

March 09, 2014
28 Awesome Quotes on Failure

4137035.jpg

Tried anything recently that didn't quite work out? Congratulations!

Bottom line, there is no innovation without "failure." If your perception of failure is something to avoid, you can kiss your efforts to create something wonderful goodbye. Failure comes with the territory.

If the word puts you in a foul mood, try another one -- like "experiment," for example.

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

2. "99 percent of success is built on failure." -- Charles Kettering

3. "I have not failed once. I've just found 10,000 ways that didn't work." -- Thomas Edison

4. "An inventor fails 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he's in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots." -- Charles Kettering

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

StartHere.jpg

6. "Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly."
-- Robert F. Kennedy

7. "Adversity reveals genius, prosperity conceals it." -- Horace

8. "When we can begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to laugh at ourselves." -- Katherine Mansfield

9. "Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently."
-- Henry Ford

10. "No matter how well you perform, there's always somebody of intelligent opinion who thinks it's lousy." -- Sir Laurence Olivier

11. "If your life is free of failures, you're not taking enough risks."
-- H. Jackson Brown

12. "You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don't try." -- Beverly Sills

13. "I failed my way to success." -- Thomas Edison

14. "Act as if it were impossible to fail." -- Dorothea Brande

15. "Failure is success if we learn from it." -- Malcolm Forbes

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

17. "The season of failure is the best time for sowing the seeds of success." -- Paramahansa Yogananda

18. "Failure doesn't mean that you're a failure ... it just means you haven't succeeded yet." -- Robert Schuller

19. "Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat."
-- F. Scott Fitzgerald

20. "Failure is nature's plan to prepare you for great responsibilities."
-- Napoleon Hill

21. "You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call 'failure' is not the falling down, but the staying down."-- Mary Pickford

22. "Never give in, never give in, never, never, never never -- in nothing, great or small, large or petty -- never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense." -- Winston Churchill

23. "We are not retreating -- we are advancing in another direction."
-- Douglas MacArthur

24. "I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward." -- Thomas A. Edison

25. "Fall seven times, stand up eight." -- Japanese Proverb

26. "Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall." -- Confucius

27. "Stumbling is not falling." -- Portuguese Proverb

28. "The way to succeed is to double your failure rate."
-- Thomas Watson, Founder, IBM

Find the silver linings in so-called "failures"
One reason why we fail
We can help you succeed
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:45 AM | Comments (3)

March 07, 2014
Your Money or Your Life

2230844.jpg

For the life of me, I cannot remember the name of the financial services company that left me an urgent voice mail message asking that I call them back immediately about my availability to lead their annual leadership retreat on a island off the coast of Florida.

All I can recall was how generic sounding their name was -- something like National Investment Services... or Consolidated Financial Brokers.... or The American Banking Alliance -- kind of like the corporate equivalent of John Doe.

Somehow, they had heard of me and, with their big company pow wow coming up, were looking for someone, with a track record, to help them "become more innovative."

Never having heard of them before, I googled their name and, 1.73 seconds later, found myself on their website, slickly designed, I imagined, by someone with a special fondness for iStock photos of earnest looking models impersonating business people -- models who must have just moved to L.A. to pursue acting careers, but found themselves, at 24 or 35, working part-time as waiters and jumping at the chance to pick up some easy money wearing a suit and a smile for a day.

6661106.jpg
Easy for me to say -- me being the proverbial pot calling the proverbial kettle black with my big ass mortgage, family to feed and young entrepreneur's dream of making it big so I'd actually have enough moolah, one day, to invest with a financial services firm. Not to mention all the time in the world to write my best-selling book.

My first meeting with the client was pleasant enough. They talked. I listened, choosing not to interrupt them every time they made their point with an acronym I probably should have known if I only I hadn't spent my formative years living as a hippie, poet and monk.

OK, so they weren't a solar energy company. So they weren't asking me to help them end AIDS. I got it. This was business. The money business. The big money business -- and I was in it, no matter how much Rilke and Rumi I read on the side. Money. This was about money. Money and the VP of something or other inviting me to meet with him and his team the following week on the 57th floor of a building on Wall Street. There would be a badge waiting for me at the security desk, he explained. All I needed to do was show my ID.

Thrilled? Was I thrilled? Not exactly. But this was a possible gig and I needed the bread, so I went.

The VP and his team on the 57th floor looked nothing like the iStock photos on their company's homepage, though they did have a real nice view of Manhattan and a large mahogany conference table.

Our conversation went well enough. I asked all the right questions. They gave all the right answers. They sprinkled the conversation with football metaphors. I nodded. They gave me their business cards. I gave them mine. But on the way home, I began to feel a creeping sense of dislocation and dread -- like I was auditioning for a movie I wasn't quite sure I wanted to be in -- a movie being produced by a very fat man, sitting poolside, cell phone and martini in hand.

4540168.jpg

So when they called me back for a third meeting, I was betwixt and between. Do I simply trust my instincts and tell them I'm not their man? Or do I let go of my all-too-obvious self-righteous judgments and focus on the possibility that I might actually be able to help them get to higher ground?

Eternally the optimist, I chose the latter and decided to meet with them a third time -- a meeting, sad to say, which only confirmed the fact that I didn't like them very much and didn't like myself for sitting in a room with them and enabling their collective hallucination of themselves as a service organization when all they really wanted to do was make more money. Lots more money.

More chit chat. More coffee. More "run it up the flagpole" platitudes that littered our conversation like hidden charges on a credit card bill.

This was the moment of truth.

My client-to-be, apparently satisfied with what was about to become his decision to engage my services, cut to the chase and asked me to quote him a fee.

The honorable thing to have done, at the time, would have sounded like "John, I wish you the best of luck at your offsite, but after deep consideration, I don't think I'm the best possible fit for your company's needs."

But since I hadn't yet mastered the art of speaking my truth I took the easy way out and doubled my fees, thinking that they would now be so ridiculously high it would be the client's decision to end the relationship, not mine.

"That sounds about right," the client exclaimed, extending his right hand to seal the deal.

Fast forward six weeks later.

It's 8:30 a.m. and I'm on stage, in the Oakwood Room, on a beautiful island off the coast of Florida. Looking out at the audience, I notice that four of the gathered troops are sleeping, heads on the table. Someone in the front row explains to me that last night had been a "late one" and they'd all stayed up, drinking, until 4:00 a.m.

4682425.jpg

I tap the mic and begin speaking, trusting that the sound of my amplified voice would be enough to wake the dead.

Two of them snap to attention. The other two don't, still lightly snoring.

I signal the people sitting next to their sleep-deprived peers to poke them, which they do, shooting glances at me as if I am a substitute algebra teacher.

This is, as far I could tell, not a leadership offsite at all, but a college fraternity weekend -- big men on campus with stock options, golf shirts and a very high opinion of themselves. The collective attention span in the room is somewhere between a tse tse fly and a lizard. Nothing I say lands. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Only one thing is clear -- I am the highly paid warm up act before another night of drinking -- a small typographic box they can check off next quarter to prove they have done "the innovation thing."

I may have missed the moment of truth back at my client's office six weeks ago, but I wasn't going to miss it today.

"Gentlemen and ladies," I announce. "It's obvious that some of you don't want to be here. It seems you'd rather be golfing, napping or checking your email. I have no problem with that. So... we're going to take a 20-minute break. Only return if you really want to be here. Otherwise, you'll just be dead weight, screwing it up for the rest of us. Kapish?"

Twenty minutes pass. Everyone returns. Every single one of them.

And while the rest of the day didn't exactly qualify as one of the great moments in the history of innovative leadership off sites, at least it wasn't a total loss. Some good stuff actually happened. People woke up. People shaped up. People stepped up. And I learned a valuable lesson that would serve me for the rest of my life: Follow my feeling, not the money trail.


This story excerpted from my forthcoming book: WISDOM AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of Life.

This story also in the Huffington Post
What's the Problem?
How to help these guys change
We all have a story to tell
Idea Champions

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

March 01, 2014
Follow Your Feeling, Not the Money Trail

6661106.jpg

Sometimes, you just gotta follow your feeling, not the money trail. A new article of ours just published in the Huffington Post.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2014
What's Next After Twitter

twitter-logo-bird.gif

Ever since Twitter made its appearance on the scene in 2006, millions of people have become enamored with the prospect of delivering a message in 140 characters or less.

Short and sweet has become the name of the game. Brevity rules.

And why not? In a world ruled at least as much by ADD as by maniacal despots, who's got time for anything else?

These days, we don't have time. Time has us.

But according to industry sources, Twitter has become passe. Like the SONY Walkman. Like your father's Oldsmobile. Like the last two sentences of this paragraph.

speed.jpg

That's why I've invented TWI -- the next, new super hip, low carbon footprint, social networking platform.

It's quicker. It's faster. And by the end of this post, the company will have already issued an IPO.

140 characters? Please! That's an eternity!

With TWI all you get is 20 characters. That's an 86% improvement in productivity over Twitter. 86%!

If you can't deliver your message in 20 characters, you're obviously a slacker and we don't want your business. Why would we? You'd probably end up calling our customer service bots and wasting their time with your long-winded complaints.

TWI. Think about how much more efficient you will be -- leaving you so much more time to drink coffee and get more things done.

C'mon! What are you waiting for? Time. Is. Passing. Act now!

Fast acting Change Agents

Idea Champions
Quick way to spark innovation
Even quicker
Illustration
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:21 AM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2014
Would You Invest Three Hours to Save Yourself Months of Wasted Effort?

Man shrugging.jpg

Idea Champions has just launched a groundbreaking three-hour workshop that will save your organization untold time, tons of money, and a thousand pounding headaches you can't afford to have.

What our clients say

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2014
How to Help Your Senior Team Get Aligned About a Strategic Direction

5715107.jpg

I am totally inspired by the feedback that Steven McHugh, co-Founder and Chief Innovation Officer of Idea Champions, received from Life Care Centers of America, in response to a two-day Senior Team Strategy Offsite he designed and facilitated for them. See below...

CelebratingMan.jpg"I wanted to thank you for the wonderful work you've done for us at Life Care Centers of America.

As you know, when I left my CFO position at Olin Corporation to help lead Life Care, I was presented with a number of difficult challenges. Due to strict government regulations, the long-term care industry was in turmoil. In 30 years, Life Care had not performed any unified, long-term strategic planning, and there was no HR department for over 27,000 employees.

Based on the excellent work you did for over five years with my former company, I knew you had the skills to help us. Your role in aligning 230 different facilities into a unified force has been remarkable, especially in the short time frame you were given.

As you know, the results of the process you took us through have been astounding. In an environment where five of the top six public nursing home companies have declared bankruptcy, we have enjoyed unprecedented growth. You helped our senior officers transform into a dynamic leadership team. Our clarity around an aligned mission translated into a powerful vision that we can communicate to the rest of the organization.

Your Vision Mapping sessions were the catalysts for communicating our message to the rest of the organization. Your ability to develop balanced scorecards for all 230 facilities was the key to translating strategy into results.

It is now clear what actions are important for us to take, and for the first time, our people know how their success will be measured.

From the senior level to the staff in each facility, actions are now aligned to achieve strategic goals.

2828767.jpg

As an interesting byproduct of your work here, we are beginning to develop leaders at all levels in the organization who are empowered to do whatever it takes to get the job done. They have a clear line of sight to the strategic goals and are stepping up to the plate to get them done.

I am proud of how we have responded to the process you have embedded into our culture. Thank you for justifying my faith in bringing you in to facilitate this major change in how we operate.

I look forward to continuing our work together in developing a high performance organization."

-- Michael Waddell, President, Life Care Centers of America

50 quotes on possibility
50 quotes on vision
Creators on Creating
What we do
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2014
Why You Need to Ask Why

Laptop man and lightbulb.jpg

Some years ago, there was a big problem at one of America's most treasured monuments -- the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC.

Simply put, birds -- in huge numbers -- were pooping all over it, which made visiting the place a very unpleasant experience.

Attempts to remedy the situation caused even bigger problems, since the harsh cleaning detergents being used were damaging the memorial.

Fortunately, some of the National Parks managers assigned to the case began asking WHY -- as in "Why was the Jefferson Memorial so much more of a target for birds than any of the other memorials?"

A little bit of investigation revealed the following:

The birds were attracted to the Jefferson Memorial because of the abundance of spiders -- a gourmet treat for birds.

The spiders were attracted to the Memorial because of the abundance of midges (insects) that were nesting there.

PuzzledBusMan.jpg

And the midges were attracted to the Memorial because of the light.

Midges, it turns out, like to procreate in places were the light is just so -- and because the lights were turned on, at the Jefferson Memorial, one hour before dark, it created the kind of mood lighting that midges went crazy for.

So there you have it: The midges were attracted to the light. The spiders were attracted to the midges. The birds were attracted to the spiders. And the National Parks workers, though not necessarily attracted to the bird poop, were attracted to getting paid -- so they spent a lot of their time (and taxpayer money) cleaning the Memorial.

How did the situation resolve? Very simply.

After reviewing the curious chain of events that led up to the problem, the decision was made to wait until dark before turning the lights on at the Jefferson Memorial.

That one-hour delay was enough to ruin the mood lighting for the midges, who then decided to have midge sex somewhere else.

No midges, no spiders. No spiders, no birds. No birds, no poop. No poop, no need to clean the Jefferson Memorial so often. Case closed.

Now, consider what "solutions" might have been forthcoming if those curious National Parks managers did not stop and ask WHY:

1. Hire more workers to clean the Memorial
2. Ask existing workers to work overtime
3. Experiment with different kinds of cleaning materials
4. Put bird poison all around the memorial
5. Hire hunters to shoot the birds
6. Encase the entire Jefferson Memorial in Plexiglas
7. Move the Memorial to another part of Washington
8. Close the site to the general public

Technically speaking, each of the above "solutions" was a possible approach -- but at great cost, inconvenience, and with questionable results.

They were, shall we say, not exactly elegant solutions.

Now, think about YOUR business... YOUR company... YOUR life.

What problems are you facing that could be approached differently simply by asking WHY.... and then WHY again... and then WHY again.. until you get to the core of the issue?

If you don't, you may just end up solving the wrong problem.

THE FIVE WHYS TECHNIQUE

1. Name a problem you're having
2. Ask WHY it's happening
3. Get an answer
4. Then WHY about that
5. Get an answer
6. Then ask WHY about that -- and so on, five times

Our new, half-day, WHAT'S THE PROBLEM workshop

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

January 31, 2014
27 Best Practices of High Performing Volunteer Organizations

CelebratingMan.jpg
Unless you've been in a coma your entire life, chances are good that, at some time in your life (maybe now?) you've been a volunteer for a non-profit organization.

That's the good news.

The not-so-good news is that many volunteer organizations, without even knowing it, sabotage the value their volunteers bring to the table and you, as a result, may have backed off, gone south, or found yourself grumbling to the other volunteers.

I've recently done some informal research on the subject and have identified 27 "best practices" high performing volunteer organizations abide by. Take a peek. Then, volunteer to share the list with the leaders of whatever volunteer organizations you would like to see succeed at a higher level. Can do?

1. Clearly (and often) communicate the vision.

2. Provide clearly written job descriptions.

3. Take the time to authentically welcome volunteers and orient them to their new role.

4. Ensure that volunteers know exactly what's expected of them.

5. Start new volunteers off small. Don't scare them off with too huge of a commitment too soon.

6. Keep the workloads manageable.

7. Communicate progress being made on a regular basis. Volunteers need to see that their efforts are having impact.

8. When there are setbacks or breakdowns, learn from them -- and share your learnings with others.

9. Be prepared so you don't waste people's time.

10. Create a trusting environment that ensures open communication, teamwork, and respect for diversity.

11. Keep everyone on your team informed of the inevitable changes (i.e. direction, policy, timelines, goals, personnel etc.)

12. Provide opportunities for volunteers to switch to different roles they might find more enjoyable.

13. Give and receive feedback (both formally and informally).

14. Provide opportunities for volunteers to learn and grow.

15. Honor your commitments (and if, for any reason, you cannot -- renegotiate them with volunteers).

16. Give volunteers the opportunity to take breaks from the project.

17. Make sure volunteers know they can say "no" if they are overextended or overwhelmed.

18. Enthusiastically acknowledge successes, especially "small wins").

19. Be kind and respectful in all your interactions.

20. Do your best to make sure everyone is enjoying the process of participating.

21. Respond to input, questions, and feedback as soon as possible. Don't leave people hanging.

22. Build some interpersonal "chat time" into your meetings and conference calls.

23. Teach volunteers, in leadership positions, how to delegate.

24. Even when you are stressed or behind deadline, take the time to make sure your emails have a feeling of warmth to them.

25. Fill out Project Briefs on all projects you are inviting volunteer participation -- and share them with volunteers.

25. Conduct exit interviews whenever a volunteer ends their participation or is asked to step aside.

26. Share your learnings from the exit interviews with other managers.

27. Follow the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Idea Champions

Two volunteer organizations I am working with:
Words of Peace Global
OneVoiceGlobal

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:01 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2014
"We're Moving in Another Direction"

confused signposts.jpg

If you work for an organization that issues RFPs to consulting companies, I have one humble request for you:

Please cease and desist from using the phrase "we're moving in another direction" when it comes time to letting consultants know you've decided NOT to engage their services.

It may seem like a small thing, but it's not.

"We're moving in another direction" is a totally bogus phrase. It's meaningless -- a euphemism with no soul that delivers no useful information or feedback to the person to whom you are supposedly communicating.

If you've asked a consultant to take the time to engage with you, learn about your company, and submit a proposal, the least you can do is find a more honorable way of delivering your feedback.

You know the phrase "political unrest?" Of course you do. It's all over the news, but just like "We're moving in another direction," it's vaporware -- a watered down representation of the truth.

So... instead of informing consultants that you are "moving in another direction", consider offering them more useful feedback. Everybody wins. You get to speak the truth and they get the kind of honest feedback they need to help grow their business.

Alternative phrases to "We're moving in another direction"?

1. "Your fees were too rich for our blood -- about 50% more than we are willing to pay."

2. "It was obvious, from your proposal, that you didn't fully understand our needs and our culture, so we selected another service provider. Thanks, anyway."

3. "We've decided to do it (the conference/meeting/workshop) ourselves, since we are under very tight budgetary constraints."

4. "We chose someone who lives in our city. Makes sense for us, since we don't have to pay for travel and accommodations."

5. "We've decided to go with a long term consultant of ours who already knows our business and our culture."

6. "Our CEO is only comfortable with professors from Ivy League universities. And besides, he's never heard of you before."

7. "You missed the deadline by 48 hours. We needed the proposal by Friday, but we didn't receive it until the following Monday."

Of course, I realize you "don't want to hurt anyone's feelings" by delivering "bad news" -- but bad news, delivered in an honorable way, is much more preferable than not sharing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Yes?

Idea Champions
Cartoon
Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:24 PM | Comments (4)

January 17, 2014
What Business Can Learn from Baseball

4954633.jpg

A few years ago I ran across an article that got me thinking about how what we measure can change the way we think about what we measure, and how the latest technology that enables us to measure more and more things is not always our friend.

For several decades now, baseball scouts and coaches have been using radar guns to measure how hard pitchers throw. In fact, you can always spot a scout at a baseball game because he's the guy in the stands, behind home plate, with the radar gun pointed at the pitcher, zealously jotting down little nuggets of facts in his notebook like a squirrel gathering acorns.

Not surprisingly, baseball people have come to value pitchers who can throw hard (95 MPH and faster).

2275437.jpg

This seems to make sense at face value, but if we think about it a bit more we have to ask ourselves if throwing a baseball faster actually makes one a better pitcher. The answer is -- not necessarily.

There are many factors that contribute to making a pitcher effective:

1. Does the pitcher throw the ball exactly where he wants to throw it?

2. Is it easy or difficult for the batter to see the ball coming out of the pitcher's hand?

3. Can the pitcher throw his array of pitches at different speeds, confusing the batter's timing?

4) Can the pitcher deal with adversity, or does he get rattled when things go wrong?

These factors are all more important than how hard a pitcher throws a baseball.

But baseball's obsession with pitch speed, enabled by the ease of measuring speed with a radar gun, has caused some organizations to lose focus on what they're really trying to gauge; that is, the pitcher's effectiveness -- can he get batters out?

A few years ago, the Kansas City Royals conducted an experiment to test the existing assumption that faster is better.

Dayton Moore, the General Manager of the Kansas City Royals, has issued an edict banning radar guns from the lower levels of the organization -- the place where young players first go to develop their skills.

Moore believed that eliminating radar guns from the minor leagues would eliminate a big distraction for young pitchers -- getting caught up in throwing hard in order to be noticed and promoted and forgetting to develop other, key pitching skills.

It may take some time to determine if Moore's hunches turn out to be right, but I, and a host of soft-throwing pitchers in the Baseball Hall of Fame, like Whitey Ford and Hoyt Wilhelm, are willing to bet that they are.

I will end my baseball rant with the following quote from the contemporary economist. Adam Smith:

"Some years ago the sociologist and pollster, Daniel Yankelovich, described a process he called the "McNamara Fallacy", named after the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, who had so carefully quantified the Vietnam War.

'The first step,' he said, 'is to measure what can easily be measured. The second is to disregard what can't be measured, or give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that what can't be measured easily isn't very important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that what can't be easily measured really doesn't exist.'

The philosopher A. N. Whitehead called this tendency, the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness.

Are contemporary business and government leaders all too quickly and lazily falling into the trap of McNamara's Fallacy? Are we measuring only that which is easy to measure (and money, for one thing, is easy to measure) and making decisions based merely on those numbers because other important factors, such as long-term effects on quality of life and the environment, are just too difficult to quantify?

Should we all be rethinking what we measure and why, just like the Kansas City Royals did? And what are our own industry's "radar gun measurements" that give us easy-to-acquire numbers that gather importance simply because they're easy to get?

And if you're still not convinced, consider what Albert Einstein had to say about the topic: "Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts!"

-- Val Vadeboncoeur

Idea Champions
The author of this article teaches this course

Posted by Val Vadeboncoeur at 02:43 PM | Comments (1)

January 16, 2014
The Value of Nothing

zenzero.gif

When children are born prematurely, they're placed in incubators. When fields stop producing, farmers let them lay fallow. When baseball players are in a prolonged slump, they're given a day off.

It's the same with innovators -- or should be.

They, too, need to incubate. They, too, need to lay fallow. They, too, need time off. You already know this. That's why you often choose to "sleep on it" before making a big decision.

Pausing isn't procrastinating. It's an act of renewal -- a chance to relax and let your subconscious shine -- a phenomenon that's all-too-rare these days -- especially in organizations where everyone is overworked, overwhelmed, and over-caffeinated.

Face it. Sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.


THE DO NOTHING TECHNIQUE

1. The next time you are working hard, but getting no results -- notice it.

2. Take a break.

3. If you feel the urge to produce, let the urge pass.

4. During this down time, simply notice the ideas and insights that come to you.

5. DO NOT attend my webinar on this subject. (I don't have one).

Listen to your subconscious
Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:24 PM | Comments (1)

January 15, 2014
The Six Sides of the So-Called Box

6507610.jpg
Unless you've been in a coma for the past 20 years, I'm sure you're familiar with the phrase "get out of the box." It's everywhere. Whole industries have sprung up around it, including mine.

No one can deny that getting out of the box is a good thing to do. Seems like a no-brainer, eh? Kind of like helping little old ladies cross the street. Or tearing down the Berlin Wall.

But before you start planning your heroic escape, answer me this: What the heck is the box, anyway? What is this so-called thing that keeps us so contained, confined, caged, trapped, claustrophobic, and otherwise unable to create?

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

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

Let us proceed...

1. FEAR: If you want to raise the odds of being trapped in a box for the rest of your life, all you need to do is increase the amount of fear you feel.

Fear inhibits. Fear paralyzes. Fear subverts action. Indeed, when fear rules the day, even reacting is difficult. Fear not only puts us in the box, it makes it almost impossible to get out the box.

Fear of what?

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

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

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

2. POWERLESSNESS: Powerlessness is the state of mind in which people think they have no choice -- that they are victims of circumstance, that the act of attempting anything new is futile.

It's why Dilbert has become the patron saint of most cubicle dwellers.

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

If you work in a corporation, you've seen this powerlessness paradigm in spades -- as the "powers-that-be" don't always take kindly to the ideas, input, and grumblings of the "rank and file."

If you're feeling powerless, not only are you in the box, it's highly unlikely that you'll be able to muster the energy, intention, or urgency to get out of it.

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

Curiously, solitary confinement is the biggest punishment our society doles out -- second only to the death sentence. Being cut off from the tribe has been a very effective "behavior modification" technique for centuries.

When you're in the box, that's exactly what's happening.

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

4. ASSUMPTIONS: Assumptions are the guesses we make based on our subjective interpretation of reality. They are short cuts. Lines drawn in the sand.

We end up taking things for granted because we are either too lazy to get down to the root of things or too entranced by our own beliefs to consider an alternative.

Ultimately, it is our assumptions that shape our world. The world is the screen and we are the projector, seeing only what we project -- which is all too often merely a function of the assumptions we've made.

As one wise pundit once put it, "When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees our pockets."

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

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

TechConfusion.jpg

If you are like most people in today's over-caffeinated, twitterfied, fast food, information overloaded world the answer is: too much.

With the amount of information doubling every few years, most of us have way too much on our minds. Too much to do and not enough time.

We have no time for musing. No time for pondering. No time for reflecting. No time for contemplating, incubating, or making new connections -- behaviors that are essential to true out-of-the-box thinking.

The result? Not a good one.

We glom onto the first seemingly "right idea" that comes our way -- or else desperately try to declutter our minds with an endless series of mindless distractions that only increase the amount of clutter we need to process. Ouch.

6. Tunnel Vision:
When you're in a box, it's hard to see. Sight lines are limited. Vision is obscured. We become shortsighted. Our vision conforms to that which confines it. We become, soon enough, narrow-minded.

I'm sure you know a few people like this. Their ability to see beyond their immediate surroundings has become disabled.

When this kind of phenomenon becomes institutionalized, we end up with a bad case of "next quarter syndrome" -- especially in organizations ruled by the need to constantly please profit-seeking shareholders.

Few people are thinking six months out. Few are thinking 12 months out. And almost no one is thinking five years out. Everyone is trapped by the short-term.

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

OK. I hope I've not depressed you. That's not my purpose. Neither is it my purpose to obsess about the "problem." But until we know what we're really dealing with, all this hot talk about "getting out of the box" is just hype and a complete waste of time.

Our keynotes

One way to get out of the box
How to help other people get out of the box
Boxes you don't want to be in

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

January 14, 2014
You Are Never Too Old to Create

Got a big idea? Think you're too old to create! Think again. Here are some incredible examples to inspire you to go for it! Click "full screen" (bottom right icon) for easiest reading.

The Creative Age
Catalyzing the Creative Mind
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:25 PM | Comments (1)

January 06, 2014
The Martial Arts of the Mind

sensei.jpg

Ten years ago I was invited to teach a course on "Innovation and Business Growth" at GE's Crotonville Management Development Center for 75 high potential, business superstars of the future.

The GE executive who hired me was a very savvy guy with the unenviable task of orienting new adjunct faculty members to GE's high standards and often harsher reality.

My client's intelligence was exceeded only by his candor as he proceeded to tell me, in no uncertain terms, that GE gave "new instructors" two shots at making the grade -- explaining, with a wry smile, that most outside consultants were intimidated the first time they taught at GE and weren't necessarily at the top of their game.

I'm not sure how you say it in Esperanto, but in English what he said translates as "The heat is on, big time."

I knew I would have to raise my game if I expected to be invited back after my two-session audition was over.

And so I went about my business of getting ready, keeping in mind that I was going to be leading a 6-hour session for 75 of GE's "best and brightest" flown half way around the world -- high flying Type A personalities with a high regard for themselves and a very low threshold for anything they judged to be unworthy of their time.

I had five weeks to prepare, five weeks to get my act together, five weeks to dig in and front load my agenda with everything I needed to wow my audience: case studies, statistics, quotes, factoids, and more best practices than you could shake a Blackberry at.

I was ready. Really ready. Like a rookie center fielder on designer steroids, I was ready.

Or so I thought.

The more I spoke, the less they listened. The less they listened, the more I spoke, trotting out "compelling" facts and truckloads of information to make my case as they blankly stared and checked their email under the table.

Psychologists, I believe, would characterize my approach as "compensatory behavior."

I talked faster. I talked louder. I worked harder -- attempting in various pitiful ways to pull imaginary rabbits out of imaginary hats.

Needless to say, GE's best and brightest -- for the entire 45 minutes of my opening act -- were not impressed.

Clearly, I was playing a losing game.

My attempt to out-GE the GE people was a no-win proposition. I didn't need new facts, new statistics, or new quotes. I needed a new approach -- a way to secure the attention of my audience and help them make the shift from left-brained skepticism to right-brained receptivity.

And I needed to do it five minutes, not 45.

The next few days were very uncomfortable for me, replaying in my head -- again and again -- my lame choice of an opening gambit and wondering what, in the world, I could do to get better results in much less time.

And then, like an unexpected IPO from Mars, it hit me. The martial arts!

aikido-300x277.jpg

As a student of Aikido, I knew how amazing the martial arts were and what a great metaphor they were for life.

Fast forward a few weeks...

My second session, at Crotonville, began exactly like the first -- with the Program Director reading my bio to the group in an heroic attempt to impress everyone. They weren't.

Taking my cue, I walked to center stage, scanned the audience and uttered nine words.

"Raise your hand if you're a bold risk taker."

Not a single hand went up. Not one.

I stood my ground and surveyed the room.

"Really?" I said. "You are GE's best and brightest and not one of you is a bold risk taker? I find that hard to believe."

Ten rows back, a hand went up. Slowly. Halfway. Like a kid in a high school math class, not wanting to offend the teacher.

"Great!" I bellowed, pointing to the semi-bold risk taker. "Stand up and join me in the front of the room!"

You could cut the air with a knife.

I welcomed my assistant to the stage and asked him if had any insurance -- explaining that I had called him forth to attack me from behind and was going to demonstrate a martial arts move shown to me by my first aikido instructor, a 110-pound woman who I once saw throw a 220-pound man through a wall.

Pin drop silence.

I asked our bold risk taker to stand behind me and grab both of my wrists and instructed him to hold on tight as I attempted to get away -- an effort that yielded no results.

I casually mentioned how the scenario being played out on stage is what a typical work day has become for most of us -- lots of tension, resistance, and struggle.

With the audience completely focused on the moment, I noted a few simple principles of Aikido -- and how anyone, with the right application of energy and the right amount of practice, could change the game.

As I demonstrated the move, my "attacker" was quickly neutralized and I was no longer victim, but in total control.

In three minutes, things had shifted. Not only for me and my attacker, but for everyone in the room.

That's when I mentioned that force was not the same thing as power -- and that martial artists know how to get maximum results with a minimum of effort -- and that, indeed, INNOVATION was all about the "martial arts of the mind" -- a way to get extraordinary results in an elegant way.

PS: I was invited back 26 times to deliver the course.

THE COMMENTARY

Every day, no matter what our profession, education, or astrological sign, we are all faced with the same challenge -- how to effectively communicate our message to others.

This challenge is particularly difficult these days, given the glut of information we all must contend with. The amount of information available to us is doubling every ten years! Yearly, more than one million books are published. Daily, we are bombarded with more 6,000 advertising messages and 150 emails. As a result, most of us find ourselves in a defensive posture, protecting ourselves from the onslaught of input.

Keys.jpg

What I've discovered in the past 25 years of working with some of the world's most powerful organizations is that if I really want to have get my message across, I've got to deliver it in a what that gets past the "guardians at the gate" -- the default condition of doubt, disengagement, and derision that comes with the territory of life in the 21st century business world.

My rite of passage at GE was a microcosm of this phenomenon.

Indeed, my presumptive effort to "win over my audience" by impressing them with data, case studies, and best practices was a losing game. Not only was I barking up the wrong tree, I was in the wrong forest.

The key to my breaking through the collective skepticism of GE's best and brightest wasn't a matter of information. It was a matter transformation.

They didn't need to analyze, they needed to engage -- and it was my job to make that easy to do. Or, as Mahatma Gandhi so deftly put it, I had to "be the change I wanted to see in the world."

I had to do something that invoked the curious, playful, and associative right brain, not the logical, linear, analytical left brain -- tricky business, indeed, especially when you consider that most business people, these days, have a very low threshold for anything they judge to be impractical

Which is why I chose the martial arts as the operational metaphor at GE, my attempt to move them from the Dow to the Tao.

Impractical? Not at all.

Bottom line, whether we know it or not, we have all entered the "experience economy" -- a time when being involved is at least as important as being informed.

Information is no longer sufficient to spark change. Data is no longer king. Thinking only takes us part of the way home. It's feeling that completes the journey -- the kind of feeling that leads to full on curiosity and the kind of engagement that opens the door to exciting new possibilities.

Which is exactly what happened at GE when I made the shift from marshaling my facts, to marshaling my energy -- and by extension, the energy of 75 of GE's best and brightest.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What message have you been trying to deliver (with too little impact) that might be communicated in a totally different way -- a way that more successfully engages people and leads to measurable results?

Idea Champions
Applied Innovation
My Keynotes
My Book
Photo

It All Began With Balls
Big Blues from the Viagra People
Santa's Guide to Business Development

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:58 PM | Comments (3)

December 13, 2013
Blow the Minds of Your Customers

In what ways can YOU go beyond the call of duty to delight your customers, clients, children, significant other, friends, or neighbors this holiday season? (And if you find yourself grouching about the possibility that WestJet's generosity was merely a "marketing ploy", drop it for a minute and just appreciate how cool their idea was).

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:20 PM | Comments (1)

December 09, 2013
12 Ways to See What's Not Immediately Obvious

305134_10150345247293303_9171233302_8465290_836665718_n.jpg

The above image is a good metaphor for business. There's something hidden in it that most people don't see at first glance. Looking at it the same way you always look at things won't help. If you can't see what's hidden, you've got to find a way to adjust the way you look...

Still can't see it? It says: "I CAN'T SLEEP." Look again.

12 WAYS TO SEE WHAT'S NOT IMMEDIATELY OBVIOUS

1. Soften your focus
2. Sneak up on it
3. Look at things from a different angle
4. Don't try so hard
5. Notice new patterns
6. Stop staring
7. Ask someone else to look on your behalf
8. Look away, then look back
9. Shrink or expand the image
10.Change the lighting
11.Take a break, then look again
12.Breathe more slowly

This will help you see hidden innovation opportunities

This will help you see hidden genius
This will help you see new possibilities

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2013
The Real Flowering of Innovation

dozen-red-roses.jpg
ED.NOTE: The following is dedicated to all the male readers of this blog -- especially those who are married, work too hard, and think about "innovation" just a little too much.

Today, in a sudden fit of love and appreciation, I bought a dozen roses and brought them home to my wife.

Usually, when I think of buying roses, I go through a predictable sequence of events. First, I surrender to a wonderful feeling of expansiveness that takes me over. Then I get curious and smell the flowers. Then I ask the shopkeeper how long she thinks the roses will last. Then I ask the per stem price, do the math, and reach the pitifully male conclusion that $46.95 is way too much too spend on something that won't last out the week and is probably less expensive somewhere else and it's obviously indulgent of me to be buying so many roses when I've got two kids to put through college in a few years and besides, beauty is within.

All of this, of course, is my inner Woody Allen taking the low road in response to what is obviously a Johnny Depp moment.

So I dig deep and bring the roses home -- my entire living room taking shape around them.

I then become very aware that there are definitely not enough flowers in the room. In a curious way, the recent appearance of roses has made the rest of the room seem barren. Tabletops and shelves that only minutes ago were doing just fine, are now utterly flowerless.

So I do the only thing a man can do when faced with such a paradox -- I return to the flower shop.

But the shop is closed. Closed? Impossible! I need flowers!

So I get back in my car and speed my way to the other flower shop in town.

It, too, is closed -- or, should I say, closing. The owner is shutting the door and giving me the "too-bad-you-didn't-get-here a few-minutes-ago" look.

But I will not be denied. And he knows it.

"What do you want?" he asks.

"Cut flowers," I reply.

He signals me to enter and I buy way more flowers than makes sense. A ridiculous amount.

Let's put it this way: if I was in the federal witness protection program, my sudden flower buying behavior would have put my government handlers in a tizzy.

Fast forward ten minutes to my wife in our kitchen.

She is looking at me as if I am totally insane -- me, the guy who, only days ago was making an airtight case for a more modest household budget.

Here's my philosophy:

Flowers first. Logic second. If money is tight, buy more flowers. The more flowers you buy, the more money will appear. And if not in this lifetime, then the next (or maybe the one after that).

OK. There you go -- my not very financially sound, flower-centric view of the universe. You, my friend, are a witness. If I forget, please remind me.

Indeed, next time we meet, you have my permission to ask me how the flower thing is going.

Remember, flowers first. (OK. Stop reading this blog. Go out and get some flowers, already).

Idea Champions
If you want your company to flower
Our newest offering

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

November 27, 2013
Forget THINK TANKS. The Time Has Come for THANK TINKS!

Thanks sign.jpg

On this day of THANKSGIVING, I'm asking for your feedback on a new idea of mine which I have playfully named THANK TINKS.

The idea is for organizations to provide their workforce with a simple, dependable way to express their gratitude -- as a counter-balance to the all-too-common tendency many people have to focus on what's wrong.

In the same way that Quality Circles were a big hit in the 1980's, THANK TINKS ("Appreciation Circles"), might be just the right thing for these challenging times of ours.

Here's a wonderful article on the power of gratitude in business by Forbes writer, Erika Andersen.

21 quotes on appreciation
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2013
The Art of Capturing Attention

How can you or the company you work for use video more effectively to deliver a message, promote a product, or capture the attention of the people to whom you are trying to communicate?

Capture attention!
Capturing attention at GE
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2013
One Reason Why Brainstorming Fails

Suit man and lightbulg.jpg
Advertising executive Alex Osborn, frustrated by his employees' inability to come up with novel and creative ideas, invented the concept of brainstorming in the late 1930's. His 1953 book, Applied Imagination, described how to apply the concept in very simple terms. Osborne put forth two basic principles: Defer Judgment and Focus on Quantity.

These days, people attempting to lead ideation sessions are often mindful of the first principle, but they almost never remember the second. And this, quite simply is a big reason why most brainstorm sessions fail to produce even mediocre results.

Two gear brains.jpg

At first glance, the quantity principle seems counter-intuitive. How can people come up with quality ideas, you might ask, by not striving for quality ideas?

But there's a method to this madness -- and it has to do with how our minds work and how we are trained to think.

If you are asked to come up with "good" and "novel" ideas in response to a problem, challenge or opportunity, whether you are working alone or with others, you will tend to aim for the best ideas possible. Makes sense, right?

However, in your striving for the best idea, you will tend to dismiss ideas you consider to be less-than-terrific.

When ideas pop into our minds, we tend to judge them immediately as too small, too big, too pedestrian, too unrealistic, too obvious, too goofy, too ordinary, too expensive, or too whatever.

It's as if the Red Queen is ensconced in our brains, shouting "off with his head!" at every idea that dares to speak up.

That's because human beings are conditioned to see what's wrong with an idea before seeing its possibilities.

It's like seeing a baby bird and judging it to be inadequate because it can't fly yet.

And this process is barely conscious. We dismiss our ideas so quickly that we often don't even notice they were thought of at all. "We've got nothing" becomes our mantra.

If you are generating ideas in a group and everyone is experiencing this phenomenon at the exact same time, the great silence will inevitably head its ugly rear. No one will be willing to share any of the ideas that have popped into their heads because their ideas will be self-censored -- deemed to be inadequate or flawed.

This is why "experts" are, usually, the worst brainstormers imaginable.

6249784.jpg

Educated, experienced, and cognizant of all the ins and outs of the topic being brainstormed, experts will immediately see the flaws -- not the possibilities -- killing promising new ideas with the effectiveness of a healthy immune system killing off a germ or virus.

This is why many forward thinking focus groups bring in children or non-experts to generate new ideas -- people whose idea immune systems are not yet fully developed.

Think about it for a moment. If "ordinary" ideas can be generated, articulated, announced, and captured then an interesting thing can happen. Other people can improve the ideas. One idea will lead to another and another and another, radically increasing the odds of something truly original manifesting.

This kind of magic, however, cannot happen if Osborn's principle of striving for quantity is ignored.

Think of Osborn's dual principles as two sides of the same coin.

Defer judgment postpones the act of criticizing ideas as they are generated. Focusing on quantity helps us defer our tendency to judge our ideas as they are conceived.

Not unlike the proverbial coin, if you don't have both sides, "you've got nothing."

-- Val Vadeboncoeur

Idea Champions
Virtual Brainstorm Training
High Velocity Brainstorming

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:00 PM | Comments (1)

November 10, 2013
Asking for Permission to Facilitate

6269627.jpg

Here's a useful tip for you the next time you find yourself standing in front of a group of people and about to facilitate a meeting of any kind.

Before you begin, ask people to give you permission to facilitate.

This may sound like a complete waste of time, especially if you've been brought in by the powers-that-be to facilitate the meeting, but it's not. It's essential. Here's why:

If your meeting is anything like the other 11 million meetings being held each day in corporate America, chances are good that there will be a time during your gathering when at least one person -- bored, cranky, distracted, or angry that they weren't asked to facilitate, will do something (consciously or unconsciously) to derail the session.

2467551.jpg

This something can take many forms -- everything from incessantly checking email under the table... to returning late from breaks... to ranting on any number of topics that have absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand -- moments that will require a skillful and well-timed response from the facilitator.

If you haven't bothered to ask for permission to facilitate, people will resist (or ignore) your spontaneous interventions every step of the way. And if they don't resist you every step of the way, they will silently retreat into their own private Idaho, perceiving you, in their fevered mind, as an invasive, disempowering, or egomaniacal facilitator.

Bottom line, you will lose them.

And, if the people you lose should happen to be "tribal chieftains" of any one of the many feudal kingdoms represented in the room that day, you will lose a bunch of other people, as well. Their minions.

This is not the outcome you want -- an outcome that will lead you to triangulating to third parties or wishing you had gone into your father's dry cleaning business.

The way out of this mess? Simple.

Within the first five minutes of your meeting, after establishing a few simple ground rules, let everyone know that you need their permission to play your facilitator role -- that there may be some times, during the meeting, when you may have to ask someone to hold a thought or shift their behavior in some way ... and that unless you have their permission to do so, they will likely end up resenting you or feeling mistreated when, in fact, all you are trying to do is ensure that the meeting is a productive one.

Invariably, meeting participants will gladly give their permission for you to facilitate, even if they chuckle, under their breath, while doing so. And if they just sit there, silently, after your request -- bumps on an analog -- all you need to do is ask them to give you some kind of visible indication that they agree -- either by standing up or giving you the "thumbs up".

This simple act of people visibly giving you permission to facilitate is often the difference between success and failure -- especially when, later in the meeting, someone starts acting out or marching to a drummer from another planet.

Armed with the permission they gave you at the beginning of the meeting, all you need to do is reinforce the ground rule that's been forgotten and remind them that all you're doing is playing the role they gave you permission to play in the first place.

Works like a charm every time.

Idea Champions

A good meeting

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2013
Painting a Different Picture

Fascinating 7-minute TED video of a woman, with the aspiration to be a political scientist, following her instincts and becoming an artist instead -- but not just ANY artist -- one who is pioneering a new mode of expression.

How might you apply the essence of this video to your own life? What old forms do you need to challenge? What new forms of expression are calling to you?

Idea Champions
Innovation Keynotes

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

November 02, 2013
Wake Up the Passion to Innovate

CheckerFace.jpg

Innovation is a big fat generic concept in most corporations -- like life on other planets or trying to get teenagers to clean up their room.

Unless the individuals within an organization have a genuine sense of urgency, personal ownership, and an authentic passion for innovation, nothing much will happen.

Corporate initiatives that fail to awaken the human instinct to innovate are doomed, no matter how many pep talks, tote bags, or t-shirts proliferate.

For me, as an innovation consultant, it is clear that the short amount of time I have with my clients needs to be devoted to awakening the passion to innovate.

Tools, techniques, theory, data, models, bibliographies, business cases, best practices, and the fabulous muffins served on breaks are all fine, but it is the passion to innovate that is the real driver of success.

No passion, no innovation. Plain and simple.

Unfortunately, most organizations squash passion. That is why start-ups have a much easier time innovating than Fortune 500 companies. And that's why savvy Fortune 500 companies recreate the feeling of start-uppiness whenever they can.

The best thing any consultant can do when working with an organization is to hold up a mirror and ask their clients what they see.

Are they modeling what it means to be innovative? Or are they asking other people to do what they themselves have not done?

Idea Champions
Applied Innovation
Short videos of me

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:17 AM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2013
Let Go of Perfectionism!

LetGoPerfectionism.gif

Card from Free the Genie
Online version, too!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:20 PM | Comments (1)

October 30, 2013
Discontinuous Improvement Rules!

This is brilliant -- a penetrating 12-minute talk by Russell Ackoff on why continuous improvement doesn't cut it these days and why whole systems thinking and creativity is the only way to go if an organization expects to succeed in today's marketplace.

Big thanks to Russ Briggs of Sadia International for the heads up.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

October 29, 2013
Brainstorming vs. Braincalming

2209127.jpg

If you work in a big organization, small business, freelance, or eat cheese, there's a good chance you've participated in at least a few brainstorming sessions in your life.

You've noodled, conjured, envisioned, ideated, piggybacked, and endured overly enthusiastic facilitators doing their facilitator thing.

You may have even gotten some results. Hallelujah!

But even the best run brainstorming sessions are based on a questionable assumption -- that the origination of powerful, new ideas depend on the facilitated interaction between people.

Two gear brains.jpg

You know, the "two heads are better than one" syndrome.

I'd like to propose an alternative for the moment: "two heads are better than one sometimes."

For the moment, I invite you to consider the possibility that the origination of great, new ideas doesn't take place in the storm, but in the calm before the storm... or the calm after the storm... or sometimes, even in the eye of the storm itself.

Every wonder why so many people get their best ideas during "down time" -- the time just before they go to sleep... or just after waking... or in dreams... or in the shower... or in the car on the way home from work?

Those aren't brainstorming sessions, folks. Those are braincalming sessions. Incubation time.

Those are time outs for the hyperactive child genius within us who is always on the go.

Methinks, in today's over-caffeinated, late-for-a-very-important-date business world, we have become addicted to the storm.

"Look busy," is the mantra, not "look deeply."

We want high winds. We want lightning. We want proof that something is happening, even if the proof turns out to be nothing more than sound and fury.

High winds do not last all morning. Sometimes the storm has to stop.

That's why some of your co-workers like to show up early at the office before anyone else has arrived. For many of us, that's the only time we have to think.

"The best thinking has been done in solitude," said Thomas Edison. "The worst has been done in turmoil."

I'm not suggesting that you stop brainstorming (um... that's 20% of our business). All I'm suggesting is you balance it out with some braincalming. The combination of the two can be very, very powerful.

HERE'S A FEW WAYS TO GET STARTED:

1. In the middle of your next brainstorming, session, restate the challenge -- then ask everyone to sit, in silence, for five minutes, and write down whatever ideas come to mind. (Be ready for the inevitable joking that will immediately follow your request). Then, after five minutes are up, go "round robin" and ask everyone to state their most compelling idea.

2. Ask each member of your team to think about a specific business-related challenge before they go to bed tonight and write down their ideas when they wake up. Then, gather your team together for a morning coffee and see what you've got.

3. Conduct your next brainstorming session in total silence. Begin by having the brainstorming challenge written on a big flip chart before people enter the room. Then, after some initial schmoozing, explain the "silence ground rule" and the process: People will write their ideas on post-its or flip charts. Their co-workers, also in silence, will read what gets posted and piggyback. Nobody talks.

It's your decision, at the end of the idea generating time, if you want the debrief to be spoken -- or if you want people to come back the next day for a verbal debrief.

"Let us be silent, that we may hear the whispers of the gods." - Ralph Waldo Emerson

Virtual brainstorm facilitation


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:23 PM | Comments (5)

October 26, 2013
On Being Moved

Apparently, this guy just completed Idea Champions' newly launched online brainstorm facilitation training. Guess he liked it...

Why he's dancing

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)

October 16, 2013
One Coin Is All It Takes

Who's gonna put the coin in the hat in your business? Who's gonna play?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

The School in the Cloud

This is quite extraordinary. Sugata Mitra's TED talk on the future of learning. Blows the top off of what you think education is and how you think it happens. Exciting times!

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:53 PM | Comments (0)

October 15, 2013
Go Beyond the Impostor Syndrome

Boss Swivel.jpg

In a rapidly changing, highly complex and unpredictable world, leadership has little to do with being the smartest person in the room.

It is often the case that those holding positions of authority believe they must justify their position by providing the best solutions to the problems they face.

Often this need to demonstrate that one "has the answer" is grounded in a deeply rooted fear that one, in fact, does not truly know what to do and that revealing one's uncertainty will lead to an erosion of confidence in one's superiors and subordinates.

They see their authority as grounded in their knowledge and expertise and feel obliged to demonstrate their acumen whenever consequential problems are addressed.

This phenomenon invariably leads to compensatory behavior in which one's inner doubts and uncertainty about how to address complex and ambiguous issues leads to unjustified rigidity of positions and an inability to see the value of alternative points of view.

TimeConcerned.jpg

If we must constantly prove to everyone that we deserve the position we have attained, we can never allow ourselves to be seen as needing to learn anything or to rely on anyone else.

This dilemma -- often referred to as the "impostor syndrome", -- systematically undermines one's ability to learn, to benefit from the perspectives of others, and to appreciate the value of others' strengths and points of view.

It also often leads to behaviors in which we diminish others in order to reassure ourselves of our importance and our value.

Lastly, it virtually guarantees that the decisions that get made are not the best ones because they are not informed by the experience, insight, and creativity of the people around us.

- Barry Gruenberg

Idea Champions
34 Awesome Quotes on Leadership

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:50 AM | Comments (2)

October 13, 2013
20 Reasons Why People Get Their Best Ideas in the Shower

shower.jpg

During the past 25 years, I've asked more than 10,000 people where and when they get their best ideas. I get all kinds of answers, but the one that has always fascinated me is "the shower" -- maybe because I also get so many of my good ideas there.

And so, at the risk of overstating my case, I hereby offer you 20 reasons WHY the shower is so conducive to new ideas.

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

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

3. Interruptions are rare.

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

5. Shower stalls look like little incubation chambers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18. There is no deliverable expected of you.

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

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

Any other possibilities come to mind?

Idea Champions

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

October 08, 2013
The Telekinesis Coffee Shop

This is a brilliant marketing idea made manifest -- a way to promote a new movie, virally, via some real-time faux telekinesis in a coffee shop.



Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

September 29, 2013
THE NEXT BIG INNOVATION: Peace!

1231538_10151861753583684_458286749_n.jpg

There's a lot of different kinds of innovation going on in the world today -- business model innovation, product innovation, process innovation, disruptive innovation, and so forth. But there's another kind of innovation that most of us are ignoring --peace innovation -- what it takes for each and every one of us to be in a state of well-being, regardless of the number of innovations entering our lives.

Yesterday, the Huffington Post published an article of mine on this topic -- one that includes a compelling 28-minute video of a conversation between peace activist, Jeremy Gilley, and Prem Rawat, an extraordinary man who has been a peace advocate for more than 40 years.

Enjoy it -- and, if you do, think about who you might forward it to. We're all this together...

Words of Peace
Peace One Day

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

September 28, 2013
Miles Davis on Mistakes

MilesDavis.jpg

Idea Champions
50 quotes on failure
50 quotes on risk taking

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2013
If You Want to Innovate, Listen!

2101788.jpgIf you're interested in raising the bar for innovation in your organization, start listening more. Listening, quite simply, is the most powerful form of influence.

Generally speaking, when we think of influencing others we are thinking about our ability to get others to think and act in ways we want them to, in ways that serve our interests and objectives.

The influence process is most often conceived as the ability to provide compelling arguments -- that is, arguments that are indisputable and indicate there is only one way to proceed.

The influence process is seen as the ability to turn aside all alternative ways of thinking, to demonstrate their inadequacy in the service of making one's own position more compelling.

The ability to influence goes beyond the ability to make a compelling argument, of course. It can also involve the use of power, seduction, or fear to drive others to a particular outcome.

What is much more rarely recognized is the role of listening and empathy in the influence process.

Listening to what concerns and drives others provides a powerful basis for influence because it is by showing how your perspective will affect the concerns and interests of others that you gain others' interest and support.

But the case for listening and empathy goes much further.

If you can truly understand what others value and are concerned about, it can lead you to change your position about what is required to achieve the goals you are striving for.

If you deeply understand others, you can mobilize them, not by manipulation -- but by gearing your approach to address the real needs and interests of your stakeholders.

Listening and appreciating multiple viewpoints can help you gain more acceptance for your ideas and better ideas. And, as it all plays out, these better ideas will eventually attract more support and increase your influence -- so you can then listen more and attract more support.


-- Barry Gruenberg

Photo
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:45 AM | Comments (4)

September 12, 2013
The Cult of Monetization

blogging.jpg

I wish I had a nickel for every time someone has asked me if I make money from my blog -- and a dollar for every time one of these people used the "M" word, asking me if I've found a way to "monetize" the effort.

Well, before I answer their frequently asked question, let me begin with the basics.

The word "monetize" completely repels me. If there is one word in the English language I could live without it would be that word.

What? "Leverage," "incentivize," and "maximize" aren't enough? Now we need "monetize?"

I've got nothing against money. I like money. I like having it. I like spending it. I've (help!) got two kids to put through college soon. It's just that not everything we do needs to be monetized.

I feel really good about hugging my kids without monetizing the effort. I also feel really good about walking my dog without monetizing the effort. Same goes for laughing, breathing, singing, listening to music, watching a sunset, writing poetry, volunteering, talking to friends, meditating, and reading books.

I don't get paid a penny for any of these things.

But somehow, blogging has to monetized? No, it doesn't.

The weird thing is, whenever I'm asked by well-meaning friends if my blogging has helped me grow my business, my response is usually tinged with a subtle form of defensiveness, bravado, and hocus pocus about "building a brand."

I confess. My response has not always been authentic because I have bought into the assumptions, doubts, and "business acumen" of my inquisitors.

The fact of the matter is this: I blog because I love it. I love to write. I love to communicate. I love to connect. I love to inspire. I love to stir the soup, share ideas, experiment, provide a service, learn, discover, and be part of a community that is passionate about growth.

NOTE: The previous paragraph is not marketing copy. Neither is it my new mission statement, or attempt to get more Twitter followers.

We live in an age that is far too focused on money. People have confused it with a lot of other things: like happiness, for example... and meaning.... and fulfillment... and the innate thirst to make a contribution to others.

I'm not suggesting that money is evil or my clients should start paying me in yak milk. No.

What I'm saying is this: Not every action needs to be monetized. Some things should be done for the sheer joy of it.

And you, bloggers, out there -- stand up for yourselves! Stop playing the game of "building a business case" every time someone asks you if all the time you spend blogging is worth it.

Of course, it's worth it! But the measure of it's worth cannot always be measured in dollars and cents.

Photo
Cartoon
Our Values

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:02 AM | Comments (4)

May 30, 2013
Great Place to Stay in Woodstock, NY

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:44 PM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2013
The Nancy Factor

staff_seroka.jpg

See the picture to your left? Of course you do. That's Nancy Seroka, Idea Champions' Director of Operations, World Class Administrator, and Queen of Client Relations.

Without Nancy, there would be no Idea Champions. Nancy is the glue, the DNA of Details, the one who minds the store while the rest of us are on the road, in the clouds, or otherwise engaged.

For the past 13 years, Nancy has been juggling hundreds of Idea Champions projects with style, class, and heroic effort. The fact that she is still somewhat sane astounds me.

Sometimes, I regret to say, I am blind to how much value Nancy adds to our business. You see, she does what she does with so much precision and consistency that I often don't even notice it.

I am not alone in this regard. Indeed, I am betting that a lot of you reading this rant also have a Nancy in your business life -- someone who keep things together, supports you way beyond the call of duty, and makes magic happen while you're consumed with the details of your business life.

You have come to expect this kind of extraordinary contribution from others. You think it's "their job" -- and barely notice. Not a good idea.

Hey, you don't notice the air, either, but just imagine if it wasn't there.

And so, it is with great respect for Nancy -- and all that she is and all that she does -- that I implore you to pause for a moment and honor all of the Nancies in your life -- all of the people "behind the scenes" who are, day-by-day, minute-by-minute, helping you grow your business.

I'm not talking about the token giving of roses on "Secretary's Day". No.

I'm talking about being far more present and acknowledging of all the people who support you, without whom you would be howling at the moon, walking in circles, or looking for a job.

So, thank you Nancy. You are an inspiration and a life saver.

And should I forget, tomorrow... next week ... next month ... or next year to acknowledge you for all you are and all you do, I humbly ask your forgiveness.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:13 AM | Comments (2)

May 22, 2013
The Corporate Crapola Filter

chickenefficiency2.jpg

Dear Potential Clients:

With all due respect, please do not call us if your organization is addicted to the scenario being played out in the cartoon to your left. If this was 10 years ago, we may have said YES. But no longer.

We've been paid handsomely, in the past, for hitting our heads against the wall, but those days are over. We're not saying you have to be perfect for us to work with you -- just free enough of corporate crapola for us to make a difference.

We like the Bob Newhart approach.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:51 AM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2013
Making the World's Smallest Movie



Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:40 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2013
Everything You Wanted to Know About Innovation But Forgot to Ask

Thanks to my son, Jesse, for the timely heads up -- the first online resource he shared with me upon his return from his first year of college (Hampshire). Let's hear it for higher education!

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2013
Heat Your House With Soda Cans

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2013
The Inventive Inventory of Inventions Not Invented By Inventing Inventors

What do LSD, corn flakes, dynamite, saccharine, the microwave oven, viagra, the Pacemaker, velcro, penicillin, anaesthesia, the Slinky, Play Doh, Silly Putty, Post-its, and vulcanized rubber all have in common?

They were all discovered by accident.

Read more about this phenomenon here.

Idea Champions
The Innovation Kit
Photo
The Innovation Accelerator

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2013
Yo Yo Mastery and You You

This guy is completely off the charts. Wow! Think about what YOU are committed to and WHAT you need to do to develop the kind of mastery this young man demonstrates.

Idea Champions
What we do
Ingenious Leadership

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2013
The Kindness-At-Work Manifesto

It has recently come to my attention that some of the most loving, passionate, well-intentioned people in the world have a tendency to treat their co-workers unkindly -- especially during times of stress or on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday.

Consumed by their need to do something extraordinary for humanity, they forget the people they work with are human.

And so, in an effort to restore a Culture of Caring to organizations everywhere. it is my honor to present to you the Kindness-At-Work Manifesto -- 40 daily opportunities to go beyond the imperfections of your co-workers and rise to a place of uncommon goodness.

Where does it begin? With your intention to maintain your commitment to kindness any time one of your co-workers does not.

CHOOSE KINDNESS WHEN YOUR CO-WORKERS...

1. Forget to acknowledge you for a job well done

2. Take credit for something they had little to do with

3. Don't reply to your emails

4. Talk behind your back

5. Eat the last cookie

6. Withhold vital information

7. Expect you to work on the weekends

8. Forget to send you the agenda

9. Make an impossible request on you at the end of the day

10. Criticize you for not responding to their email when the item they wanted you to read was the 93rd item on the list

11. Don't let you finish a sentence

12. See the glass not as half empty, or half full, but cracked

13. Have no clue how to listen

14. Preface their regular attempts to criticize you with "Do you have a moment? I'd like to share some feedback with you."

15. Arrive late to every meeting

kindness-random.jpg

16. Talk to the boss about your shortcomings before airing it out with you, one-on-one

17. Expect you to cover for them every time they do a half-assed job

18. Start humming Bee Gee songs with no warning

19. Expect you to "do the math" every time your team goes out for lunch, then proceed to forget to calculate the tip and the tax when they leave too little cash for their part of the meal

20. Seek competition instead of collaboration

21. CC you on more emails than the US Tax Code has corporate loopholes

22. Think you're an idiot

23. Forget to ask how you are after your operation

24. Rarely look you in the eye

25. Make up phony excuses why they didn't return your phone call

26. Start talking about their new ringtone as if it was the Holy Grail

27. Think they know more than you do

28. Worship data

29. Talk about their old LSD experiences every time you say the word
"watermelon".

30. Only express kindness when they want something from you

kindness5.jpg

31. Forget to forgive you for an old mistake you made

32. Ask you to help them start a blog at 5:30 pm

33. Give you bad information regularly, then wonder why you're late with whatever it is they expect from you

34. Think they are closer to God than you because they went to a yoga class last February

35. Invite you to brainstorming sessions that are nothing more than their veiled attempts to get you to praise their pet ideas

36. Send you emails with emoticons

37. Think they're your friend because they friended you on Facebook

38. Enter into every conversation with you as if they were late for a meeting with a more important person

39. Never return the books they borrow

40. Think you're not committed because you don't work 90 hours a week

Of course, the above 40 items don't tell you how to be kind -- they only name the occasions where kindness is missing. But guess what? No one needs to teach how to be kind. You already know how to be kind.

Your next step? Choose one of the 40 opportunities above and be conscious of it all next week. Then, when one of your co-workers manifests that behavior, choose kindness.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:38 PM | Comments (1)

April 06, 2013
The Joy of Heckling

Sometimes seemingly "bad things" morph into "good things". It all depends on how we perceive things and then how we act on our perception in a way that transforms.

Here is an example of what I'm talking about -- a new article of mine just published in the Huffington Post.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:22 AM

April 03, 2013
25,500 Days

This is a wonderful video -- entertaining, informative, and inspiring -- a great reminder about the truest human resource, no matter what business you're in.

More

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

March 27, 2013
Infusing Your Workplace with Humanity

62% of all Americans are dissatisfied with their work. 85% of the general public don't trust business leaders to tell the truth when confronted with difficult issues. If YOUR organization wants to explore practical ways of raising the quality of the workplace experience and engaging employees in ways that are humane and sustainable, here's your starter kit. You may also be interested in our Humanizing the Workplace keynotes, town meetings, and workshops.

What our clients say about us

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

March 21, 2013
The Humanize the Workplace Poll

If you work for an organization that needs to become a more benevolent and humane workplace, I invite you to respond to Idea Champions' new Humanizing the Workplace poll.

Not only will it jump start your thinking about simple changes that can be made on the job, it will also provide us with the vital input we need to really tune into the issues.

You'll need about five minutes.

We'll be posting the results of the poll here in a few weeks, but if you'd like us to email the results to you directly, just note your email address in the comments box or send a message to info@ideachampions.com

You can read more about this topic in my latest Huffington Post article.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:15 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2013
How to Humanize the Workplace

A recent poll has revealed that 62% of Americans are dissatisified with their work.

While there are a lot of contributing factors, one BIG factor is that most workplace environments are not wired to bring out the best in people. Quite the contrary.

That's what my newly published article in the Huffington Post is all about.

It doesn't just name the problem, however. It also provides a simple "starter kit" for how each and everyone of us can begin to humanize our workplace environments.

Click here to weigh in on the topic by responding to my Humanizing the Workplace poll. If you want to register for my April 4th Telesummit on this topic, click here. It's free.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:32 PM | Comments (0)

March 19, 2013
When Kindness Goes Viral

Yes, innovation is important. Of course it is. (That's why you read this blog). But so is kindness. Very important. Indeed, if I was forced to pick between the two, I'd choose the second. In a heartbeat. What simple act of kindness can you perform today? For whom?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)

March 16, 2013
Are Cell Phones Dangerous on Planes?

Airlines won't let you use your cell phone on a plane. The reason they give is completely bogus. This two-minute video debunks the myth.

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

14 Ways to Go Beyond the Email Blues

10344854-inbox-alliance-email-workers-of-the-world-unite.jpg

In 1999, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blues song about email.

My purpose was to poke fun at some of the email madness going on at that time. (If you want to give a listen, click the link above. If you keep listening, you will hear an excerpt from Prem Rawat's new book, as well as an excerpt from my new book of poetry).

It's 13 years later now and the email scene has become even weirder.

If I was going to write a sequel, it wouldn't be the blues, it would be the black and blues -- because that's how bruised most of us are feeling these days about email.

Bruised, abused, and beat up.

And so, in service to all of the loyal readers of The Heart of Innovation and all of Idea Champion's awesome clients, it is my privilege to share with you our own email survival strategies -- perhaps the most practical posting you will ever read on this blog.

1. Decide. Phone or email: Before sending off yet another email, ask yourself if email is the appropriate platform to communicate your message.

Maybe a phone call would be better. Or a face-to-face meeting. Or skywriting.

If your email is more than 2-3 paragraphs, you probably need to talk.

Emotionally charged issues are better done on the phone or in
person.

If you require consensus or a quick decision, screw email. Try Skype or the phone or -- this just in -- walk down the hall and actually talk to somebody.

2. Create a simple way to organize your email: I'm not suggesting you sign up for one more poorly facilitated webinar to figure this out -- but you will need to devise a simple and sustainable way to process all the messages flooding your inbox daily.

If you don't have some kind of organizing system in place, you will be a victim of email overload, resulting in the regrettable phenomenon of the people waiting for your response to assume that you've either moved to Mongolia or don't like them (both of which may be true).

When a new email comes in, you have five choices:

1. Read it immediately and respond
2. Read it and delete
3. Keep it in your inbox (which becomes your handy dandy TO DO list
4. File it in a folder called "BIG VINNY" and respond later
5. File it, by subject, in various folders in your sidebar

3. Read the entire email: When you are pressed for time, it is more than likely you will only glance at your emails, instead of actually reading them.

The result? You miss key pieces of information and, without realizing it, subsequently confuse other people down the line or waste their time because you are only partially informed about the topic of the email, but you (madly scrolling through your emails like Robin Williams on crack), think you know.

4. Write clear subject lines: Many emails get lost or neglected because their subject lines seem to have been written by Esperanto fanatics or dyslexic owners of Rod McKuen books.

Cease and desist! Snap out of it! Use laser-like. descriptive headlines. You can do this! You can! Do not write "An Idea" in your subject heading. Write "An Idea for Tripling Our Sales: FEEDBACK NEEDED" or SOMETHING that alerts to the reader to what your email is really about.

5. Include "Requests for Action", when appropriate:
If you want readers of your emails to actually respond (not just read your email as if it was the back of a cereal box), be sure to include the response you are requesting in the subject line.

FEEDBACK NEEDED
ACTION REQUESTED
CALL TO ACTION
CALL ME TODAY

NOTE: If you begin an email thread and have received all the input you need, remember to delete the REQUEST FOR ACTION phrase in your subject line. Otherwise, you will get besieged by input you neither need or want.

6. Begin your subject line with "FYI" if all you are doing is sharing information,
i.e.

FYI: Going on vacation
FYI: I just won the Congressional Medal of Honor
FYI: Cool article about Lithuanian muffins

7. Maintain single subject threads: If multiple subjects are embedded in emails, readers lose track and become, functionally (or pathologically), out of the loop.

Do not add new subjects to email threads. If a given email "reminds" you of a new topic you feeling a burning need to communicate, start a new email thread. Or move to Canada.

8. Use ALL CAPS sparingly: Caps, when used selectively, can be very effective, calling attention to key words.

Used indiscriminately, they create the impression of SHOUTING. LOTS OF SHOUTING. IT GETS OLD FAST. VERY FAST. LIKE THESE FEW LINES OF THIS BLOG POSTING WHICH ARE NOW STARTING TO SEEM LIKE AN INFOMERCIAL FOR A HOME EXERCISE MACHINE YOU CAN BUY IN SIX EASY PAYMENTS OF $99.99, BUT YOU WILL NEVER USE.

9. Use "cc: selectively: Before ccing everyone in the known universe, PAUSE and ask yourself WHO really needs to read your email?

If you have any doubt, check in with your cc minions and ask them to tell you WHAT email topics of yours they really need to be cc'd on.

10. Be Wise About "To" and "Copy" Fields: Remember this, oh multi-tracking and time-crunched sender of emails: Names in the "To" field are for people you are directly speaking to. Names in the "copy/cc" field are for people who will benefit from reading your email email, but your email is not essential to them and you do not need them to respond.

11. Acknowledge the sender: If an email falls in a forest, does anyone hear it?

Please understand that it is a courtesy to acknowledge that you have received and understood SOME of the emails sent you way. If the email you receive cites a deadline two weeks away, don't wait two weeks to respond. Instead, send a quick "thanks" or"'will do" or "can't do" to acknowledge receipt.

If you have an objection to what the email writer is saying, speak up! Say something! Silence, in the email zone, creates nothing but ambiguity and confusion.

12. Follow the 2-minute rule: If it will take you less than 2 minutes to respond to an email and remove it from your inbox, do it. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200. Do not clear cut the rainforest.

13. Create some sacred email time: Email can be incredibly distracting. If you continue to check your email throughout the day, your chances of concentrating on any one topic drop lower than the chances of health care, in the US, being affordable before 2050.

Pick a few slow times of the day when you actually have the time to check email, instead of knee jerkily checking your inbox every 30 seconds.

14. Use the phone more: If you need a quick answer, try calling. If you have something long to explain, try calling. If you don't understand an email, try calling.

The goal, by the way, is communication, not transmission.

Just because you sent an email to ten people and crossed their names off your TO DO list, does not mean you have communicated.

A big thank you to Sarah Jacob for getting this conversation started at Idea Champions and co-writing this blog article.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:06 AM | Comments (0)

March 13, 2013
An Invitation to the Humanizing the Workplace TeleSummit on April 4th

Mitch 1.JPGGood news!

On April 4th, 7:00 pm (EST), I will be interviewed, live, by one of the founders of the Positivity Project and YOU are invited to tune in.

My topic? Humanizing the Workplace.

All you need is a phone and/or web connection. You pay nothing except attention.

If you work for an organization where it seems as if human beings are being replaced by human doings, where people are cranky too often and not fully enjoying the experience of work/life -- my interview should prove to be an inspiring and useful 75 minutes for you.

stay_human-300x190.jpg

The Positivity Project is a very noble initiative.

Founders Kathy Poehnert and Alan Cohen are conducting weekly interviews with a variety of thought leaders in different fields to help nudge humanity away from a problem-centered existence towards a more positive mindset and lifestyle.

The end game? A global shift of consciousness, happening one person at a time. Yes!

I am thrilled to be one of the 20 people that Alan and Kathy have invited to participate in this exciting series.

If you've enjoyed my blog postings on Heart of Innovation and the Huffington Post, my interview should prove to be a very positive experience for you.

Click here to register (No charge. It's free).

And please feel free to invite your friends, relatives, co-workers, boss, and anyone else you can think of that might find value in taking 75 minutes to reflect on what they can do to humanize the workplace.

Positivity Project on Facebook

My Kindness-At-Work Manifesto
Idea Champions
What our clients say about us

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2013
The Seed of Innovation Moment

Let's cut to the chase: Innovation doesn't begin with processes, structures, and protocols. It begins with inspiration.

And where does inspiration come from?

It comes from inside the impassioned mind and heart of each person who works in your organization.

When people's mind/mindset is in the right place (i.e. open, curious, imaginative, communicative), your organization is home to thousands of daily, spontaneous opportunities for innovation to take root.

But all too often it doesn't.

And the reason it doesn't is because the people who work in your organization don't necessarily know how to maximize what I have come to call seed of innovation moments -- those naturally occurring interactions where inspired people share their new ideas with each other.

Idea seeds are being sown all the time, but all too often they are falling on hard ground.

The people you work with are originating -- and communicating -- their ideas more often than you realize. In meetings. In hallways. In elevators, parking lots, offices, bathrooms, cars, and lunch rooms. Many of these ideas are very intriguing -- or could be -- but they rarely take root.

Why not?

1. People are moving way too fast to recognize the "seed of innovation" moment.

2. People rarely think it's their job to listen and respond to the ideas of others.

3. People don't know how to give meaningful, innovation-sparking feedback on the fly.

The result?

Your organization is losing out on one of it's biggest natural resources -- the innate creativity and self-organizing brilliance of it's workforce.

Is there anything you and your organization can do about this? Yes, there is. Check back here next week for our proposed 10-point plan. I'd include it here now, but someone with a juicy idea is knocking on my door...

Why you don't get your best ideas at work
Illustration
Photo
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:08 PM | Comments (5)

February 27, 2013
The Beauty of a Wandering Mind

Do you have a tendency to zone out? Daydream? Follow the yellow brick road? Well, your day has come.

Instead of having to defend yourself from the army of people demanding you become more focused every second of the day, now you have some vital research, noted by the New York Times, to build a case for your wandering mind.

Explains, Dr. Jonathan Schooler, of UCLA:

"For creativity, you need your mind to wander, but you also need to be able to notice that your mind is wandering and catch the idea when you have it. If Archimedes had come up with a solution in the bathtub, but didn't notice he'd had the idea, what good would it have done him?"

Photo
More
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:47 AM | Comments (1)

February 21, 2013
One Referral = Mucho Dinero for You

In my ongoing saga to do the least amount of marketing and sales as humanly possible with the most amount of ROE (Return on Effort), I am hereby launching Idea Champions' new and improved "Client Referral" campaign for your cash flow consideration.

It's exactly what it sounds like.

If you refer a company to us that becomes our client, you get a 10% commission on the first year's revenues from that client.

Interested? Shoot an email to info@ideachampions.com and I'll fill you in on the details.

What we do

What our clients say about us
Our team
Our website

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2013
Go Beyond Analysis Paralysis

Einstein counts.jpg

One way to do so
Idea Champions
We talk our walk

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2013
Coffee, Creativity, and You

After you listen to Marc Black's love song to coffee, please leave a comment below and tell me how coffee impacts your creativity. Does it quicken access to your muse? Get you in the zone? Crank you up to create? Or not?

Download the song (from Pictures of the Highway)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:41 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2013
How to Attract a Big AHA!

What is it that allows some people to get creative breakthroughs while others get only creative breakdowns -- alternately blaming themselves, society, their company, and their increasingly suspect astrological configurations?

Is it true that people who experience breakthroughs are "gifted"? Or are there other factors at work -- factors that we (the people) have more control over than we might think?

While nobody can deny that some people seem to be blessed with "creative leanings" (i.e. Mozart at 4), research has shown that anyone can have the much sought after AHA! experience -- that is, IF they immerse themselves in the little understood process of creation.

Time and again, the literature bears this out: great creative breakthroughs usually happen only after intense periods of intention, immersion, struggle -- even madness.

It is sustained and focused effort towards a specific goal -- not luck, wishing, or caffeine -- that ultimately prepares the ground for creative insight.

This kind of effort does not always generate immediate results and sometimes leads people to conclude that it's just not in the cards for them.

Alas, they forget during their inevitable encounters with doubt, that the BIG AHA! is never far away and can happen at any time, any place, under any condition.

Let's take a look at some classic examples:

Rene Descartes.jpg

RENE DESCARTES
Recognized as the "father of modern science," Rene Descartes offers a very interesting footnote to the history of creative breakthrough.

An exceptionally gifted student in 17th century France, young Rene dropped out of school at the age of 17 upon realizing that the only thing he had learned was that he was completely ignorant.

Law school proved no better, nor did a brief stint in the military, or an aborted career as a gambler.

Frustrated with the choices available to him, Descartes decided to retire at the ripe old age of 20.

While his parents, teachers, and friends pleaded with him to change his mind, young Rene was adamant, and for the next two years did little else but stay in bed, read, think, dream, and write.

Curiously, one night in the second year of his retreat, Descartes had a dream in which the essence of what we now know as the "scientific method" was revealed to him.

In time, his discovery was shared with the scientific community and Western science had a new hero. Ah, the paradox of it all!

While scientists far and wide heralded Descartes for his contribution to Western, rational science, no one (in their right mind) would acknowledge that the root of Descartes' discovery came to him in a dream - a non-rational, non-linear, altered state of consciousness in the mind of a dropout!

Descartes story is not at all uncommon.

The truth, the breakthrough, the AHA! came to him only after years of intense, conscious effort.

Like ripe fruit, the answer made its appearance at the right time -- a time when he wasn't trying, but had let himself be receptive to the promptings of his own subconscious mind.

515_127869905843.jpg

ELIAS HOWE
Elias Howe had struggled for years in his attempt to invent a lock stitch sewing machine. His early designs, though inspired, were flawed. Indeed, the needle he designed had a hole in the middle of the shank, which simply didn't work.

Then, one night, depressed at how slowly things were going, Howe dreamed he was captured by a bunch of savages who took him prisoner before the King.

"Elias Howe," screamed the monarch, "I command you upon the pain of death to finish this machine at once!"

Try as he might, Howe still could not find the solution. The King, making good on his word, immediately ordered his troops to take Howe to the place of "execution" (dream pun intended).

As Howe was being led away, he looked up and noticed that the spears the savages were carrying had eye-shaped holes near the top! Voila!

In a flash, Howe awoke, jumped out of bed, and spent the rest of the night whittling a model of the new, improved needle -- the design breakthrough that quickly brought his experiments to a successful conclusion.

604573.jpg
RICHARD WAGNER
At the age of 40, Richard Wagner was going through a serious mid-life crisis. His artistic career was stalled, his marriage was falling apart, and his finances were in shambles.

Desperate, he decided to travel, hoping to find some inspiration. Traveling, however, only tired him.

Then, one morning, just at the moment when he finally gave up on his frantic effort to invoke his muse, Wagner heard a musical theme in a dream -- one that was about to change his life and the history of music.

Explained Wagner, "After a night spent in fever and sleeplessness, I forced myself to take a long walk through the country. It looked dreary and desolate. Upon my return, I lay down on a hard couch. Sleep would not come, but I sank into a kind of somnambulance, in which I suddenly felt as though I were sinking in swiftly flowing water.

"The rushing noise formed itself into a musical sound, the chord of E flat major, whence developed melodic passages of increasing motion. I awoke in sudden terror, recognizing that the orchestral prelude to Das Rheingold, which must have lain long latent within me, had at last been revealed to me. I decided to return to Zurich at once and begin the composition of my great poem."

picture_mozart_big.jpg

MOZART
A prodigy? Yes. Gifted? Yes. Unusually receptive? Yes. But also tuned in to the state of mind that preceded great creative breakthroughs.

Explained Mozart, "When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer -- say traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep; it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not, nor can I force them."

"Those pleasures that please me, I retain in memory, and am accustomed... to hum them to myself. If I continue in this way, it soon occurs to me how I may turn this or that morsel to account, so as to make a good dish of it....agreeably to the rules of counterpoint, and to the peculiarities of the various instruments."

"All this fires my soul, and provided I am not disturbed, my subject enlarges itself, becomes methodized and defined, and the whole, though it be long, stands almost complete and finished in my mind, so that I can survey it, like a fine picture or a beautiful statue, at a glance."

"Nor do I hear in my imagination the parts successively, but I hear them.....all at once. What a delight I cannot tell! All this inventing, this producing, takes place in a pleasing lively dream."

Rudyard-Kipling.jpg

RUDYARD KIPLING
Many people who experience supernormal moments of great creativity report a willingness to let themselves be open to the non-logical, non-linear, and unexplainable promptings of an inner voice.

Maybe you call it a "hunch" or "intuition," but whatever you call it, know that paying attention to it is often the key to manifesting your vision or idea.

Rudyard Kipling, the English writer, was very much in touch with this faculty.

"Most men," wrote Kipling, "keep their personal Daemon (guardian spirit) under an alias which varies with their literary or scientific attainments."

"Mine came to me early when I sat bewildered among other notions. 'Take me and no other,' it said. I obeyed and was rewarded. After that, I learned to lean upon him and recognize the sign of his approach. If ever I held back anything of myself (even though I had to throw it out afterwards), I paid for it by missing what I knew the tale lacked."

"I took good care to walk delicately, lest my Daemon should withdraw. I know that he did not, because when my books were finished they said so themselves with almost the water-hammer click of a tap turned off. 'Note here.'"

"When your Daemon is in charge, do not try to think consciously. Drift, wait, and obey."

HSfrieda.jpg

AUGUST KEKULE
It is not only writers and composers that have creative breakthroughs. Molecular scientists do, too.

Notes the Flemish scientist, Kekule, "One fine evening I was returning by the last bus through the deserted streets of the metropolis, which are at other times so full of life."

"I fell into a reverie, and lo! the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. Whenever those diminutive beings had appeared to me before, they had always been in motion, but I had never been able to discern the nature of their motion."

"Now, however, I saw how frequently, how smaller atoms united to form a pair; how a larger one embraced two smaller ones; how still larger ones kept hold of three or even four of the smaller, while the whole kept whirring in a giddy dance."

"I saw how the larger ones formed a chain. I spent part of the night putting on paper at least a sketch of these dream forms."

Then, years later, the big illumination made it's appearance.

"I turned my chair to the fire and dozed. Again the atoms were gamboling before my eyes. This time the smaller groups kept modestly in the background. My mental eye, rendered more acute by repeated visions of this kind, could now distinguish larger structures....long rows, sometimes more closely fitted together; all twining and twisting and snakelike motion."

"But look! What was that? One of the snakes had seized hold of its own tail, and the form whirled mockingly before my eyes! As if by a flash of lightening I awoke. Let us learn to dream, gentlemen."

Kekule had made a most remarkable discovery -- that benzene is a cyclic or ring structure and the carbon chain at the molecular core of the compound does indeed form a chain that "swallows its own tail".

Pyotr+Ilyich+Tchaikovsky+0012h395.jpg

TCHAIKOVSKY
OK, all you aspiring creators, how about a tip from the man who composed the Nutcracker Suite?

"Generally, the germ of a future composition comes suddenly and unexpectedly. It takes root with extraordinary force and rapidity, shoots up through the earth, puts forth branches and leaves, and finally blossoms."

"I forget everything and behave like a mad man. Everything within me starts pulsing and quivering. Hardly have I begun the sketch, before one thought follows another."

"In the midst of this magic process, it frequently happens that some external interruption awakes me from my somnabulistic state. Dreadful indeed are such interruptions. They break the thread of the inspiration."

AUTHOR'S NOTE: I realize there are no stories, in this article, about women with BIG AHA moments. The "literature" is fairly lame in this regard. Most of the anecdotes are about men. I'd like this article to be better balanced. Do you have any examples YOU can share with me -- and I will edit this posting accordingly. (Thanks to Doug Sundheim for pointing this out).

How the first caveman got his breakthrough
Breakthrough keynotes
Idea Chamnpions

Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo

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

January 18, 2013
Getting Back Into Our Right Brains

The following is by Val Vadeboncoeur, Idea Champions' Director of Training.

"May God us keep from single vision & Newton's sleep." - William Blake

The prolific Chris Hedges has written a powerful, new piece for Truthdig entitled "We Need Free Thinkers or Society Will Shrivel Up and Die".

I'd like to expand on it.

We need prophets and, as my good friend Roberta, a devoted student of the Torah, remarked the other day -- a "prophet" is not someone who foretells the future -- a prophet is someone who speaks the Truth right here in the moment, saying what needs to be said, whether it's popular or not (and it usually isn't).

We have had some prophets in recent times: comedian George Carlin was a prophet, for example, and so was Bill Hicks.

They told us what needed to be said, but they made us laugh about it so we didn't stone them to death when they did. Maybe Chris Hedges is a prophet.

But, today, we lack people who can see the bigger picture and help us make sense of things because, in great part, we have cut ourselves off from an essential part of ourselves.

We have neglected half of our human inheritance. In fact, we have dismissed it, made it an orphan, and cast it into exile.

The human being is a creature of balance. That's why we get so elated when our child takes his/her first steps.

After being born, this is the most significant event in a human life. It means we are learning about the fundamental reality of being human. We are mastering balance.

With every step we take in our lives, there is a moment where we have to find our balance or fall down. Once mastered, we do this so elegantly that we don't even notice this remarkable skill, much like a cheetah doesn't know how breathtakingly fast it runs, or a bird doesn't know how beautifully it flies. It just does it.

Physical balance is only one small part of it.

We are always balancing some kind of duality -- a duality of left/right, good/bad, up/down, wet/dry, smooth/rough, fast/slow, rich/poor, light/dark, hot/cold, positive/negative, me/you, us/them, etc.

We are always dealing with the reality of opposites. We also have two arms, two legs, two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two vocal cords, and two brains -- and that's what I want to talk about here.

We don't have one brain. We have two. And they're supposed to work in tandem, like a team of horses.

But our society has lost a critical balance between our two brains. We are overworking one horse and ignoring the other, so it starves to death.

Or to put it another way, instead of using our hammer to do what it is designed to do and our screwdriver to do what it's designed to do, we are trying to do everything with the hammer alone.

It is not the hammer's fault that it can't deal with the application and removal of screws. It is ours for expecting the hammer to be able to do this at all.

In terms of our two brains, commonly referred to as the left brain and the right brain, we are a left-brained biased culture -- and that bias is, in the final analysis, killing us and everything else on the planet.

When our body gets out of balance in some way, that's commonly referred to as "illness". When our minds are out of balance, that should be understood as "mental illness". Our culture, being out of balance in the use of our brains, is, in some sense, mentally ill.

Our left brain is the brain that sees the individual, detects differences, categorizes, measures, experiences time, and follows a single line of thought.

It's the brain that tells us when to cross the street safely, which product is the better buy, and which clothes we should wear that will best suit the day's weather.

It's the brain that's created Science, Mathematics, Logic, Reason, and all manner of technology. It sees "things" and can count, measure, divide, multiply and categorize those things.

It's specialty is isolation and singularity. It's useful and convincing. So useful and convincing, that we have completely identified with it.

When you ask people who they are, they usually respond in a way that indicates that the sum collection of the workings of their left brain is their identity.

The left brain, however, cannot prophesy because it cannot see beyond the material, physical realm. It doesn't even know that anything else but the material realm exists.

It cannot see how the individual things it can see might be connected in unexpected, non-logical, non-spatial, non-temporal ways.

It can't even imagine such things. The left brain cannot empathize, since it sees others as separate entities -- as objects "out there". It cannot have hunches. It cannot create a metaphor. It cannot see the whole, just the parts.

If it wants to know more about a cat, it kills the cat, dissects the cat, takes out and measures all the parts of the cat, and then feels as if it understands what a cat is. It doesn't even entertain the idea that a better way to know what a cat is might be to live with a cat, watch the cat, and empathize with the cat -- an approach that has the additional benefit of still having a cat when all is said and done.

Those qualities of connectivity and wholeness and warmth all belong to the kingdom of the right brain.

The right brain has insights and can imagine what is not yet manifest. It can be inspired. It can connect with the heart so it can feel and experience joy or sadness and the entire range of emotion.

It can put this experience of connectivity and emotion into the language of music and form and movement. It can see possibility and the road not taken. It is somewhat magical, it is now (not burdened by a past or worried about a future), and it is what we often refer to as "love".

As a society, we have rejected the genius of the right brain and we are suffering this imbalance every single day in a myriad of ways.

We suffer with psychological isolation and drug addiction. We suffer when quantity trumps quality in our food, our sex lives, and our education. We suffer when we create extremes of wealth, health, and value that cause tensions in our society that explode into violence.

We suffer when we scapegoat people, and create fear-inducing enemies and bogeymen that we try to destroy -- creating war, injustice and chaos. We suffer when we exploit our planet, and our fellow living creatures, for profit, without realizing that we are destroying our own lifeline -- that we are cutting off the very branch we are sitting on.

It's way past the time when we have to recognize our full humanity and start paying a whole lot more attention to our ignored and belittled magical right brain.

We are suffering unnecessarily because we are not in balance with our own true nature.

We are the "thinking creature" only using half of our thinking ability, and it's not even the better half, in my opinion.

We are like the cheetah using only two of its four legs to run, or a bird trying to fly by flapping only one wing.

Is this prophecy? I don't know, but what I do know is that we need to find our balance in our thinking -- and soon -- or we will all fall down.

That's the bad news.

The good news is that we are designed to do exactly that.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2013
How to Go Beyond Self Improvement

110423_BuenosAires_mk_482.png

In 2012, more than five million books were published worldwide.

Of these, a sizable percentage were of the "self-help" variety, a growing genre that promises to help people improve the quality of their lives -- to become happier, healthier, smarter, kinder, thinner, cooler, richer, less depressed, selfish, anxious and, generally speaking, better in countless ways society uses to define what it means to be successful human being.

At the core of the self-help book world is a fundamental assumption around which all of the writing revolves -- that there is a self to improve -- an essence at the core of a human being that is flawed and needs some tweaking.

And while this assumption certainly attracts a lot of book buyers, there is another kind of book, beyond self-improvement, that addresses an even more basic theme -- not improving the self, but knowing the self -- what sage Greek philosophers were referring to, centuries ago, when they distilled the purpose of life down into two simple words: know thyself.

This is the province of the newly published The Greatest Truth of All: You Are Alive! (21 excerpted talks of Prem Rawat) -- a 198-page book that awakens, inspires, and demystifies the so-called "search for self".

The message of the book is profoundly simple -- one that Prem Rawat has, primarily, been delivering orally for the past 40 years via live presentations -- that it is possible for all 7 billion people on planet Earth to experience peace -- no matter what their profession, social style, tax bracket, or education

Written in a highly engaging, breezy style, The Greatest Truth of All offers the reader easy access to a topic too often dismissed as esoteric, "spiritual", or woo woo.

Prem Rawat, very much a modern man with a well-developed sense of humor and a gift for story telling, has found a way to decode the essence of "self-knowledge" and delivers it, to the reader, like a tall, cool drink of water on a hot summer day.

So... if you're looking for a powerful "best practice" to help you connect with the core of who you truly are, this book might be for you.


Available on Amazon
, $16.00

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:54 PM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2013
The Social Media Revolution Revelation

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2013
20 Ways to Get Feedback on Your Biggest, Baddest, Boldest New Idea

Know Time illustration.jpg

You've got a great idea. I know you do. But I also know it's just sitting there. In your head. Like a lump. Why? Because you haven't pitched it to anyone.

Everyone -- even your best friends -- all seem so busy, right? And even if they're not busy, you... um....er... uh... don't really know how to kick-start the conversation to get them to help you develop your idea. The hardest part? Beginning.

And so, here's a way to start -- actually, 20 ways to start -- phrases you can use to increase the odds of someone giving you the feedback you need to develop your bold, new idea.

Go ahead. Get your idea out there. Invite someone to give you feedback. You can do this.

20 IDEA FEEDBACK STARTERS

1. "I wonder if you have a few minutes to give me some feedback on a new idea of mine. Is this a good time?"

2. "I'd love your opinion about a new idea that really excites me. Got five minutes to spare?"

3. "I just had a big breakthrough. Mind if I share it with you?"

4. "I need a second opinion on a new idea of mine. Available?"

5. "Can I book some time with you tomorrow to pitch you a bold, new idea of mine. I think you'll find it inspiring."

6. "I just figured out how to _________. Can I share it with you?"

7. "I'd love your sage counsel on a new project of mine."

8. "You're one of the smartest people I know around here. Mind if I share a new idea with you?"

9. "Who do you recommend I talk with around here to help me develop an exciting idea of mine?"

10. "I got a deal for you. I'll buy you breakfast tomorrow if you give me some feedback on a bold, new idea that came to me last night."

11. "I'd love you to play devil's advocate with me for a few minutes. Mind if I pitch you a new idea of mine?"

12. "When would be a good time for the two of us to get together and brainstorm an idea with the power to change our industry?"

13. "I need you help. I really do. Can you help me think through a new and untested idea of mine?"

14. "I've got a great idea that I'm really confused about. Can you help me sort it out?"

15. "Everyone I talk to tells me you're the resident genius around here. Mind if I pitch you a great idea that needs some polishing?"

16. "Would you be open to being my coach? I've got an awesome idea that's kind of flapping in the wind."

17. "If you've got five minutes, I'd love your help thinking through a great, new possibility."

18. "Can I take you to lunch today to help me refine a new idea?"

19. "Got 60 seconds to give me some feedback?"

20. "If you give me your feedback on my latest idea, I promise to name my tenth child after you. Ready?"

Idea Champions

Innovation Keynotes
Photo
Photo
Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:22 PM | Comments (2)

December 14, 2012
Santa's Cheerful Guide to Business Development

"Necessity," it is said, "is the mother of invention."

It is.

But it is also the father, aunt, uncle, grandmother, cousin, and in-laws. Indeed, for most of us, unless there is a proverbial fire under our proverbial butt, we remain victims of the status quo. Objects at rest. Bumps on a log.

Allow me to be more specific.

The year was 1998. Although the U.S economy was in good shape, my business was flabby. The pipeline was clogged. The marketing plan was a mess. And our cash flow wasn't.

Semi-fearless leader that I was, I bought some muffins and called a meeting. It took us all of 20 minutes to realize we had three choices if we wanted to survive: cut costs, find new clients, or reinvigorate old clients.

Cutting costs wasn't an option. Costs were already cut. Finding new clients sounded good, but it also sounded like a truck load of work. Reinvigorating old relationships, on the other hand, had a nice ring to it.

We decided to focus on local clients -- companies no more than two hours away. Singapore was out. New York City was in.

Being in the creativity business, we knew we'd have to walk the talk. Besides, Christmas was only two weeks away.

And so we decided to practice one of our own techniques and look at our challenge through the eyes of another, in this case -- Santa Claus. "How would he approach a major cash flow crunch?" we asked ourselves. "What would Santa do?"

The answer -- in an on-Dasher-on-Prancer-on-Vixen sort of way -- was obvious. Santa would take to the road. He'd visit people! He'd give out gifts!

The costume rentals cost us $300. I was Santa. Elizabeth was Mrs. Claus. Val was Rudolf. And Tiffany was the Chief Elf.

Our plan was simple.

We'd drive to Manhattan and pay surprise visits to three of our high flying ex-clients: MTV Networks, Met Life, and Pricewaterhouse. Once past security, we'd give away presents (that included our marketing materials) and get recipients to promise not to open them until Christmas morning.

Fast forward three hours...

There we are, the four of us in full Christmas regalia, standing in the tastefully appointed and very marble lobby of Pricewaterhouse. Behind the imposing front desk sat three very large security guards, none of them named Prancer.

"I'd... er... uh... like to speak to Donna Chandler," I announced, doing my best to channel my inner Santa.

Clearly, the security guard was not in the holiday spirit. His belly was not shaking like a bowl full of jelly.

"And who shall I say wants to see Ms. Chandler?" he replied with a scowl.

I just stood there, saying nothing, hoping my long white beard and general joviality would be enough to grant us access.

It wasn't.

"Don't you recognize me, my friend?" I exclaimed. "It's me, Santa!"

"I'll need your real name, sir," the guard replied.

"My real name? It's Santa. Santa Claus."

The guard, now mumbling something under his breath to the equally oversized guard sitting next to him, was not impressed. Scroogily, he paged his way through a company directory and dialed the phone.

"Hello," I heard him say. "This is lobby security. There's some guy here who wants to see you. He's dressed up like Santa Claus and won't give me his real name."

Other people came and went. Other people were given name badges. Other people walked merrily to the bank of elevators.

The four of us just stood there, lump of coal in our imagined Christmas stockings.

And then, unceremoniously, the very large security guard with no visions of sugar plums dancing in his head called us forward.

"OK, Santa," you and your little buddies can go up."

Deck the halls with boughs of holly! We went up!

The moment we got off the elevator, on the 27th floor, everyone flooded out of their offices. Everyone wanted to see us. These weren't auditors at a Big Six accounting firm. These weren't MBAs, number crunchers, or tax geeks. These were big kids in business clothes.

Three very cheerful women led us to their office. Boldly, they sat me down in an overpriced executive chair and, one by one, sat in my lap.

"Have you been good little girls," I asked.

"Oh YES, Santa!" they giggled.

"And what do you good little girls want for Christmas?" I said.

"Better cash flow, Santa! Promotions! Vacations! And a cappuccino machine in the lounge!"

I reached into my bag and pulled out a beautifully wrapped gift for each of them.

"Will you promise Santa not to open your presents until Christmas morning?"

"Oh yes, Santa!" they exclaimed.

And then, with a shake of some strategically placed jingle bells, we were off.

On Dasher! On Rudolf! On Cash Flow!

Out of the office, we turned right at the fire drill sign, took the elevator to the tastefully appointed lobby and skipped out the door to our next former client, spreading Christmas cheer and marketing materials, ho ho hoping like children the night before Christmas, dreaming of clients dreaming of first quarter results and calling us the first day back on the job after the holidays...

Guess what? They did.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT
1. What can you do differently this week to get a huge result?
2. How can you infuse your marketing efforts with a little fun?
3. What bogus boundary are you willing to cross?
4. Who else is willing to join forces with you to take a risk?
5. What is your next step?

Excerpted from my forthcoming book: WISDOM AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of Life

Idea Champions
Give the gift of innovation
Our adventures at Pfizer
Santa's genius cousin
Santa's keynotes
Image
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:19 AM | Comments (2)

December 13, 2012
What's Next After Twitter

twitter-2.jpg

This just in! Twitter is dead.

Or if not dead, dying. Or if not dying, passe. It's time has come and gone.

Industry experts agree. There is now a way more streamlined option available to you. Find out here -- noted in my most recent Huffington Post article.

12/12 is the Pope's first day on Twitter.
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:07 PM | Comments (0)

December 09, 2012
The Breakthrough Bathroom Technique

During the past 25 years I have worked with some of the most analytical people in the world: tax auditors, engineers, polymer chemists, actuaries, and rocket scientists just to name a few.

In my effort to help these fine folks make the journey from caution to creativity, I've had to develop a number of non-tradtional learning strategies -- most of which worked well enough to get me invited to work with some extraordinary organizations.

Not a single one of the methods I used had anything to do with the bathroom.

At least not until one fateful day at GE, when I found myself teaching Innovation and Business Growth to an amphitheater full of GE's "best and brightest" -- all of whom would be listening, the next day, to the iconic Jack Welsh, standing on the very same stage that I was standing on today.

ge-logo.jpg

My task? To move GE's leaders of the future from their left brain to their right -- to help them understand, from the inside out, what Einstein meant when he said "Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted, counts."

Having done this kind of work for the past 25 years, I had developed my own Swiss Army knife's worth of mindset-shifting approaches to get the job done -- approaches that included the right use of music, story telling, humor, movement, emergent design, creative thinking techniques, experiential challenges, and teaching people how to juggle.

Two hours into my GE session, things were going just fine. The 75 participants from 11 countries had given up their fear that I was going to make them sing Kumbaya and I had given up my fear that someone would soon discover my graduate school education was in poetry, not business.

At 10 am, my advanced facilitator skills kicked in and I began to notice that my bladder was full -- the kind of full that, If I didn't respond soon, would result in me hopping from one foot to the other.

Priorities newly clarified, I tweaked my agenda and taught the group a creative thinking technique that would keep them busy for at least another 10 minutes -- plenty of time to relieve myself.

WF_Urinal_WES-1000.large-1.jpg

Technique taught, I made my way up the aisle, out the door, found the bathroom, and did what 95% of all men do when it's time to pee -- aim dead center for the round hockeypuck-shaped thingee in the middle of the urinal, mindful not to get any drops on my newly dry-cleaned pants when it was time to zip up.

The bathroom, also one of GE's best and brightest, was about the size of a New York City studio apartment, complete with shiny marble counter tops and a week's worth of neatly folded hand towels on the impeccable sink.

Mission accomplished, I flushed, checked my face in the mirror, and retraced my steps to the meeting room.

Upon entering, everyone turned around and looked at me. Half of them were laughing. The other half were smiling. And if there was another half lurking somewhere beyond the laws of earthly mathematics, they would have been madly texting the details of what they had just found so amusing.

I was tickled that GE's best and brightest were so happy to see me, but I was also perplexed. This was not the usual welcome I received upon returning from a bathroom.

Confused, I shot a glance in the direction of Ben, my business partner, in the back of the room. He was standing, wildly gesticulating, Marcel Marceau on steroids.

"Your mic is on", he seemed to be saying, pointing at his lapel.

"Hmmm", I thought to myself. "My mic is on... my MIC is on".

Oops. Double oops!

From what I could tell, I had just broadcasted my entire bathroom experience to 75 global, business leaders of the future.

I had to think fast

"Oh that?" I said, taking another step down the aisle to the podium. "All part of the day's design. Intentional. Totally intentional. My attempt to..."

The rest of my sentence was drowned out by laughter. A lot of laughter. They would have none of it. Of course, they wouldn't. What I was saying was completely ridiculous, but because the way I said it was entertaining and self-effacing, they were not only forgiving, but suddenly much lighter and much more engaged than before I left the room just minutes before.

In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that in the three years of facilitating Innovation and Business Growth sessions at GE, I had never seen a group of people as focused, engaged, and happy to be in the room as this particular group was at this particular moment in time.

In some strange way, I had accomplished in three minutes, from a remote location -- the bathroom -- what usually took me at least a few hours -- bringing a room full of left-brained, curmudgeonly, bottom-line oriented business people to a collective state of mind that was fully present, relaxed, focused, and receptive to whatever was going to happen next.

Excerpted from my forthcoming book, WISDOM AT WORK: How Moments of Truth on the Job Reveal the Real Business of Life.

If you want to be informed when the book is published, send me an email (mitch@ideachampions.com)

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

December 08, 2012
You Suck at Powerpoint!

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:33 PM | Comments (0)

December 04, 2012
Digital Coolness from an 18-Year Old

The first photo below is a street in Tokyo. The second is my 18-year old son's (Photoshopped) vision of that same street after the Apocalypse.

Hongo_dori_street_nakano_tokyo.JPG

97058_orig.jpg

PS: If you need any Photoshop work, Jesse, is your guy. He's honest. He's creative, And he's looking for some work over the Christmas vacation. Check out his new website.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2012
Staff Meetings in Less than 10 Minutes

Tired of boring, ineffective staff meetings? Here's what you do: Get your team together. Declare a challenge. Then play this song at full volume. Debrief. Vote. Commit to something. Go back to work.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:21 AM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2012
The Top Ten Reasons Why The Top Ten Reasons Don't Matter

strange-albert-einstein.jpg

I'm sure you are a reasonable person -- thoughtful, analytical, and rational. Nothing wrong with that now, is there? Indeed, these very popular mental faculties can come in handy. But there is something beyond them that needs more breathing space in your life. Reason, no matter how reasonable,
can only take you so far. Anyway, here's my fun list, on the Huffington Post, of why we need to go beyond reason.

Idea Champions

Keynote presentations
Unreasonable cards

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:36 AM | Comments (0)

November 09, 2012
50 Awesome Quotes on Risk Taking

Is it time
to try
something new?
Get out of
your comfort zone?
Take a new step
or leap?
Feeling
a little queasy?
Need some
inspiration
to go beyond
the status quo?
Here's the ticket.
50 quotes on risk taking,
my latest piece
on Huffington Post.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:05 AM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2012
The Origins of the Stop Sign

4115494530_57aaf06bb8.jpg

I've been doing some fascinating research lately on the origins of common objects in our lives -- things we see daily, but often take for granted.

Like the Stop Sign, for example.

Most people think the Stop Sign was created to regulate traffic. Not true.

According to Dr. Ellison Burke of the Global Institute for Slowing Things Down Before You Hurt Yourself Badly, the origin of the Stop Sign has nothing to do with traffic -- and dates back several thousand years.

Historical references to the Stop Sign have been noted in more than 27 civilizations, most notably Babylonia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Sumeria, Crete, Rome, and the Han Dynasty.

600px-Stop_sign_China.svg.png

According to social scientists, each of these civilizations experienced one or more periods of rapid growth now referred to in the literature as "Societal Acceleration Syndrome" -- the way in which daily transactions speed up in proportion to a civilization's escalating Gross National Product.

In other words, speed has become one of the most statistically predicable indicators of a civilization's development and, as I will get to later in this posting, eventual decline.

My research doesn't end here, however.

In each of the above-mentioned civilizations, there have always been a small, but vocal, group of citizens who -- concerned about the quickening pace of daily life -- have warned about this phenomenon.

moroccan-stop-sign.jpg

Indeed, a joint longitudinal study conducted by the Yukon Archeological Institute and the Asian Society for Shorter Haiku, has revealed that this "small, but highly committed group of citizens" has made repeated efforts to diffuse their respective society's "escalating addiction to velocity."

In Sumeria, for example, a fringe group of philosophers and poets routinely posted "Styopsian" signs at strategic intersections throughout the country -- not to stop traffic, but to stop unnecessary "mind movement."

Their effort resonated with the citizenry and eventually led to the widespread appearance of what modern day sociologists now refer to as "stop signs" -- in urban centers, small villages, cattle crossings, universities, and even cornfields.

One of the most curious facts I've unearthed in my research is this: For the past 2,000 years, Stop Signs, regardless of the country of origin, have always been octagonal.

Apparently, each side of this iconic 8-sided, cross-cultural symbol of hoped-for stillness, has been imbued with a secret teaching of great import:

oak lawn stop sign.jpg

1. Slow down
2. Pay attention
3. Look around
4. Pause
5. Look within
6. Breathe deeply
7. Appreciate
8. Move consciously

And so... the next time you see a Stop Sign, you may want to remember that you are in the act of receiving a very ancient message -- one that preceded Starbucks, Twitter, YouTube, MTV, and email by thousands of years.

Next week... the YIELD SIGN.

ED NOTE: It has recently come to my attention that some readers of this blog have questioned my research methods and the veracity of my findings. A quick Google search of "Dr. Ellison Burke" and the "Global Institute for Cross-Cultural Studies," they claim, reveals not a single link. Frankly, I am baffled by their assertions and have assigned five of my brightest research assistants to get to the bottom of this immediately. In the meantime, you may want to contemplate the semi-ancient words of modern day social scientists, Simon and Garfunkel:

"Slow down, you're moving too fast. Ya gotta make the morning last..."

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:12 AM | Comments (5)

November 05, 2012
What You Can Learn From W.C. Fields

3244818.jpg

Is it possible
that a youthful,
summertime
best practice
of W.C.Fields
could be
the catalyst
to help you
get a major
project
of yours
untracked, unstuck,
and on it's way
to a breakthrough?

Newest article of mine
on Huffington Post.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

October 25, 2012
The Kindness-At-Work Manifesto

This just in! We're here for just a little while. No one gets out of here alive. Not even Donald Trump. So while you're here, remember to be kind and go beyond judgment, blame, and impatience -- especially when things start getting stressed out. Like on-the-job.

Here's my inspired rant on the subject, just published in The Huffington Post.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

October 10, 2012
The Cult of Monetization

This just in
from the
Huffington Post!
My rant on
how not everything
needs to be monetized!
Especially blogs.
Yes, it is possible
for a blog
to just be a blog,
not a cash cow
not a profit center,
not an income stream
not a money maker,
not Groucho's cigar.
Just a blog.
You will not be billed
for reading this
posting.

More on this here
More on that there

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:31 PM | Comments (1)

October 06, 2012
How to Create an Idea Factory

TeamInnovation.jpg

Want to see your BIG IDEAS manifest more than they do? Check out my most recent article in the Huffington Post. The solution has less to do with your ideas than it does your support team.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:35 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2012
14 Ways to Go Beyond the Email Blues

10344854-inbox-alliance-email-workers-of-the-world-unite.jpg
Get too many emails?
Sick and tired
of sorting through them?
Want to jump start
an email etiquette revolution?
Here's your starter kit
--
my email liberation rant
just published
in the Huffington Post.

(Yes, you can forward it to others and still honor what it's all about).


MORE HUFF POST GOODIES OF MINE

Why You Don't Get Your Best Ideas at Work
Innovation From the Inside Out

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:26 PM | Comments (1)

September 21, 2012
20 Reasons Why So Many People Get Their Best Ideas in the Shower

ideas_in_the_shower.png

Ever wonder
why you
often get
your best ideas
in the
shower?
Here's why
--
my latest
Huffington Post
article.

Idea Champions
Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:53 AM | Comments (0)

September 18, 2012
How Teens Can Become Humanitarians

Watch this 9-minute video to learn how an inspired bunch of Hudson Valley teenagers are taking their bold, first steps toward becoming humanitarian leaders. The One Voice for Laos project, headquartered in Woodstock, NY, is making a big difference in many ways.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:54 AM | Comments (0)

September 15, 2012
Why People Work in Cafes

coffeegirl.jpg

If you find yourself going to cafes to work on projects, you might find this article of mine, just published in the HuffPost, timely, amusing, and thought provoking. (I bet you can think of at least another three reasons why people like to work in cafes).

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:23 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2012
10 Tips for Giving a Kick Ass Keynote

Einstein tongue out.jpg

If you
want
to be
an effective
keynote speaker,
and are
looking
for a few tips,
you have
come to the
right place.
Well, almost
the right place.
My article
on the subject
is actually
on the Huffington Post.
Just published.
Today.
Click here
to get there.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:24 PM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2012
The Good Thing About Bad Ideas

bartdunce.gif

One of the inevitable things you will hear at a brainstorming session is "there are no bad ideas." Not true. There are plenty of bad ideas. Nazism, for instance. Arena football. Bow ties.

What well-meaning "keep hope alive" brainstorming lovers really mean is this: Even bad ideas can lead to good ideas if the idea originators are committed enough to extract the meaning from the "bad".

Do you think that War and Peace was written in one sitting? No way. There were plenty of earlier drafts that were horrid, but eventually led to the final outcome.

The key? To find the value in what seems to be a "bad idea" and then use that extracted value as a catalyst for further exploration. The following technique, excerpted from Awake at the Wheel, shows you how...

HOW IT WORKS:

1. Bring a challenge, question, or problem to mind.
2. Conjure up a really bad idea in response to it.
3. Tell another person about your bad idea.
4. The other person thinks of something redeemable about your bad idea -- and tells you what it is.
5. Using this redeemable essence as a catalyst, the two of you brainstorm new possibilities.

Idea Champions
Four online ways to be an idea generator

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:59 AM | Comments (11)

August 24, 2012
Autistic Artistic Fantastic!

UBS "Stephen Wiltshire" from HUMBLE TV on Vimeo.

Michelangelo on effort
Idea Champions

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

August 21, 2012
Insane or Brilliant? You Decide.

homepage-graphic-left.jpg

Full disclosure!
This is a marketing post,
our little effort
to let you know
who our clients are,
just in case
you're interested
in our services,
but hesitant to call us.
All of these organizations,
at one point,
realized they needed to
do something different
to raise the bar
for innovation.

1-845.679.1066
Our virtual interview
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

August 16, 2012
A Breakthrough in Higher Education

This is a very important video to watch. Huge implications. HUGE. Fast forward a year or two and imagine that Coursera has added another 500 courses to their online curriculum. Colleges will go the way of Blockbuster, unless they get their business model more together -- and make higher education way more affordable.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:22 PM | Comments (0)

The One Voice for Laos Documentary

Here is a remarkable 8-minute video produced by Garland Berenzy (16!), documenting the One Voice for Laos project -- an inspired humanitarian effort spearheaded by Hudson Valley teens, committed adults, and my amazing wife, Evelyne Pouget, to support 600 orphans in Luang Prabang, Laos. If you want to donate to the orphanage, send a check to the Windhorse Foundation (P.O. Box 26582, San Francisco, CA 94126) and write "Deak Kum Pa Orphanage" in the memo line.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:44 PM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2012
Flowers First! Business Second!

dozen-red-roses.jpg

Today, in a sudden fit of love and appreciation, I bought a dozen roses and brought them home to my wife.

Usually, when I think of buying roses, I go through a predictable sequence of events. First, I surrender to a wonderful feeling of expansiveness that takes me over. Then I get curious and smell the flowers. Then I ask the shopkeeper how long she thinks the roses will last.

Then I ask the per stem price, do the math, and reach the pitifully male conclusion that $46.95 is way too much too spend on something that won't last out the week and is probably less expensive somewhere else and it's obviously indulgent of me to be buying so many roses when I've got two kids to put through college in a few years and besides, beauty is within.

All of this, of course, is my inner Woody Allen taking the low road in response to what is obviously a Johnny Depp moment.

So I dig deep and bring the roses home -- my entire living room taking shape around them.

39531401.9W7F3NGv.6EET9042_web_red_rose.jpg

I then become very aware that there are definitely not enough flowers in the room. In a curious way, the recent appearance of roses has made the rest of the room seem barren. Tabletops and shelves that only minutes ago were doing just fine, are now utterly flowerless.

So I do the only thing a man can do when faced with such a paradox -- I return to the flower shop.

But the shop is closed. Closed? Impossible! I need flowers!

So I get back in my car and speed my way to the other flower shop in town.

It, too, is closed -- or, should I say, closing. The owner is shutting the door and giving me the "too-bad-you-didn't-get-here a few-minutes-ago" look.

But I will not be denied. And he knows it.

"What do you want?" he asks.

"Flowers," I reply.

He signals me to enter and I buy way more flowers than makes sense. A ridiculous amount.

Let's put it this way: if I was in the federal witness protection program, my sudden flower buying behavior would have put my government handlers in a tizzy.

Fast forward ten minutes to my wife in our kitchen.

She is looking at me as if I am totally insane -- me, the guy who, only days ago was making an airtight case for a more modest household budget.

Here's my philosophy:

Flowers first. Business second. If money is tight, buy more flowers. The more flowers you buy, the more money will appear. And if not in this lifetime, then the next (or maybe the one after that).

OK. There you go -- my not very financially sound, flower-centric view of the universe. You, my friend, are a witness. If I forget, please remind me.

OK. Stop reading this blog. Go out and get some flowers, already.

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:50 AM | Comments (0)

August 08, 2012
Shouldn't Hallmark Create an International Dancing Day?



Thanks to my sister, Phyllis Rosen, for this link.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:49 AM | Comments (0)

August 05, 2012
The "L" Word in Business

thing-called-love.jpg

Big thanks to Sarah Jacob, Idea Champions' Dutchess of Business Development for this fine post.

I recently had the delightful privilege of attending HSM's World Innovation Forum in New York City -- two days of luminous speakers on a broad spectrum of innovation-themed topics.

With tickets at $2,500 a pop, attendees were heavy-hitters at major corporations from around the globe -- a no-nonsense crowd.

Jean-Claude Biver was one of the first speakers.

Not many CEOs have helped their company grow revenues from $24 million to $100 million in two years. Biver did at Hublot Geneve, a Swiss watchmaker that sells ten thousand dollar watches -- a product which he admits are now "totally useless" since most people these days use their smartphones to check the time.

Gesturing to the glittery watch on his wrist with a slightly baffled look, he shrugged and laughed.

The silver-haired entrepreneur began his presentation by letting us in on a little known fact: he was a hippie in the 60s, shaped by the Beatles and his many visits to Woodstock.

woodstock_poster1.jpg

"First, we have to share," he explained. "Giving employees a bonus at the end of the year is not sharing. It is justice. It is important to share experiences, knowledge, doubts, and the process of success."

And then he dropped the L-bomb.

"Sharing," he declared, "is an act of love."

I was intrigued that this man was brave enough to speak that depth of truth to an audience of businesspeople.

I looked around and noticed a few people shift in their seats.

Biver went on to pitch us Principle #2: Respect, making note that self-respect was primary.

"If you don't respect yourself," he asked, "how can you respect others, or your customers, suppliers, or the earth? A person who respects himself is guided by love."

There it was AGAIN, the word "love"!

I glanced sideways.

A man got up and awkwardly sidestepped his way to the aisle. Then a woman. I stayed put, captivated.

Principle #3: Forgiveness.

"We must forgive every mistake," he explained, "but only once. You cannot make the same mistake twice."

At Hublot Geneve, Monday was the day for sharing mistakes, and for every mistake shared, employees received a bonus. The result? People got used to sharing mistakes, and everyone got the benefit of the lesson.

"Forgiveness," he said, smiling, "is an act of love."

BOLD. This man was talking about LOVE at a global business conference of people who controlled billions of dollars! He was not talking about metrics or social media or ROI. Love!

And I was loving it.

In my experience, love is at the core of any kind, generous, authentic interaction.

heart over head.jpg

A corporate culture that fosters the values of freedom, autonomy, purpose, mastery, integrity, and responsibility is a culture that is really about love -- a feeling that starts with inspired leaders who care. These leaders want to make the world a better place and deliver something great, while valuing the well-being of every person they employ.

I know this inside and out, having left a six-figure job in an investment firm three years ago to do what I loved: to travel the world dancing tango.

But did others in this sophisticated business crowd know this? Could they hear Biver's message? Business movers and shakers are often distracted by the depths of data, deadlines, and deliverables and miss the chance to be authentic.

I'm guessing the word love doesn't come up too often in their weekly staff meetings. But maybe it should.

"If people act from love," Biver explained, "then they are strong."

A company with this kind of culture, Bivre continued, is one where people are comfortable, ethical, enjoy themselves, and are happy to share. They help each other, and that support makes each person stronger and the organization great -- not to mention profitable -- even if they sell incredibly expensive, useless, luxury items in a soft economy.

Jean Claude Biver's closing comment?

"My biggest asset is that I was a hippie. Thank you Woodstock, The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones."

Hallelujah! As the Director of Business Development for an innovation consultancy actually headquartered in Woodstock, I thank you, Mr. Biver, for unapologetically using a word that is taboo in American corporate culture.

Let's start a revolution.

Sarah's post on tango in business

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:18 PM | Comments (2)

August 02, 2012
I Am Moving to a Blog Cabin

blog_cabin.png

I see the future.

Everyone will have a blog. Every blogger's pet will have a blog. Every blog will have a blog. Every blog's blog will have a blog. No one will be reading any of these blogs because everyone will be too busy writing blogs. (Those with ADD will be tweeting).

Bloggers will occasionally visit other blogs, but only for the purpose of leaving comments that will direct readers back to their own blog.

Letter writing will become popular once again, gaining a new lease on life after the internet crashes repeatedly because of the profusion of blogs, tweets, and youtube videos created by 5-year olds, holographic spammers, robots, and terrorist groups.

Why all the blogging?

Because people want to connect. And WHY do people want to connect? Because there is a fundamental need inside each and every one of us to feel connected.

"Connected to WHAT?" is the question.

Most business leaders are likely to say something like "the marketplace," or "our customers" or "company values," but the real answer is far more fundamental -- your self.

contentment-300x199.jpg

Remember that? The part of you that doesn't have a title, a strategic plan, or a smart phone to keep it all together? That's where real communication begins -- from the inside out. And even more importantly, that's where the real experience of life begins.

Bottom line, for each of us to feel truly connected, we first need to connect with ourselves. Then, and only then, does it make sense to connect with others.

Otherwise, all our efforts to connect will be fundamentally flawed -- tinged with the slightly neurotic need for more approval, information, and virtual friends -- none of which are really necessary once we master the fine art of tapping into who we really are in the first place.

Sort of like putting the isness back in business.

And speaking of the future -- high rises are out. Blog cabins are in.

Photo
Illustration: Sara Shaffer

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2012
10 Tips for Improving Your RFP Process

paperwork.jpg

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Mitch Ditkoff. I am the Co-Founder of Idea Champions, an innovation consulting and training company headquartered in Woodstock, NY. We've been in business since 1986 and, since that time, have responded to more than 1,200 RFPs.

Along the way, we've noticed a curious trend.

Time and again, we've seen RFP-requesting companies get stuck with a vendor or contract that did not fulfill their needs because their RFP process got in the way -- a process that could have been a lot more effective if only it had been more open, honest, and complete.

And so, as a public service to you and all our other prospective clients, here are 10 simple guidelines to increase the odds of your RFP process getting you the kind of results you are looking for:

10 TIPS FOR IMPROVING YOUR PROPOSAL PROCESS

1. Be Prepared: The odds of us delivering a meaningful proposal to you increase exponentially in response to the accuracy and thoroughness of the input you provide.

If the person you report to has asked you to "google innovation consultants" and put five proposals on his/her desk by next Friday, make sure you are sufficiently briefed so what we deliver to you will be fully aligned with what you really need.

rfpImage.jpg

2. Be Clear About Deadlines: Is the proposal you are requesting really due yesterday? The first thing tomorrow? Two weeks from now? Please be willing to give us the scoop on when you really need it and we'll be happy to deliver it by then -- or sooner.

When you give potential vendors a fake deadline, it doesn't bode well for your future working relationship -- one that needs to be rooted in mutual trust, respect, and integrity.

And besides, unnecessarily stressing potential vendors may end up working against you, significantly increasing the odds of you receiving flawed, incomplete, or incomprehensible proposals.

3. Be Transparent:
While your proposal process is your business, not ours, there is something to be said for letting us know how many other companies you've invited to respond. If you're asking another 25, our chances are 4% and we might decide not to throw our hat in the ring. Make sense?

If you already know you have only $2,500 to spend on your three-day event in Orlando, let us know that, too. This information will save us the time it takes to write a proposal you will never accept and you the time it will take to read it. Win/Win.

4. Be Ethical: If you are contacting us only to get some useful thought starters about your event or initiative and already know you will not be engaging our services, there's really no need to ask for a proposal.

Chances are good we'll be happy to talk with you about your event, anyway, just for the opportunity to spark a future business relationship with you.

We subscribe to the notion that the more you give, the more you get. But asking us for a proposal that has no chance of being accepted is really not playing fair.

Put yourself in our shoes. The Golden Rule applies.

rfp.jpg

5. Be Direct About What You're Asking For: If what you mean by "a proposal" is merely our fee, simply ask for it and we'll tell you. It will save us both a lot of time -- and more than a few trees.

If all you need is two pages' worth, mention that, too. If we give you ten and your threshold is two, both of us lose.

6. Be Honest: If you've already decided to engage the services of someone else, but need three competitive bids for "legal reasons," let us know. As part of our newly launched "Consulting Companies for a Proposal Savvy World" campaign, we'll send you -- within 24 hours -- our "They've Already Decided" proposal.

Much less work for us -- and no bad karma for you.

7.Keep Us Posted: At reasonable intervals, after we've submitted our proposal, please be willing to let us know where we stand.

If you haven't read our proposal yet, that's useful to know. If you can't find it, feel free to ask us to send another. If your conference has been canceled, we're just an email away. If you've decided to do it in-house, just holler. If budgets have been frozen... or your CEO has been indicted by the FTC... or you've decided that one of our competitors is the perfect fit, you know where to find us.

This information, delivered in a timely way, will allow us to release the dates we've been holding for you, significantly reducing the odds of you feeling guilty (or cranky) the next time we ask for an update.

8. Respond to Our (Infrequent) Emails: Often, when a prospective client asks us for a proposal, they ask us to "hold the date." This is perfectly understandable. It's common practice.

But sometimes another prospective client, the next day, will ask us for the same date. That's when we'll send you an email and ask for an update.

Since we will have given you the right of first refusal, all you need to do is let us know what's happening. Takes less than two minutes.

government_contracts_rfp_proposals.jpg

9. Provide Authentic Closure: Let's say you decide not to engage our services. Maybe you liked another consultant's approach better or decided to go with the low cost provider.

So be it. Your choice. No problem. Yes, we might be disappointed, but we'll get over it.

What's harder to get over is when there's no closure.

Of course, we realize you owe us nothing. You are not, by law, required to do anything after we submit our proposal. We also realize that your silence isn't synonymous with a lack of care. Indeed, sometimes it's the opposite -- since you may have grown to like us and don't want to be the bearer of bad news.

For us, bad news is better than none.

That's how we learn and, hopefully, get better at responding to your future requests.

And that's not all.

You get to maintain a positive relationship with a company (us) whose services you may want to engage in the future. You also avoid getting a bad rap among the other consulting companies with whom we are regularly in contact.

And we, of course, get the kind of feedback we need help us grow our business. How long does this closure effort take? Three minutes? Five? Ten at the most.

10. Consider Reinventing Your RFP Process:
The above nine suggestions, of course, are only from our perspective. We're guessing there are at least a few other improvements you can think of that will significantly raise the odds of your future RFP process being more effective, efficient, and humane.

If you're stuck for fresh ideas about how to improve your RFP process, click here and conjure up some new ways you can change the game for the better.

A big thank you to Paul Roth and Val Vadeboncoeur for their sage input on this topic.

Idea Champions

Illustration
Illustration
Photo
Illustration
Photo
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:15 PM | Comments (3)

July 29, 2012
What Are You Really Thirsting For?

A little known fact about me (Mitch Ditkoff) is that, in addition to being the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, I am also a poet. In fact, my graduate school education many years ago, at Brown University, was not an MBA program -- but an MFA in poetry. If you want to see what I looked like back then, click the link below. Ready?

MD long hair.jpg

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2012
Big Innovation in the Prison System

sa_jail_qa.jpg

Here's an extraordinary fact: There are more people living in US jails than live in the entire state of New Mexico.

Based on the latest data, the combined inmate population of correctional facilities in the United States is currently about 2.35 million.

The cost to the US Government? $74 billion dollars. That's $30,600 per prisoner. Those are staggering numbers. But even more staggering are the recidivism rates. 60% of all prisoners released from jail eventually return.

Clearly, the prison system is broken -- not just in this country, but in the world. Attempts at rehabilitation -- and there have been many -- have simply not worked. Until recently.

The Prem Rawat Foundation's (TPRF) Peace Education Program, now being piloted in Texas' Dominguez State Prison, is getting extraordinary results. Here is the story (be sure to watch the video).

pep_art_header.jpg

More about the program in Spanish.
More about the Peace Education Program
Inmate expressions
Letters from Prison officials
Recent PEP news
TPRF
Words of Peace Global

timthumb.jpg

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:16 PM | Comments (1)

July 08, 2012
Treat Your Clients Like God!

PT-AM465_GOD_co_DV_20090909211040.jpg

At least once a week I am approached by a struggling entrepreneur and asked how I market my services. More often than not, I blurt out any number of MBA-like platitudes.

But when I really stop and think about it, my answer morphs into something much deeper: "I treat my clients like God."

Yup. That's my marketing plan. Plain and simple. I treat my clients like God.

After the proverbial blank stare, the cash-strapped entrepreneur before me relaxes and smiles. Deep down in their entrepreneurial bones, what I'm saying makes sense.

Treating your clients like God is the way to go -- not as some kind of clever way to get a competitive edge, but because that is what life is all about: Seeing the divine in everyone. Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. And ultimately, doing great work born of a deep-seated gratitude for the opportunity to serve.

Idea Champions
What we do

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:55 AM | Comments (2)

July 01, 2012
The Brilliance of Eliminating Left Turns

head-slap2.gif

ED NOTE: Big thank you to Val Vadeboncoeur for this insightful report from the World Innovation Forum.

I caught Andrew Winston's excellent presentation at the 2012 World Innovation Forum last week in NYC in which he focused on how companies can use environmental sustainability as a driver of innovation.

This "Green to Gold" movement has been spurring innovation and boosting profits across a wide range of industries in recent years simply by trying to decrease waste and environmental impact.

Along the way, Andrew, who is the author of Green Recovery (and with Daniel Esty, the book Green to Gold) got into one of my favorite subjects. He offered a series of corporate innovation examples of what he called "head-slappers" and what I call counter-intuitive thinking.

homer-simpson-doh.gif

One perfect example of counter-intuitive thinking is what Maersk Shipping did in their efforts to decrease their environmental footprint.

Maersk (a Dutch company) is the world's biggest container shipping line. They asked themselves an odd and challenging question: "Does a shipping company always need to go fast?"

By pursuing that seemingly absurd question, they realized that if they decreased the speed of their ocean-going vessels, they could save up to 40% of their fuel costs, and by merely scheduling and planning better, their ships still arrived on time when their clients expected them to. D'oh!

A little closer to home, Con-Way Trucking of New Jersey had a similar AHA!

By simply reducing the maximum speed of their trucks from 65 MPH to 62 MPH, they now save $10 million a year, and in this economy, that's the difference between making a profit or not.

UPS (and now FedEx as well) had another kind of head slapper insight.

They realized that in big cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, their truck drivers used up a LOT of gas, wasted a lot of time, and got into a lot of accidents when their trucks had to make left turns and got stuck, all too often, waiting at red lights.

So, they asked themselves the seemingly bizarre question: "Do our trucks really have to make left turns?"

head-slap1.png

Their conclusion? They didn't!

By re-designing their drivers' routes in busy city downtowns and by re-calibrating their UPS devices to avoid left turns, they save incredible amounts of time and fuel (not to mention having fewer traffic accidents.)

UPS now saves three million gallons of gas and 28 million miles each year by only making right turns!

Similarly, the folks at Scott Paper asked themselves: "Why do we need cardboard tubes to package our toilet paper products?"

What they realized? They didn't.

They now have a line of "tube-free" toilet paper which also saves lots of money AND the environment.

So... the question I (and Andrew) have for you is this: "How can YOUR company use environmental sustainability as a catalyst for innovation?"

And, even more to the point, "What powerful and challenging trigger questions can you ask yourself that might provoke a head slap moment in a flash of counter-intuitive thinking?

Because, sometimes, it's the seemingly ridiculous question that leads to the biggest breakthrough and innovation.

PS: A big thank you to George Levy and the other fine folks at HSM Global for inviting Idea Champions to be a guest blogger at the World Innovation Forum -- now three years running.


Ask the right questions
Why you need to ask why

Big problem or right problem?
15 great quotes on the subject
Who is Idea Champions?

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:27 AM | Comments (0)

June 30, 2012
16-Year Old Solves a 350-Year Old "Impossible" Math Problem

522167_10150904025401878_635426656_n.jpg

A few months ago, 16-year old Shouryya Ray blew the mind of mathematicians and the media by solving two "unsolvable" particle dynamics problems first posed by Isaac Newton 350 years ago.

How did he do it?

Explained Shouryya: "When it was explained to us that the problems had no solutions, I thought to myself, 'Well, there's no harm in trying."

little smiley girl.jpg

Generations of scientists and mathematicians had tried their hand unsuccessfully at solving Newton's problem (for the technically minded, the problem was coming up with a mathematical formula to predict the fluid dynamics of a flying object taking into account the combination of forces including gravity and air friction).

That was until Indian-born Shouryya was on a school trip to Dresden University, and heard the professors mention the problem, and saying it was unsolvable.

Hearing this, Shouryya said "Why not? I didn't believe there couldn't be a solution."

So he got to work on it, and wouldn't give up until he had solved it and published his work.

Does he think it was genius that got him there? No. In fact, almost the opposite.

"I think it was just schoolboy naivety."

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Name three things in your business or life that you written off as "impossible". Now, like Shouryya, don't believe it. Get busy. Take a fresh look at the problem. Trust your instincts. Muse, contemplate, dream.

If you need to get your creative juices flowing, try this.

The problem Shouryya solved?

Let (x(t),y(t)) be the position of a particle at time t. Let g be the acceleration due to gravity and c the constant of friction. Solve the differential equation:

(x''(t)2 + (y''(t)+g)2 )1/2 = c*(x'(t)2 + y'(t)2 )

subject to the constraint that (x''(t),y''(t)+g) is always opposite in direction to (x'(t),y'(t)).

Finding the general solution to this differential equation will find the general solution for the path of a particle which has drag proportional to the square of the velocity (and opposite in direction). Here's an explanation how this differential equation encodes the motion of such a particle:

The square of the velocity is:

x'(t)2 + y'(t)2

The total acceleraton is:

( x''(t)2 + y''(t)2 )1/2

The acceleration due to gravity is g in the negative y direction.
Thus the drag (acceleration due only to friction) is:

( x''(t)2 + (y''(t)+g)2 )1/2

Thus path of such a particle satisfies the differential equation:

( x''(t)2 + (y''(t)+g)2 )1/2 = c*(x'(t)2 + y'(t)2 )

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:00 AM | Comments (1)

June 29, 2012
Skillset vs. Mindset

Innovation-1.jpg

Yesterday, as one of my favorite clients was introducing me as the day's presenter at one of her company's leadership development programs, something she said caught my attention:

"Innovation skills."

That's what she was telling the 41 business leaders of the future they were going to learn from me.

Yes, it was true. I was going to help these good people become more skillful at innovating. That's what I do. But that was only half the story.

Actually, less than half. Much less.

If there's one thing I've learned these past 25 years of working as an innovation provocateur, it's this: mindset -- not skillset -- is the name of the game in business these days, no matter what the rules or lack thereof.

Keys-to-the-entrepreneur-mindset-300x300.jpg

When a person's mindset (i.e. receptivity, curiosity, adaptability, enthusiasm, focus) is in the right place, skillset becomes secondary.

Is acquiring new skills useful? Of course it is.

If you're about to have surgery, you want to know the man with the scalpel knows what he's doing, But all the skills in the world become useless if the mind of the physician is cloudy.

I'm talking attitude. Viewpoint. Approach. Not what you look at, but what you see.

Psychologists have boiled down the phenomenon to three words: "Motivation affects perception".

If you're driving through a town and are hungry, what do you see? Restaurants. If you're running out of gas, it's gas stations you notice. And if someone you love is dying, you become suddenly amazed at how many funeral parlors there are.

My mentor once put it this way: "When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are his pockets."

Bottom line, if you want to jump start innovation -- in your self, in your team, or your company, begin paying more attention to mindset. Be willing to make the effort required to help yourself and others enter into the frame of mind most conducive to innovating.

Because in the end, it's less about where you're going, than where you're coming from.

What we do
Who we are
Our values
Seeing the invisible
Why most innovation initiatives fail

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:35 PM | Comments (0)

June 23, 2012
20 Reasons Why Creative People Like to Work in Cafes

108267879_d1e217ed1d_z.jpg

Ever since I was old enough to realize there would never be a want ad in a newspaper that described a job I wanted, I've loved working in cafes. I never really thought much about it until a few days ago when a baffled friend of mine asked why I was so into it.

His assumption? That working in a cafe would be a distraction. A distraction? Dude, quite the opposite.

And so, at the risk of trotting out a few half-baked conclusions that my non-cafe-going critics will have a field day trashing, here goes:

20 REASONS WHY YOU LIKE TO WORK IN A CAFE

1. It doesn't feel like work.

2. It's a nice break from the office.

3. You don't have an office.

4. Easy access to caffeine.

starbucks-latte.jpg

5. If you have a home office, you appreciate the fact that -- in a cafe -- there are no interruptions from your wife/husband/kids/roommate who rarely think they are interrupting you when they stick their head in your office and begin their conversation with something like "I'm not interrupting you, am I?"

6. The act of going from your office to a cafe gets the creative juices flowing.

7. Muffins.

8. You get a whole bunch of unexpected inputs that change your perspective for the moment (i.e. snatches of conversation, songs on the radio, odd posters on the wall).

9. There are no distracting tasks to default to (i.e. cleaning your desk, filing, tossing paper clips over the cubicle wall).

10. The people in your office want you to talk in hushed tones and have a need for you to appear busier than you really are.

imgname--chinas_internet_cafes_more_to_come---50226711--41842551.jpg

11. Being waited on by the cafe staff puts you in the mode of "things coming to you" without much effort.

12. You focus on your most creative projects.

13. It feels good being part of a community -- even if the community disbands after your third cappuccino.

14. Old patterns are interrupted. New patterns emerge.

15. You like the authenticity of your responses when the geek at the next table, peeking up from his Mac, asks what you're working on.

16. It's like having a focus group at your beck and call. You can ask anyone for their opinion and they'll give it, no strings attached.

17. If you work at home, it's just a matter of time before your spouse asks you to move a piece of furniture or clean the bathroom.

18. It brings out the artist and poet in you.

19. If you go back to the same cafe again and again, you develop trusting relationships with some of the other regulars -- sharing enthusiasm, feedback, and croissants.

20. If anything breaks, someone else has to fix it.

I rest my case

To read while sipping your cappuccino
Webinars 'R Us

Photo
My favorite Woodstock cafe

Idea Champions

This guy worked in a cave.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:33 PM | Comments (5)

June 20, 2012
14 Ways to Get Breakthrough Ideas

sample.jpg

There's a lot of talk these days about the importance of innovation. All CEOs worth their low salt lunch want it. And they want it, of course, now.

What sparks innovation? People. What sparks people? Inspired ideas that meet a need -- whether expressed or unexpressed -- ideas with enough mojo to rally sustained support.

Is there anything a person can do -- beyond caffeine, corporate pep talks, or astrology readings -- to quicken the appearance of breakthrough ideas?

Yes, there is. And what follows are 14 catalysts -- simple guidelines, principles, and approaches that will help you on your way.

Know time-2.jpg

1. FOLLOW YOUR FASCINATION

If you find yourself fascinated by a new idea, chances are good that there's something meaningful about it for you to consider.

Fascination, quite simply, is nature's way of getting our attention. Well beyond seduction or attraction, it's an indication that we are being called. Out of the thousands of ideas with the power to capture our imagination, the felt fascination for one of them is a clue that there's something worthy of our engagement.

Don't dismiss it as trivial. Give it room. Give it time to breathe. Honor it. If you have any doubt, consider the origins of the word "fascination". It comes from the Latin "fascinus," meaning to be "enchanted or delighted."

What enchants or delights us is sacred -- or could be sacred -- a clue that something significant is knocking on our door. Indeed, if we are willing to let fascination grow inside us -- a kind of immaculate conception can occur -- the illogical, miraculous becoming pregnant with possibility -- the bodily expression of the phenomenon that you are here to birth something extraordinary.

The idea is simply the first "waaaaaaah" to get you to notice.

What new idea is fascinating you? What new possibility has captured your attention? In what ways can you honor this inspiration today?


2. IMMERSE

Breakthrough ideas, like telemarketers or Jehovah's Witnesses, have a curious habit of showing up at odd times.

And because they do, we're not always ready to receive them.

To complicate matters, chances are good that when they do show up, we are multi-tracking our little tushies off -- checking email, microwaving dinner, or looking for our Blackberry amidst the half-folded laundry. Not exactly the pre-conditions for breakthrough. harrowdown-hill-drowning.jpg

The alternative? Immersion -- the act of becoming completely involved or absorbed in something -- engrossed, enthralled, or preoccupied."

If you want to radically increase your odds of originating breakthrough ideas, you will need to immerse. Don't be a chicken, be a hen!

Baby chicks break through the shell separating them from flight not because their mothers are rushing off to meetings on parenting skills, but because their mothers are immersed in the act of hatching. Mommy is sitting in one place for a looooooooong time. And baby chick is also sitting (curled up) in one place for a looooooooong time.

At Google, employees are given 20% of their time to immerse in projects that have nothing seemingly to do with their so-called day job. At 3M, it's 15%. W.L. Gore gives employees a half a day each week to immerse in projects that fascinate them.

Look at your calendar. Block out some time to focus on the development of your most inspired idea or venture. Unplug! Incubate! Hatch! Immerse!


3. TOLERATE AMBIGUITY

Breakthrough ideas are not always the result of a revolutionary Eureka moment. On the contrary, they are often the result of an evolutionary series of approximations or failed experiments.

11edison.1.600.jpg

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 answer was a revealing one.

"Fail?" he said. "I didn't fail once. I learned 800 times what didn't work."

Edison had the ability to tolerate ambiguity -- to "not know." Like most breakthrough thinkers, he had the ability to dwell in the grey zone. Confusion was not his enemy.

"Confusion," explained Henry Miller, "is simply a word we have invented for an order that is not yet understood."

If you are attempting to birth a breakthrough idea, get comfortable with discomfort. Give up your addiction to having all your ducks in a row -- at least in the beginning of your discovery process.

People may think you're a quack, but so what? Your chances of birthing a breakthrough idea (and result) exponentially increase the more you are able to tolerate ambiguity.

What new idea of yours is bubbling on the brink of breakthrough? In what ways can you stay with it -- even if something in you is impatient for a breakthrough?


4. MAKE NEW CONNECTIONS

True creativity rarely happens in a vacuum. On the contrary it is the product of two or more variables connecting in a new way.

It happens all of the time in nature. Water, for example, is really just the connection between hydrogen and oxygen.
connections_logo.png

It happens in the human realm as well. Roller blading is nothing more than the connection between ice skating and roller skating. MTV? Nothing more than the connection between music and television. Drive in banking? Car + banking.

The originators of these breakthrough products didn't pull rabbits out of hats. All they did was see a new, intriguing (and potentially commercial) connection between already existing elements.

Why don't more of us make these kinds of connections?

Because we usually stay within the confines of what we already know. We live in a box of our own creation -- whether that box be defined by our nationality, profession, concepts, cubicle, or astrological sign.

The more we are willing to get out of this box, the more likely it will be that powerful new connections will reveal themselves to us -- uncommon linkages between this, that, and the other thing -- kind of the way it was for Johannes Gutenberg when he noticed a previously undetected connection between the wine press and coin punch.

And so the printing press was born.

Make three parallel lists of ten words. The first list? Nouns. The second list? Verbs. The third list? Adjectives. Then look for intriguing new connections between them.


5. FANTASIZE

In 1989, Gary Kasparov, the Soviet Union Grand Chess Master, played a two game match against "Deep Blue," the reigning supercomputer of the time. Kasparov won easily.

When asked by the media what his competitive advantage was, he cited two things: intuition and the ability to fantasize. (And this, from a master strategic thinker!)

caveman_wheel_shadows2.gif

Few of us are ever encouraged to fantasize -- a behavior most commonly associated with children or perverts.

And yet, fantasizing is exactly how many breakthrough ideas get their start -- by some maverick, flake, or dreamer entertaining the seemingly impossible.

I find it curious that business leaders want their employees to come up with fantastic ideas or solutions, but they don't want their employees to fantasize. And yet, the words "fantastic" and "fantasy" come from the same linguistic root, meaning to "use the imagination."

Think of a current challenge of yours. What would a fantasy solution to this challenge look like? What clues does this fantasy solution give you?


6. DEFINE THE RIGHT CHALLENGE

"It's not that they can't find the solution," said G.K. Chesterton, the renowned American philosopher and writer, "They can't find the problem!"

question-mark.JPG

Translation?

Most people, in their rush to figure things out, rarely spend enough time framing their challenge in a meaningful way. If they owned a GPS, they'd fail to take the time to program in their destination -- because they were so much into the hustle of getting out of town.

Coming up with the right question is at least half of getting the right answer.

If you want a breakthrough idea, begin by coming up with a breakthrough question -- one that communicates the essence of what you're trying to create.

State your most inspired challenge or opportunity as a question beginning with words "How can I?" Then write it five different ways. Which is your real question?


7. LISTEN TO YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS

If you study the lives of people who have had Eureka moments, you'll note that their breakthroughs almost always came after extensive periods of intense, conscious effort.

lens2379407_1232329584subconscious_mind_2.jpg

They worked, they struggled, they noodled, they gave up, they recommitted --and then the breakthrough came. And often at unexpected moments.

They weren't buying lottery tickets at their local deli, hoping to win a breakthrough fortune, they were digging for treasure in their own back yard.

Rene Descartes got the idea for the Scientific Method in a dream. Richard Wagner got the idea for Das Rhinegold while stepping onto a bus after long months of creative despair. Einstein used to conduct "thought experiments" (a fancy name for daydreaming) whenever he got stuck.

In other words, the conscious mind works overtime in an attempt to solve a problem or achieve a goal.

Unable to come up with the breakthrough, the challenge gets turned over to the subconscious mind which then proceeds to figure it out in its own, sweet time.

Of course, all of this assumes that we are listening to the promptings of our subconscious mind.

This week, keep a log of your most inspired ideas, intuitions, and dreams. At the end of the week, review your log. See what insights come to you.


8. TAKE A BREAK

If you want a breakthrough, you will need to take a break. True innovators rarely follow the straight and narrow path. Not only do they march to a different drummer, they're often not even on the same playing field as most people.

dare-to-dream.jpg

Take Seymour Cray, for example, the legendary designer of high-speed computers.

He used to divide his time between building the next generation super computer and digging an underground tunnel below his Chippewa Falls house.

Cray's explanation of his tunnel digging behavior is consistent with the stories of many other creatives -- inner-directed, boundary-pushing people who understand the need to go off-line whenever they get stuck.

Bottom line, whenever they find themselves struggling with a thorny problem, they walk away from it for a while. They know, from years of experience, that more (i.e. obsession, analysis, effort) is often less (i.e. ideas, solutions, results).

Explained Cray, "I work for three hours and then get stumped. So I quit and go to work in the tunnel. It takes me an hour or so to dig four inches and put in the boards. You see, I'm up in the Wisconsin woods, and there are elves in the woods. So when they see me leave, they come back into my office and solve all the problems I'm having. Then I go up (to my lab) and work some more."

Next time you find yourself stuck on a thorny problem or project, walk away from it for a while. Stay conscious of new solutions coming to you during this down time.


9. NOTICE AND CHALLENGE PATTERNS AND TRENDS

There are many people these days who make their living from the pattern recognition business: futurists, meteorologists, air traffic controllers, and stock brokers just to name a few.

images-1.jpg

And while their success rates may not always be 100%, it is clear that whatever success they enjoy is intimately tied to their ability to notice patterns and then interpret those patterns correctly for the rest of us.

The same holds true for breakthrough thinkers.

The only difference? Breakthrough thinkers often hit the gravy train by challenging old patterns and then reconfiguring them in new ways.

"The act of creation," said Picasso, "is first of all an act of destruction."

"The genius," said American painter, Ben Shahn, "is merely the one able to detect the pattern amidst the confusion of details just a little sooner than the average man."

What trends in the marketplace most intrigues you? In what ways might these trends shift in the coming years -- and how might your most inspired idea be in sync with this imagined shift?


10. HANG OUT WITH A DIVERSE GROUP OF PEOPLE

Years ago Sony used to insist that their engineers spend at least 25% of their work time out of the office and mixing it up with people outside of the four walls of their industry.

Keepers of the innovation flame at Sony understood that diverse inputs were essential to the origination and development of breakthrough ideas.

SwordOfTheSamurai.jpg

Unfortunately, most of us tend to stay within the intellectual ghettos of the familiar. We hang out with the same people day and night -- usually people who either agree with us, report to us or, through some indefinable act of karma, are joined to us at the hip.

If you want to increase your chances of getting a breakthrough idea, you will need to break the bonds of the familiar.

Hang out with a different crowd. Go beyond the usual suspects. Seek the input of oddballs, mavericks, outcasts, or, at the very least, people outside your field.

If you can let go of your need for comfort and agreement, you will find yourself catapulted into new ways of seeing, thinking, and acting -- all precursors to breakthrough ideas.

Make a list of ten people outside of your traditional posse that you can spend some time with this month. Who’s first? When?


11. BRAINSTORM

Breakthrough thinkers are often rugged individualists. They believe in their inalienable rights to think for themselves. They value their opinions, their perspectives, and their innate creativity. Their biggest fear is group think. brainstorm5.jpg

All well and good.

But there is an important distinction to be made between group think and the phenomenon of inspired individuals getting together to spark each other's brilliance.

Indeed, most great breakthroughs are more about inspired collaborations than they are about lone wolf genius.

Think Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft), Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak (Apple), Sergey Brin and Larry Page (Google), David Filo and Jerry Yang (Yahoo), Watson and Crick (DNA), Lennon and McCartney (the Beatles), Hewlett & Packard.

All you need to do is frame a meaningful question, invite the right people, and facilitate the process for helping your think tank creatively jam. If you are not the right person to facilitate, you probably know someone who is. Ask them.

What is the topic of your next group brainstorm? Who will you invite? Who will facilitate? When?


12. LOOK FOR HAPPY ACCIDENTS

Breakthrough ideas are often less about the purposeful act of inventing new things that it is the art of noticing new things that happen accidentally -- those surprise moments when the answer is revealed for no particular reason.

surprise6.jpg

The discovery of penicillin, for example, was the result of Alexander Fleming noting the formation of mold on the side of a Petri dish left unattended overnight. Vulcanized rubber was discovered in 1839 when Charles Goodyear accidentally dropped a lump of the polymer substance he was experimenting with onto his wife's cook stove.

Breakthroughs aren't always about inventions, but about the intervention required to notice something new, unexpected, and intriguing.

For this to happen, you will need to let go of your expectations and assumptions and get curious.

Give up being an expert. Let go of the past. See with new eyes.

What failed experiment or unexpected outcome might be interesting for you to reconsider?


13. USE CREATIVE THINKING TECHNIQUES

I live in the Northeast. In the Winter, it's common for old cars -- especially on very cold mornings -- not to start. When this happens, the best thing you can do is get a jump start. All you need are jumper cables and another car that's got its motor running.

word-sell-jump-start.JPG

Creative thinking techniques are like jumper cables. They spark ignition. They turn potential into kinetic energy. They get you going when you're stuck.

If you're looking for a breakthrough idea, perhaps all you need is a jump start.

That jump start could take many shapes. It could be a classic, creative thinking technique, of which there are many. It could be a "creative thinking coach" or a favorite book, or a quote.

Ultimately, it doesn't matter what medium you choose, just as long as you choose something to get your motor running.

Here's something to get you started:


14. SUSPEND LOGIC

Perhaps Einstein said it best when he declared: "Not everything that can be counted counts; and not everything that counts can be counted."

He was referring, of course, to the part of the human being that knows intuitively -- the part that is tuned in, connected, and innately creative.

Kids live in this place. The rest of us just visit, preferring the left-brained world of rationality, logic, linearity, and analysis.

BOI.jpg

On some primal level, we're all from Missouri. We need proof. And while there is nothing inherently wrong with gathering data, the addiction to it subverts our ability to originate breakthrough ideas.

We know this.

That's why we go to the movies, the pub, watch TV, read novels, dial 900 numbers, and daydream.

We seek an altered state -- one that is free of the normal gravity of daily life.

That's why movie makers ask us to suspend disbelief. That's why brainstorm facilitators ask us to suspend judgment. That's why women (innately intuitive as they are) ask the men in their lives to stop being so damn practical for a change and actually feel something.

It is in this state of suspension that our innate creativity is free to percolate to the surface -- over, under and around all of the left brained guardians at the gate.

And so... if you want to really birth a breakthrough idea, you too will need to enter into this state -- at least in the first phases of your new venture. Suspend judgment. Suspend evaluation. Suspend your addiction to the practical.

What exists on the other side is fuel for the fire of your untapped creativity.

What can you do this week to suspend practicality, logic and rationality in service to birthing your big idea?

Into to our creative thinking webinars
Innovation Kits
Idea Champions
Creative Thinking Tools
Illustration
Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:39 AM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2012
The Power of Networks

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:08 AM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2012
The Ultimate Offsite (Sort Of)

Business man meditating.jpg

Just in case you've been in a coma these past few years, allow me to break the news to you: the spirit in the workplace movement is rapidly gaining momentum.

Untold thousands of dissatisfied US workers are making their way to ashrams, retreats, and yoga centers for something they just can't seem to find at work -- peace of mind.

Overworked, under-appreciated, and newly inner-directed, they are looking for something far beyond the next quarter -- something timeless, sacred, and completely immune to credit default swaps.

That's the good news. The bad? Many of our peace-seeking brothers and sisters seem to be falling prey to the "Starry-Eyed-Syndrome" -- that curious set of behaviors that surface whenever a well-intentioned, but time-crunched person unknowingly associates a place with an experience.

And so, it is with great respect to your personal God, your yoga mat, and your favorite tax-deductible charity, that I humbly offer you the following soul-saving tips should you ever decide to visit (or move into) the spiritual retreat of your choice.

Take what you can, leave the rest, and remember -- it's not whether your shoes are on or off, but if your heart is open.

THE 10 COMMANDMENTS FOR VISITING A SPIRITUAL RETREAT

1. Do Not Change the Way You Walk
Most visitors to a spiritual retreat think they have to change the way they walk if they are truly going to have a meaningful experience. Somehow, they believe there is a direct correlation between the way they move their feet and the amount of "grace" or "blessings" about to enter their lives.

converse_all-stars.jpg

The "spiritual walk," is actually a not-too-distant cousin of the "museum walk," the curious way a person slows down and shuffles knowingly, yet humbly, past a Monet (or is it a Manet?), silently getting the essence of the Masterpiece even as they move noddingly towards that incomprehensible cubist piece in the next room.

If you like, think of the spiritual walk as the complete opposite of the on-the-way-to-work-walk or the exiting-a-disco-in-New York walk.

Simply put, the spiritual walk is a way of moving that practitioners believe will attract small deer from nearby forests -- deer that will literally walk right up to them and eat from their hand -- more proof to anyone in the general vicinity that they are, in fact, enlightened souls, humble devotees, children of God, or the so-far-unacknowledged successors to their guru's lineage.

Ideally, the spiritual walk should be taken in sandals, though Reeboks or Chinese slippers will do in a pinch. Cowboy boots are definitely out, as are galoshes, high heels, and Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars.

2. Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Succumb to the Spiritual Nod
Closely related to the spiritual walk, the spiritual nod is routinely practiced in retreats the world over. And while no one completely comprehends it's divine origins, many believe it began when a blissful brother simply forgot the name of his roommate on his way to the bathroom.

bowing.jpg

Instead of issuing the familiar Sanskrit phrase of the week, our trend-setting friend simply tightened his lips, looked at the ground and... well... nodded.

Now, every time you walk by someone at the ashram, you are half-expected to flash them the nod, the non-verbal equivalent of "Hi! I know you know, and you know I know, and you know that I know that you know, and in my knowing, I know that I know you know, and by so knowing, need not speak, since words are finite and cannot express the knowingness which the two of us (being one) share from such a knowful place. Know what I mean?"

3. Do Not Judge Anyone, Including Yourself
This is the hardest of all commandments to obey. Why? Because spiritual environments not only bring out the best in people, they also bring out the worst. And while the worst is often more difficult to detect than the bliss of people wanting you to notice how blissful they are, the higher you get, the easier it is to notice -- that is, if you are looking for it.

Of course, it would be very easy to spend your entire spiritualized retreat noticing all the subtle ego trips going on around you. Resist this temptation with all your might!

Do not, I repeat, do not, focus on the stuff that would make good material for this article. You have no right. In fact, you have absolutely no idea why anyone is there, what their motivation is, or how they will learn the kinds of lessons you are absolutely sure they need to learn.

balanced_yogi.jpg
In reality, you are most likely seeing your own projections -- those disowned parts of your self that you've refused to acknowledge all these years...

Your spiritual groupie, your brownie point collector, your junkie for more experience, your suburban yogi , your guilty seeker of God, your con man, your eunuch, your resolution maker, your ass watcher, your closet fanatic, your glutton for humble pie, your too poetic definer of ecstasy, your flaming bullshit artist, your know-it-all, your have-it-all, your spring-headed bower towards anyone with more than two devotees.

All of them are you! Every single one of them! Don't judge them. Love them! Bring them tea! Rub their feet every chance you get!

4. Do Not Think That This Is the Only Place Where It Is Happening
Spiritual retreatants have a marked propensity to think that the grounds they inhabit are somehow more blessed than any place else on earth -- that they are privy to a special command performance by God, revealing himself in thousands of exotic ways for those lucky enough to be there, while thousands, nay millions, of George Bush-like souls are stumbling around in uncool places recently vacated by the Power of Life so a very cosmic thing can happen here and only here this weekend.

Life, in fact, is often perceived as so good in the "Center," that the rest of the world becomes eerily cast as the "booby prize."

Indeed, to new age seekers, everything else is simply referred to as "the world," much like Manhattanites speak of New Jersey. In short, the new age retreat comes to represent all that is good -- about God, about the Guru, about life itself.

Somehow ("and I don't know how, but you could ask anyone who was there this weekend") flowers seem sweeter there, the moon seems fuller, the air seems cleaner. Even the bread tastes better. If you glimpse a shooting star at night, it's the "guru's grace." If you see a double rainbow, it's directly over the meditation hall.

BE026752.jpg

I guess it's all in how you look at it. The same shooting star convincing you that your guru is, in fact, the Supreme Guru, was also seen by a plumber named Leroy who just happened to be drinking a beer in between innings of the Mets game. His conclusion? The Mets were gonna win 20 of the next 25 and bring the pennant home to Flushing!

What do the signs in the sky (or what we perceive as signs) really mean? Isn't the whole world our ashram? Isn't the real issue one of appreciating what is happening all around us? The flowers? The stars? The beggars asking for spare change?

Flowers aren't any sweeter on retreat. It's our willingness to breathe deeply and enjoy them that's different. What's stopping us from being in this place right now? What's stopping us from realizing that the very ground beneath our feet is the promised land -- wherever we happen to be at the time.

5. Don't Put a Red Dot on Your Forehead If You Don't Want To

Unless you've been living in a trailer park your whole life, you probably already know what the red dot thing is all about. That's right. The third eye. The sixth chakra. High holiness. INDIA!! While sometimes mistaken for a beauty mark or a random bit of watermelon, the little red dot is actually a useful reminder to focus one's attention on the space between the eyebrows, which, for some people, is where God lives (or if not lives, at least vacations). Nothing wrong with that, now is there?

200px-Indian_Woman_with_bindi.jpg

Still, you have to concede that the third eye isn't the only spot on the human body that's sacred. What about the earlobes? The belly button? The nipples? They come from God, too -- not too mention chakras #1 - 5 and the highly under-represented center of consciousness at the crown of the head. Sacred, every one of them!

Don't you think that, if the body is the temple of the soul, it follows that our entire physical structure is sacred? Shouldn't we be covered from head to toe with little red dots? And if so, why is it that we routinely quarantine people with measles -- the very people who have selflessly chosen to manifest disease just to remind us to honor our body's ultimate holiness?

6. Play With the Children
The only sentient beings free from the collective mentality of spiritual seekers are the children. Children visiting "holy places," in fact, behave the same way the world over no matter what adjectives their elders use for the unspeakable name of God. When they're hungry, they eat. When they're tired, they sleep. They cry when they want to, laugh for no reason, consume ice cream without guilt, and rarely wonder why your picture of the Master is bigger, newer, or better framed.

7. Fart At Your Own Risk
If you fart, and there's no one around to hear it at the ashram, did it happen? And if it did happen, does that mean you've been disrespectful? Is the resident Guru able to hear you? And if he or she is meditating, out of the country, or dead, is their guru or their guru's guru able to hear you? And if so, so what? Will you be reborn as a gerbil? Does the Guru fart? And if it's OK for him or her to pass wind, why not you?

20guru600.jpg

OK, so it's their place and you're a guest. But after all, aren't we all guests here? Even the Guru? Who do they answer to? And if it's not the same one you're answering to, what the hell are you doing getting up at five in the morning and sitting in the lotus position?

Maybe the real question isn't whether or not it's permissible to fart on holy ground, but how you fart. For instance, if you're farting out of a blatant disregard for the Master's teachings or the sincerity of his or her followers, you might want to reconsider where you're coming from. However, if your farting is just a random release of gas, relax! Give yourself the benefit of the doubt. You see, a typical visit to a spiritual center quickens one's ability to "let go" -- so what you call "farting" may, in fact, be a timely sign of your evolving spiritual condition.

8. Do Not Think You Are Higher or Lower Than Anyone Else
One of the favorite pastimes of people visiting a spiritual retreat is comparing themselves to everyone else. "See the guy over there carrying firewood? He's a very old soul -- way older than me. Been on the path for years. And that dude laughing hysterically in the corner? That's Shiva. Oops, he can probably see through me, maybe I better walk around the other way."

shiva-17.jpg

Want to save yourself some time? Don't try to figure out how "on the path" anybody else is. It's impossible. Stare into the eyes all you want, watch for tell-tale signs of liberation, but when it comes right down to it, the only conclusion you'll reach will be your own -- one that may have absolutely nothing to do with the anything but your own projections.

Face it, how accurate is your assessment going to be when 99 percent of humanity couldn't tell that the carpenter from Galilee had something special going for him?

Indeed, it's not at all unlikely that the beer-bellied, first-time visitor you met this morning at the ashram is, at this very moment, being treated like a spiritual mongoloid by everyone who meets him (repeatedly being asked if "this is your first time") when, in fact, the beer-bellied, first-time visitor is actually the reincarnation of Buddha.

9. Do Not Think That You Are Going to Get Something
Many people visit a a spiritual retreat because they want to get something. They want "clarity" or "contentment," "enlightenment" or "grace," "blessings" or "peace of mind." At the very least, they want their business to improve or their marriage to be saved.

Alas, they miss the point completely: If you try to get, you will lose, left only with the sinking feeling of having just bought $300 worth of lottery tickets only to learn that some electrician from Staten Island just won the whole thing.

Look, it's really very simple. You don't go to a spiritual center (or a Big Time Teacher, for that matter) to get. You go to give, to let go -- to relax your grip on the very thing that's been separating you from getting all these years: Your grasping. Your fear. Your well-rehearsed strategy to realize God.

10. Do Not Feel Compelled to Change Your Name
OK, so your name is Joey. Ever since you were knee high to a jar of Cheese Whiz, everyone called you Joey -- as in, logo-msn.jpg"Hey, Joey, what's goin' down, bro'?" Yeah, you grew up in Brooklyn, cut school once a week, and dated a chick named Angela with very big boobs.

Great. So, here you are at the ashram and ba-bing, you run smack into a bunch of dudes with names like Arjuna, Govinda, Namdev,Shanti, Krishna. "Hey," you think to yourself, "maybe they got something I don't."

Guess what? They do. They have spiritual names given to them by their Guru -- names that make their mothers somewhat close-lipped around the canasta table. And while these names are clearly given with a purpose, the fact of the matter is -- they are irrelevant. Do you think the people in India who have spiritual experiences get their names changed to Eddie, Gino, Stacey, or Shirley ?

Hey, what difference does it make? You are not your name -- even if your namesake was enlightened. It doesn't matter what they call you, when it's time to go, you're gone.

The only name worth knowing at that time is God's name -- and that, my friend, no matter how many mantras you've memorized, can never be pronounced.

It's All WITHIN You!

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2012
What You Can Learn from WC Fields

wcfieldsPort1.jpg

WC Fields was always an exceptionally gifted performer. But some of his most unforgettable performances took place off-camera.

Like most actors in the start of their career, Fields found himself a little short of cash. A problem? Not for him.

The non-traditional Mr. Fields simply created a "Blue Ocean" job for himself in Atlantic City, one summer, as a professional drowner.

Here's how it worked:

Several times a day, Fields would swim out to sea, pretend to be drowning, and then be "rescued" by one of his accomplices, the lifeguard.

lifeguard.jpg

Invariably, a large crowd would gather on the beach as the no longer struggling actor was "resuscitated."

Once it was clear that this poor fellow was going to live, the suddenly relieved crowd would turn to Field's third accomplice, the hot dog vendor, (who just happened to be standing nearby) and treat themselves to an "I'm-so-glad-he's-alive" snack.

At the end of each water-logged day, Fields would split the take with his buddies -- the lifeguard and the hot dog vendor.

Brilliant!

Now, I'm not suggesting that you do anything to deceive your customers. Not at all.

But what I AM suggesting is that you take a fresh look at what you might do differently to get an extraordinary result.

Is there a new risk you need to take? An experiment you need to try? A non-traditional collaboration to enter into?

If your product, service, or venture is drowning, what can you do to resuscitate it?

My company, Idea Champions, once got a sizable contract from AT&T by teaching the Director of Training and Development how to juggle in five minutes -- something he'd been trying to learn for 25 years.

That's what I'm talking about: a new approach, a different twist, a non-traditional angle that will spark extraordinary results.

So... what is it?

Idea Champions
Our webinars
Innovation Kits

Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:49 PM | Comments (0)

June 05, 2012
Out of the Box, In the Box

Copy of danny's bar mitzvah 066 (2)GrandpaBarney.jpg

Today is the anniversary of my father's death. In his memory, I offer you a different kind of post today. It's not about thinking outside the box. It's about the last day before being put in the box, last breath taken, work done. I dedicate this to those of you whose father is still alive -- that you might savor every day with him while you have the chance...

There is a time of life when the time of life is about to end -- the time of last breaths, the time of saying goodbye to everything you have ever known or loved, the time of letting go.

This is the time my father now finds himself in.

He is flat on his back in a hospital bed, but the hospital bed is in his bedroom in West Palm Beach which is where he has chosen to die -- and will.

There will be no more calls to 911, no more paramedics, no more blood transfusions, no needles, no pills, no tests. This is his death bed and we are around it, me, his son -- his daughter, my sister -- my wife, his daughter-in-law -- grandchildren, great grandchildren, and the ever present hospice nurse here to keep him as comfortable as possible.

His mouth is dry. He cannot swallow. Someone swabs his lips as he gathers what's left of his strength to move his tongue toward the precious few drops of water.

The sound track for his last night on Earth is an oxygen machine pumping purified air through transparent tubes clipped to the end of his nose.

000_IMG_0330.jpg

On the counter -- creams. Creams for this and creams for that and creams for the other thing, too. I've never seen so many creams.

Those of us around his bed are very still, holding his hand, rubbing his back, looking at him and each other in ways we have never looked before.

There is very little for my father to do but breathe. This lion of a man whose life was defined by ferocity and action is barely moving now. A turn of the head. A flutter of the eye. A twitch.

Though his eyes are closed, I know he can hear, so I bend closer and talk into his good, right ear. I tell him he's done a good job and that all of us will be OK. I tell him I love him and to go to the light. I tell him everything is fine and he can let go.

The hospice nurse is monitoring his vital signs. They keep getting lower and lower. I touch my father's cheek and it is cooler than before. His skin looks translucent. Almost like a baby's.

He opens his eyes and shuts them once again. None of us around him know what to do, but that's OK because it's clear there is nothing to do.

Being is the only thing that's happening here.

My father had his last shot of morphine about an hour ago. He had his last bowl of Cheerios yesterday at 10am. Cheerios and half of a sliced banana. That was the last time he could swallow.

IMG_0516[1]-1.jpg

It is quiet in the room. Very quiet.

I see my sister, my nieces, my wife, the nurse. All of us are as helpless as my father. The only difference is we are standing.

If only we could pay as much attention to the living as we do to the dying. If only we could stop long enough from whatever occupies our time and truly care for each other, aware of just how precious each breath is, each word, each touch, each glance.

Sitting by my father's side, I am hyper-aware of everyone who enters the room -- the way they approach his bed, what they say, how they say it, the look on their face, their thoughts.

I want to be this conscious all the time, attuned to the impact I have on others in everything I do. It all matters.

Nothing has prepared us for this moment. Not the books on death and dying, not the stories of friends who's fathers have gone before. Not the sage counsel of the Rabbi.

Nothing.

One thing is clear. Each of us will get our turn. Our bodies, like rusty old cars gone beyond their warrantees, will wear out. Friends and family will gather by our side, speak in hushed tones, hold our hands, and ask if we are comfortable.

That's just the way it is. It begins with a breath, the first -- and ends with a breath, the last.

In between? A length of time. A span of years. A hyphen, as my teacher likes to say, between birth and death.

What this hyphenated experience will be is totally up to us.

DCP00157.JPG

Will it be filled with kindness? Love? Compassion? Gratitude? Giving? Delight? Will we be there for each other before it's time to fill out the forms and watch the body -- strapped to a stretcher by two men in black suits -- be driven away like something repossessed?

I hope so. I really do. I hope we all choose wisely. I hope beyond a shadow of a doubt before we walk through the shadow in the valley of death that we choose to hold each others' hands NOW, rub each other's backs, bring each other tea, and listen from the heart with the same kind of infinite tenderness we too often reserve only for those about to depart.

My father is very quiet now, breathing only every 20 seconds or so. Or should I say being breathed?

And then...there is nothing. Only silence. No breaths come. No slight changes of expression on his face. No whispered words of love.

We, around his bed, are in his home, but he is somewhere else.

Bye bye Daddy! Travel well! Know that we love you and will keep the flame of who are deeply alive in our hearts. Thank you for everything. We will meet again. Amen!

On love

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:32 PM | Comments (2)

June 03, 2012
How to Create an Idea Factory

TeamInnovation.jpg

One of the reasons why most BIG IDEAS go nowhere is because the idea originators do not have a team of collaborators on board to help develop and execute their ideas.

In the absence of collaborators, the idea originators either try to do everything themselves (not a good idea) or spend so much time trying to enroll people on the fly that the idea loses momentum and eventually evaporates.

Simply put, it's easy to conceive. It's harder to deliver the baby.

But what if each of us who comes up with a potentially game-changing idea already had a team of collaborators in place -- people who were poised and ready to respond with enthusiasm, skill, and clarity?

This is not a new idea. There are examples in many other domains: Swat Teams, Firefighters, and Emergency Rooms, just to name a few.

Working_Together_Teamwork_and-team-building-exercises.jpg

These are people who are there when you need them. They are skilled. They know their roles. They are team players. And they are totally committed -- even when tired, cranky, and under-appreciated.

YOU need something similar every time you come up with a big idea. OK. Maybe not every time -- but at least sometimes.

Here are the people I want in my Idea Factory (or, as one friend renamed it, my "Opportunity Incubator").

1.Brainstorm Buddy to help develop the idea, give feedback, share insights, and keep me on my game.

2. Researcher to gather information, best practices, data, resources, etc.

3. Finance Person to do projections, budgets, and help build the business case.

4. Marketing Maven to help me sell the idea -- in house and out there in the "real world."

5. Writer to create proposals, business cases, and other support materials.

Five people. That's it. On call. Part time.

THE PROCESS?

1. The Big Idea comes to you.
2. You write a brief and email it to your Fab Five
3. On a conference call, you present the idea -- and get feedback.
4. You make specific requests to each member of the team.
5. You stay in close touch with all Idea Factory cohorts -- making sure to share info, progress, changes, and successes.

Anything I've forgotten? Any members of the team I should add?

Or... are you ready to start your own idea factory?

PS: These do not have to be paid positions. I'm talking about inviting your friends or colleagues who are "in the zone" and would love to be involved in some cool projects with you.

Idea Champions
Collaboration Training

Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:54 PM | Comments (5)

May 30, 2012
Speak the Truth

560152_339455936127569_100001894968712_864890_951278152_n.jpg

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2012
Ken Burns on Story

This is wonderful. Enjoy it! BTW, in the spirit of what Ken Burns is talking about, I am writing a book of modern day business "sufi stories". Here's a sneak preview:

Martial Arts of the Mind
Big Blues from the Viagra People

Thanks to Booth Dyess for the video link

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

May 13, 2012
Selling Ideas

SUV Pic - Selling Ideas.jpg

In the advertisement to your left, it looks as if someone is selling an SUV or perhaps a brand of bicycle. But, actually, neither is the case. The SUV and the bikes are only a means to an end.

Well then -- "What is that end?"

Or, to put it another way -- most people don't like buying things. The decision to buy something, in fact, brings up a lot of obstacles and challenges to overcome, including coming up with the money.

So, why DO people buy things?

SUV Pic - Selling Ideas.jpg

For example, when the person buying the SUV to your right calculates the cost of the base model, and then adds on the navigation and entertainment systems, that person won't be smiling

And when he/she finds out the costs of the added service package, special coating, and fancy rims... still no smile.

So, what got the buyer excited enough to get off the couch and go to the SUV dealer? What was so compelling?

Here's the big secret: People don't pay money for the stuff they buy. They pay money for what the stuff represents -- the IDEA behind the stuff.

The above advertisement is designed to embed the idea into the mind of the consumer that he or she -- upon buying the SUV -- will experience Nature, Rugged Adventure, Freedom, and the Conquest of the Wild.

Now THAT'S worth quite a lot, don't you think? Especially if the buyer doesn't actually have to do anything but buy the vehicle to achieve it!

Why risk snake bites, ticks, and bears when you can have what you want without ever having to be uncomfortable -- the idea of Nature, Freedom and Adventure!

Furthermore, all a person needs to know is that the idea can be achieved. Most people are happy with their purchase even if their original idea is never played out.

The bottom line, for salespeople, is this: focusing on the stuff you are selling is secondary -- a massive misstep that salespeople make a lot. It's a waste of time because buyers are mainly paying money for the idea of what can be achieved or experienced once they possess the thing they are buying.

In other words, people are buying a means, not an end.

So, stop selling stuff and start selling ideas!

With ideas, you don't have to sell at all -- just get out of the way. Ideas, if they are compelling enough, will sell themselves.

-- by Paul Roth, Idea Champions Chief Collaboration Officer

Idea Champions
Collaboration Training
Idea Champions webinars

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:11 AM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2012
A Virtual High Five to You!

internet_high_five-2496.jpg

I'd like to take this moment to thank you for logging on and reading Idea Champions' blog. We continue to appreciate the fact that you take time out of your very busy day to check in.

Hey, if you're not reading, we're not writing. It takes two to tango and we're glad you're our virtual dance partner.

Feel free to make requests. Sometimes, one of our readers has an interest that will resonate with us and we'll write something in response.

NOTE: Please do not ask us to write about polyester, soy futures, or crop circles. We've said everything we could possibly say about these topics in earlier postings you probably missed because you were either late for something, flossing, or contemplating a career change.

Our May 17th webinar

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:47 PM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2012
"Anonymous" Revealed

anonymous.jpg

I have a confession to make. Actually, it's more like a revelation than a confession.

You know all those fabulous quotes and articles you've read over the years with no attribution other than "anonymous"? It was me.

It's true. I have written thousands of things I've never signed my name to. I couldn't. I mean -- the writing just came through me. Like a storm. In fact, I was in such a state of presence as these pearls of wisdom appeared, there wasn't even a "me" involved, so how could I sign my name?

So I did the only thing I could do -- and that was to sign what I wrote with the now all-too-familiar word "anonymous".

anonymity2.bmpTrue, I did sign my birth name -- Mitchell Ditkoff -- to some pieces, including most of the blog posts on Heart of Innovation and Heart of the Matter, but that was all free stuff.

The vast majority of what I've written? All "anonymous". Bottom line, I've never really gotten my due.

How could I when millions of my readers never knew that "anonymous" was my pseudonym?

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining, nor do I have any regrets about my decision. It felt right at the time. But now -- with one kid about to go to college and the other not far behind -- it's starting to make sense that I claim what is rightfully mine.

After countless hours of consultations with pundits, epistemological savants, numerologists, and intellectual property lawyers, I've arrived at an approach that is not only honorable and fair, but flawless and timely with absolutely no carbon footprint. Nor were any animals harmed in the writing of this paragraph.

anonymous-rim.jpg

I am pleased to announce that YOU, dear reader, get to play a key role going forward -- one that will take you less time than it will to read this anonymous pearl of mine -- or order a take-out pizza.

Since I am claiming no royalties whatsoever from my past writings (many of which, by the way, went on to become blockbuster movies, novels, bumper stickers, and refrigerator magnets), I think it is only fair to request that every time, from now on in, you encounter anything attributed to "anonymous" you link it to my website or any of the following cyberpalatial residences of mine.

Free the Genie cards
Free the Genie online
Awake at the Wheel
Innovation Kits
Idea Champions University
It's AHAppening!

The goal? To model what it is like to claim one's true inheritance and take the risk that this post will go viral and I will have to answer a lot of questions from slick talk show hosts more interested in their own TV ratings than my no longer anonymous success.

A small example of what I've never been paid for

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:37 PM | Comments (7)

May 03, 2012
The Power of Positive Feedback

feedback.jpg

Most high level executives do not expect a lot of recognition from others. Neither do they give a lot of recognition to others.

Many managers are like the classic husband who, when his wife complains that he doesn't tell her he loves her any more, responds that he told her he loved her when he married her -- and would have let her know if anything had changed.

Similarly, most managers act as if the act of hiring an employee is recognition enough -- this in spite of the fact that every one of these managers wants to be valued and appreciated by their superiors, and is regularly disappointed by the lack of appreciation coming their way.

In today's workplace, there is a great fear that only the most extraordinary achievements warrant recognition and that all "just good" performance is merely what should be expected and does not require any special recognition.

The fear most manager's have? That "excessive" recognition will dilute the praise they give and reduce future motivation for outstanding performance.

Peer to Peer Recognition.png

The data, of course, indicates otherwise.

Acknowledgment of good performance increases the probability of more good performance. And specificity of feedback -- telling people exactly what you liked about what they did and why you liked it -- dramatically increases the likelihood of that performance occurring again.

The bottom line?

If we can get to a place where we are more generous and specific in the expression of our positive feedback, we will notice, in time, a dramatic increase in the quality of employees' performance and their overall satisfaction with work.

-- Barry Gruenberg

More
Image
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:47 AM | Comments (1)

April 30, 2012
Jesse Has Made His Choice!

Slide1.jpg

Teen Manifesto
A message for dads who travel
The genie is a leprechaun today
14 year old running for President
Sticky idea

PS: Jesse is going to pay for part of his education by outsourcing his many talents as a Photoshop maestro. Leave a message here if you want to engage his services.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:36 PM | Comments (0)

April 17, 2012
Why Blog? Here's Why!

Big thank you to Seth Godin and Tom Peters for this crystal clear articulation on why blogging is so powerful.

It's not about the money

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:19 PM

The Power of Appreciation

428331_394093930603352_152032768142804_1552253_113720513_n.jpg

Do you know what the #1 reason why people quit their jobs (according to the US Department of Labor)? Not being appreciated by their managers. Of course, it all begins with each of us being thankful -- but it always helps to have others express their thankfulness for a job well done (or at least an effort well done). Who will you thank today?

21 awesome quotes on appreciation

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

April 15, 2012
Caine's Arcade

Got a new idea? Some passion? Determination? Patience? Youthful optimism? Belief in yourself? A cool dad and one committed customer? That's all you need...

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:23 PM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2012
100 Simple Ways to Be More Creative on the Job

Innovation.jpg

1. Ask the most creative people at work for their ideas.

2. Brainstorm with a co-worker.

3. Tape record your ideas on your commute to and from work.

4. Present your challenge to a child.

5. Take your team off-site for a day.

6. Listen to your inner muse.

7. Play music in your office.

8. Go for a daily brainstorming walk.

9. Ask someone to collaborate with you on your favorite project.

10. Exercise during your lunch break.

strange-albert-einstein.jpg


11. Turn on a radio at random times and listen for a message.

12. Invite your customers to brainstorming sessions.

13. Think of new ways to define your challenge.

14. Remember your dreams.

15. Reward yourself for small successes.

16. Introduce odd catalysts into your daily routine.

17. Get out of the office more regularly.

18. Give yourself an unreasonable deadline.

19. Take more naps.

20. Jot down as many ideas as possible in five minutes

21. Work in cafes.

22. Transform your assumptions into "How can I?" questions.

23. Conjure up a meaningful goal that inspires you.

24. Redesign your office.

25. Take regular daydreaming breaks.

26. Dissolve turf boundaries.

27. Initiate cross-functional brainstorming sessions.

28. Arrive earlier to the office than anyone else.

29. Turn a conference room into an upbeat think tank room.

30. Read odd books -- having nothing to do with your work.

31. Block off time on your calendar for creative thinking.

32. Take a shower in the middle of the day.

33. Keep an idea notebook at your desk.

34. Decorate your office with inspiring quotes and images.

35. Create a headline of the future and the story behind it.

36. Choose to be more creative.

37. Recall a time in your life when you were very creative.

38. Wander around a bookstore while thinking about your challenge.

39. Trust your instincts more.

40. Immerse yourself in your most exciting project.

41. Open a magazine and free associate off of a word or image.

42. Write down your ideas when you first wake up in the morning.

43. Ask yourself what the simplest solution is.

44. Get fast feedback from people you trust.

45. Conduct more experiments.

45. Ask yourself what the market wants or needs.

46. Ask "What's the worst thing that could happen if I fail?"

47. Pilot your idea, even if it's not ready.

48. Work "in the cracks" -- small bursts of creative energy.

49. Incubate (sleep on it).

50. Test existing boundaries -- and then test them again.

51. Schedule time with the smartest people at work.

52. Visit your customers more frequently.

53. Benchmark your competitors -- then adapt their successes.

54. Enroll your boss or peers into your most fascinating project.

55. Imagine you already know the answer. What would it be?

56. Create ground rules with your team that foster new thinking.

57. Ask stupid questions. Then ask some more.

58. Challenge everything you do.

59. Give yourself a deadline -- and stick to it.

60. Look for three alternatives to every solution you originate.

61. Write your ideas in a notebook and review them regularly.

62. Make connections between seemingly disconnected things.

63. Use creative thinking techniques.

64. Play with the Free the Genie cards.

65 Use similes and metaphors when describing your ideas.

66. Have more fun. Be sillier than usual.

67. Ask "How can I accomplish my goal in half the time?"

68. Take a break when you are stuck on a problem.

69. Think how your biggest hero might approach your challenge.

70. Declare Friday afternoons a "no-email zone."

71. Ask three people how they would improve your idea.

72. Create a wall of images that inspires you.

73. Do more of what already helps you be creative off the job.

74. Laugh more, worry less.

75. Remember your dreams -- then write them down.

76. Ask impossible questions.

77. Eliminate all unnecessary bureaucracy and admin tasks.

78. Create a compelling vision of what you want to accomplish.

79. Work on hottest project every day, even if only 5 minutes.

80. Do whatever is necessary to create a sense of urgency.

81. Go for a walk anytime you're stuck.

82. Meditate or do relaxation exercises.

83. Take more breaks.

84. Go out for lunch with your team more often.

85. Eat lunch with a different person each day.

86. Ask for forgiveness, not permission.

87. Invite an outside facilitator to lead a brainstorming session.

88. Take more risks outside of the office (i.e. surf, ski, box etc.)

89. Ask for help when you need it.

90. Know that it is possible to make a difference.

91. Find a mentor.

92. Acknowledge all your successes at the end of each day.

93. Create an "idea piggy bank" and make deposits daily.

94. Have shorter meetings.

95. Try the techniques in Awake at the Wheel

96. Don't listen to or watch the news for 24 hours.

97. Make drawings of your ideas.

98. Bring your project or challenge to mind before going to bed.

99. Divide your idea into component parts. Then rethink each part.

100. Post this list near your desk and read it daily.

Interactive keynotes
Our website
Creativity in a box
Idea sparking webinars
Online creative thinking tool
Innovation Kits
Free the Genie decks
What our clients say
Creative thinking guidebooks

KIND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS TO: Anne Howe, David Beath, Jim Aubele, Gary Kvistad, Howard Moody, Farrell Reynolds, Hector Cruz Rosa, Jill Peckinpaugh, and Marcy Turkington for their wonderful suggestions.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:16 AM | Comments (8)

April 13, 2012
Ask the Right Questions!

This is the first of several Heart of Innovation postings from the World Business Forum, which we recently attended in NYC. The conference was very inspiring. Great speakers. Timely content. And lots of food for thought (and feeling).

One theme that several presenters noted was the importance of asking the right question.
tal.jpg
Tal Ben Shahar: "How do you get others to focus on what works? By asking the right questions."

Tal implored the audience to change the questions they are asking, noting that if we only ask "What's wrong?" (as many business leaders are wont to do), the answers will be unnecessarily skewed in response to that particular filter.

The most serious mistakes being made in business these days, according to Ben Shahar?

Asking the wrong question.

ben-zander.jpgBen Zander spoke passionately about this theme, as well.

The "rhythm of transformation", he explained, is totally dependent on creating new frameworks -- and creating new frameworks is often a function of being willing to ask powerful, new questions. (Ben, by the way, is the answer to the question: "How do you deliver the most powerfully compelling presentation to 4,000 people sitting on plastic seats at the Jacob Javits Convention Center?"

bill_clinton.jpgBill Clinton was all over this "question asking' theme, as well.

"If we spend all our time asking the wrong questions, we're going to get the wrong answers. If we ask the right question, we still may get the wrong answer, but at least we'll have a chance."

"We're all in the future business", Clinton declared.

Amen. Clearly, if we want to create a future worth living, we will all need to start asking much more powerful questions than ever before -- questions that reflect our growing interdependency and collective need for conscious leadership.

jack-welch-a.jpgAnd finally, Jack Welsh weighed in on the topic.

When asked by the interviewer how a business leader can accurately assess an employee's passion, he replied "By the intensity of their questions."

In other words, if you are trying to figure out which person to hire or which employee to assign to a particularly challenging project, make sure you tune into the kinds of questions candidates are asking.

If their questions are flabby or non-existent, it's a dead giveaway that your candidate is ill-equipped to take on the assignment.

If their questions are thoughtful, penetrating, and full of mojo, it's a clue that you are talking to the right person for the job.

SOME QUESTIONS FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

1. What are you passionate about?
2. How can you make a profound difference on the planet?
3. What do you need to do differently in order to make this difference?
4. Who is your tribe?
5. How can you stay inspired?

6. How can you foster a culture of innovation?
7. What legacy do you want to leave behind?
8. What risk are you willing to take this week?
9. What is your vision?
10. What are your instincts telling you about your hottest, new idea?

Get the right question to brainstorm
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:40 PM | Comments (0)

April 08, 2012
The Best Kind of Customer Testimonial

Usually, we collect written testimonials from our satisfied clients and post them on this page -- but today, we decided to post a different kind of expression. Apparently, our client really liked the Idea Champions webinar they just experienced.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:46 AM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2012
Two Wolves

Inbox-1.jpg

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.

He said, "My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all.

"One is Evil. It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

"The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith."

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: "Which wolf wins?"

The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:28 PM | Comments (1)

April 06, 2012
The Biggest Room in the World

3526874_orig.jpg

It is sometimes said that the biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. And while this may be true, the aforementioned "biggest room" was also once furnished with all kinds of cool stuff, then, before you could say "double frappucino", was impeccably stashed in a temperature controlled storage unit and through some worm hole time warp of nature, made available here -- on your favorite innovation blog. Hey, we'll even throw in a Free the Genie deck, at no extra charge, with every purchase.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2012
Our World Wide Webinatrix Speaks!

1333042308.jpg

The writers of this blog are excited, thrilled, and tickled to announce the launching of a entirely new service to the known universe: Webinars powered by Idea Champions University.

Having spent the past 25 years delivering a wide variety of innovation-sparking workshops, trainings, meetings, conferences, and consulting interventions to forward thinking organizations everywhere, we've decided to let go of our addiction to Frequent Flyer miles and go virtual.

Our new venture began with a simple question: "How can we have the biggest impact on the most amount of people in a cost-effective, highly engaging, low carbon footprint way?"

The answer? Build a webinar curriculum and deliver our services online.

Einstein%20lightbulb%20cartoon-1.jpg

Which is exactly what we've done and will continue to do as long as the need in the marketplace exists.

Bottom line, if you're looking for a better way to build the core competency of innovation, you've come to the right place.

No airfare required. No cabs. No sending your people to overpriced hotels and wondering whose gonna cover for them while they're eating muffins and collecting one more three-ring binder they will never read.

Operators are not standing by. But our website is. And so is our integrity -- the collective mojo we've built for the past 25 years with some of the finest organizations in the world.

So visit us online to learn more about what we're offering. And while you're at it, feel free to register for one of our upcoming open-enrollment webinars -- a great way to kick our virtual tires.

click.jpg

If you are one of the first 50 people to register, you'll receive a 50% discount and a free annual subscription to our highly regarded online Free the Genie app.

If you'd rather schedule a group webinar (for up to 100 people), contact Sarah Jacob, our World Wide Webinatrix.

She means business.

More about Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:48 AM | Comments (0)

March 20, 2012
Why Good Leaders Pause

It's often the case that people expect their leaders to be decisive -- able to make difficult decisions quickly. Indeed, this kind of behavior is interpreted as one of the hallmarks of good leadership.

The reality is different, however.

The "rush to judgment" mindset creates undue pressure on leaders -- the kind of pressure that causes them to prematurely choose a path forward even when confronting a complex problem.

To be truly effective, leaders need to balance the need to quickly converge on a single solution with the conflicting requirement that multiple perspectives be considered.

Yes, spending time to gain an understanding of the thought processes behind conflicting perspectives slows down the decision-making process. But it also creates a rich opportunity for much more robust solutions.

Slowing down is not necessarily a sign of procrastination or indecision. More accurately, it is a sign of impending wisdom about to be applied.

pause.jpg

Tolerating this period of pause requires leaders to exhibit two qualities that seem to be in short supply these days:

1. Self-confidence (not bravado).
2. Patience (not procrastination).

Unfortunately, as external pressures from above and below increase, leaders experience an increasing tendency to internalize these pressures, causing self-doubt, stress, and a relentless need to prove their worth.

The result? Leaders end up adopting pre-existing solutions not well-suited to the challenges at hand. They decide fast, but the decisions they make are all too often fatally flawed.

Being able to resist mounting pressures to act quickly requires great intestinal fortitude. It requires leaders to keep themselves and others passionately engaged in the process of finding a way through the uncertainty instead of grasping at known "solutions" which only make the problem worse.

This phenomenon is similar to the classic story of the drunkard looking for his car keys under a streetlight even though he knows it's not where he dropped them.

"I know my keys aren't there," he confesses, "but that's where the light is."

It's not easy searching in the dark. Nor is it easy convincing others to join you in the search.

Which is precisely why being an authentic leader is so difficult these days.

- Barry Gruenberg
Here's another one of Barry's fine articles.


Photo
Image

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

March 11, 2012
Where Einstein Got His Great Ideas

Einstein shaving.jpg

Einstein would have loved this guy
The patron saint of our webinar
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:25 AM | Comments (0)

March 10, 2012
Going Viral on the Cutting Edge

This is fabulous. Totally refreshing. And since it's all about razor blades, appropriately "edgy". Oh, it's already gotten more then 2.4 million views on YouTube. PS: How can you create a cool viral video that promotes your product or service?

Idea Champions

Get the juices flowing

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

March 08, 2012
The Secret Realm of Great Ideas

subconscious dreamer.jpg

Why you don't get your best ideas at work
Tapping into dreams
Idea Champions
Where AHAs come from

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

March 07, 2012
How to Capture the Wisdom of Your Organization's Elders

TutuPhoto.jpg

What do Clint Eastwood, Madeline Albright, Willie Nelson, Alan Alda, Desmond Tutu, Jane Goodall, Ravi Shankar, Edward Kennedy, Andrew Wyeth, Frank Gehry and a host of other creative movers and shakers have in common beside fame?

Wisdom!

Click here to see what they've learned in their long and very diverse lives... and get a glimpse of the fabulous Wisdom Project produced by Andrew Zuckerman.

If you work in an organization and are looking for a simple way to capture the wisdom of your senior people before they move on, here's a clue how to do it.

Honor the past, live in the present, be open to the future...

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:26 AM | Comments (0)

March 05, 2012
Innovation from the Inside Out

Einstein avuncular.jpg

These days, almost all of Idea Champions' clients are talking about the need to establish a culture of innovation.

Some, I'm happy to report, are actually doing something about it. Hallelujah! They are taking bold steps forward to turn theory into action.

The challenge for them is the same as it's always been -- to find a simple, authentic way to address the challenge from the inside out -- to water the root of the tree, not just the branches.

External systems and protocols, no matter how seductive they are to create, are simply not sufficient to guarantee real innovation. In the words of Oliver Wendell Holmes, "Systems die. Instinct remains."

This is not to say that organizations should ignore systems and structures in their effort to establish a culture of innovation. They shouldn't.

But systems and structures all too often become the Holy Grail -- much in the same way that Six Sigma has become the Holy Grail.

Unfortunately, when the addiction to systems and structures rules the day, an organization's quest for a culture of innovation degenerates into nothing much more than a cult of innovation.

Organizations do not innovate. People innovate. Inspired people. Fascinated people. Creative people. Committed people. That's where innovation originates -- from deep within the inspired individual who understands that his/her sustained effort is what's required to go beyond the status quo.

Samurai with sword.jpg

The organization's role -- just like the individual manager's role -- is to get out of the way. And while this "getting out of the way" will undoubtedly include the effort to formulate supportive systems, processes, and protocols, it is important to remember that systems, processes, and protocols are never the answer.

They are the context, not the content. They are the husk, not kernel. They are the menu, not the meal.

Ultimately, organizations are faced with the same challenge that religions are faced with. Religious leaders may speak passionately about the virtues their congregation needs to abide by, but sermons only name the challenge and remind people to experience something -- they don't necessarily change behavior.

Change comes from within the heart and mind of each individual. It cannot be legislated or evangelized into reality.

What's needed in organizations who aspire to a culture of innovation, is an inner change. People need to experience something within themselves that will spark and sustain their effort to innovate -- and when they experience this "something," they will be self-sustaining.

They will think about their projects in the shower, in their car, and in their dreams. They will need very little "management" from the outside. Inside out will rule the day -- not outside in. Intrinsic motivation will flourish.

People will innovate not because they are told to, but because they want to. Open Space Technology is a good metaphor for this. When people are inspired, share a common, compelling goal and have the time and space to collaborate, the results become self-organizing.

You can create all the reward systems you want. You can reinvent your workspace until you're blue in the face. You can license the latest and greatest idea management tool, but unless each person in your organization OWNS the need to innovate and finds a way to tap into their own innate brilliance, all you'll end up with is a mixed bag of systems, processes, and protocols -- the husk, not the kernel -- the innovation flotsam and jetsam that the next administration or next CEO or next key stakeholder will mock, reject or change at the drop of a hat if the ROI doesn't show up in the next 20 minutes.

You want culture change? You want a culture of innovation?

Great. Then find a way to help each and every person in your organization come from the inside out. Deeply consider how you can awaken, nurture, and develop the primal need all people have to create something extraordinary.

Keynotes
Idea Champions

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:58 AM | Comments (10)

March 01, 2012
Reframing Company Politics

Here is a very refreshing take on a topic most of us are not very clear about -- company politics. If you want to be more influential in your organization, this a good place to start.

More about Rick Brandon

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:14 AM | Comments (0)

February 23, 2012
The Five Regrets of the Dying

death-bed.jpg

Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care, caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives.

She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog called Inspiration and Chai, which gathered so much attention that she put her observations into a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Ware writes of the phenomenal clarity of vision that people gain at the end of their lives, and how we might learn from their wisdom.

"When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently," she says, "common themes surfaced again and again."

37744366.jpg

THE FIVE REGRETS OF THE DYING

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

"This was the most common regret of all. When people realize that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honored even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realize, until they no longer have it."

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

"This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence."

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

"Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result."

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

"Often they would not truly realize the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying."

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

Thanks to David Passes for the heads up

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:47 PM | Comments (0)

Giving In or Giving Up?

316744_10150354658249939_248843029938_8268383_1926017231_n.jpg

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2012
Stick Your Neck Out

421498_235529243200264_138302639589592_529091_1866680429_n.jpg

If you
want to
go beyond
the status quo
and innovate,
you will
need to
make best use
of available
resources,
adapt,
stick your neck out,
and have
a really good
sense of
humor.
Oh,
a fast
computer
will also
help.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:30 PM | Comments (1)

February 15, 2012
The Three Dimensions of Client Mix

pull-crops-to-help-them-grow.jpg

One of the biggest business challenges for any entrepreneur or organization is "client mix" -- how many of what kind of client or customer to have.

Years ago, a good friend and former client of mine, Edwin Tanaka, clarified this challenge for me with a story about how he managed his world-wide client base for Mitsui Manufacturing.

"I use an agricultural model called Radishes, Wheat, and Trees," he explained.

Puzzled, I asked him to tell me what he meant.

He responded by asking me three questions:

"Have you ever met a guy with a 100 million dollar deal who can't pay for lunch?"

I answered, "Yes, I happen to be working with someone like that right now."

Then he said, "He may not be a bad guy with a bad deal. He is just a tree farmer who has nothing to eat while he waits for his trees to bear fruit."

gardener1.jpg

Then he asked, "Have you ever met a guy with a lot of money and then, soon after that, has no money -- again and again?"

I answered, "Yes, in fact, this describes me quite well."

Edwin went on. "This is not a bad guy. He's just a wheat farmer who goes from feast to famine."

Then he asked, "Have you ever met a guy who is caught up in a lot of small projects, but never seems to do anything big?"

"Yes," I said again, "I know a lot of people like that."

It's simple," Edwin continued. "They are just radish farmers with lots to eat, but not much to show for it."

I asked him what this all meant.

"The smart farmer," he explained, "plants all three. He plants some radishes that harvest every two to four weeks. He also plants wheat, at the same time, and waits six months to a year for it to come to harvest. He also plants trees, at the same time, and eats wheat and radishes while he waits for his trees to bear fruit in 15 to 30 years. The smart farmer plants all three and always has something to eat."

I asked him how this applied to his client base.

"It's all about cultivation and timing," he said. "Smaller clients are radishes and don't need a lot of cultivation. Some clients are wheat and need more cultivation. Some are trees and need a lot of cultivation."

He continued.

"Cultivation requires time, energy, conversation, materials, expenditures, presentations, and the like. If you gave a tree the same cultivation you gave a radish, you would starve it. If you gave a radish the same cultivation you gave a tree you would drown it."

"You have to have the patience of a farmer," he said. "Farmers don't go into their fields and yank on the plants to get them to grow faster. They cultivate them. They let them germinate and grow. For major clients that brought a big return, it would take us a year or two just to get in the door. Smaller clients take much less time, energy, and effort."

"I always made sure," he explained, "that I had a good balance of radishes, wheat, and trees in my portfolio of clients. Most importantly, I never gave them too much of what they didn't need or too little of what they did need."

I never forgot Edwin's words and have applied them in my business for over 20 years. I have shared this story with clients more times that I can count.

In my consulting business, I make sure my bills are paid by the radish clients -- clients that are very regular, but tend to be smaller. They get me to my financial floor and pure survival.

My wheat clients are more project oriented. They take care of the unforeseen financial obstacles and opportunities that inevitably emerge. They come and go on a recurring basis and ensure a level of sufficiency.

My tree clients are the big clients. They take longer to acquire, but they bring abundance.

Each person or business has to define, for themselves, their own profile of a radish, wheat, or tree. There are no rules except one that I learned from Edwin, keep all three in balance.

-- by Paul Roth (Idea Champions' Chief Collaboration Officer

One of Paul's workshops
The Idea Champions team

Illustration
Cartoon
Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:42 AM | Comments (1)

February 14, 2012
The Arc of a Good Presentation

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:22 PM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2012
The Perfect Woodstock Getaway

BP card front- Final.jpg

When it's time to get away to fabulous Woodstock, NY, consider staying at the Blue Pearl. This extraordinary guest cottage is the perfect retreat for anyone looking to chill (especially this winter.) Located less than a mile from the center of town, the Blue Pearl is gorgeous, cozy, and warm. Mention the phrase Idea Champions when you book your stay and get a free copy of Awake at the Wheel and a year's subscription to Free the Genie.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2012
A Message for Parents Who Travel

Jesse1.jpg

Fifteen years ago I found myself standing in my closet, madly searching for clean clothes in a last minute attempt to pack before yet another business trip, when I noticed my 4-year old son standing at the entrance.

In one hand, he held a small blue wand, in the other -- a plastic bottle of soapy water.

"Dada," he said, looking up at me. "Do you have time to catch my bubbles?"

Time? It stopped. And so did I.

jesse.jpg

At that moment, it suddenly made no difference whether or not I caught my plane -- I could barely catch my breath. The only thing that existed was him and that soulful look of longing in his eyes.

For the next ten minutes, all we did was play -- him blowing bubbles and laughing. Me catching and laughing, too.

His need was completely satisfied. His need for connection. His need for love. His need for knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that absolutely everything was perfect just the way it was.

Next time you're rushing out of your house for your next business trip, remember to STOP and catch the bubbles. Fifteen years later you won't remember the trip, but you will remember the bubbles.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:49 PM | Comments (2)

January 31, 2012
Go Beyond Your Pet Ideas!

pet.gif

If your company runs brainstorming sessions, know this: too many of them have become veiled opportunities for people to trot out their pet ideas.

Because everyone is so ridiculously busy these days and real listening is at a premium, people use brainstorming sessions as a way to foist their pre-existing ideas on others.

And while this sometimes leads to results, it doesn't make best use of the opportunity a brainstorm session provides. The way around this phenomenon?

Give people a chance to express their pre-existing ideas at the beginning of a session. Clear the decks. Then use the rest of the time to explore the unknown. Woof! Woof!

High Velocity Brainstorming
Conducting Genius
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:48 AM | Comments (2)

January 30, 2012
The Art and Science of Losing Count

"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
-- Albert Einstein

If you have even the slightest respect for the wild-haired father of modern physics, consider this: Your organization's fascination with metrics is often nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to quantify the unquantifiable -- a compulsive effort to validate that which you and everyone else already know to be true.

I'm not suggesting you abandon metrics (I track, daily, how may unique visitors make it to my website) -- all I'm saying is not everything needs to be measured, at least not all of the time.

The core of your company's "innovation process" is actually less about mind, and more about heart. (And if you're about to ask me how I know that, please read the Einstein quote one more time).

More from Albert

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:17 AM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2012
Ten Simple Mindset Shifts for 2012

This is a marvelous, lucid, well-written blog post by Tom Asacker on ten of the fundamental mindset changes that you and your company will need to honor if you expect to thrive during these radically changing times.

HINT: Your marketing efforts need to be less about branding and more about bonding.

Who, on your team, do you need to meet with to explore Tom's key points? And when will you do it?

Idea Champions
Free the Genie

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:26 PM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2012
How to Conduct a Virtual Meeting

If the number of the virtual meetings you're attending is going up, but the quality is going down, it's time to reconsider your approach.

Here's a useful article from Nick Morgan, of the Harvard Business Review, on how to maximize the effectiveness of virtual meetings.

Common sense? Yes. But common sense, these days, is uncommon. Nick's 5-point plan elaborates on the following:

1. Recognize virtual meetings are sub-optimal and plan accordingly
2. Plan the virtual meeting in 10-minute increments
3. Pause regularly for group input
4. Label your emotions and ask others to do the same
5. Don't neglect the small talk, but use video

The complete article
Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:30 AM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2012
Want to Innovate? Start Here!

Failure is not what you think it is
Idea Champions
Thanks to Sarah Jacob for the heads up!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:52 PM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2012
The Professor and the Jar

jar of light.jpg

A college professor stood before his philosophy class at the start of a new semester. Silently, he picked up a very large jar and filled it with golf balls. Then he asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly, pebbles settling into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full.

They agreed that it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students again responded with a resounding "yes."

The professor then produced two beers from under the table and poured them into the jar, filling the empty spaces between the sand. The students laughed.

"Now," said the professor. "I want you to understand that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things -- your family, health, friends, and feeling of well-being. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full."

"The pebbles are the other things that matter -- your job, your house, your accomplishments etc. The sand is everything else -- the small stuff."

"If you put the sand into the jar first," he continued, "there's no room left for the golf balls or pebbles. The same holds true for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you'll never have room for the things that are really important to you."

"Pay attention to the things that are essential to your happiness. Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Smell the flowers. Enjoy the beauty of existence. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first -- the things that really matter. The rest is just sand."

One of the students then raised her hand and asked what the beer represented.

The professor smiled, "I'm glad you asked."

"The beer shows you that, no matter how full your life may seem, there's always room for a couple of beers with a friend."

Idea Champions

Image

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:36 AM | Comments (1)

January 07, 2012
Go Beyond the Business Blues

FTM Logo Blue.jpg.2

For years I was trying to figure out what all my clients had in common. Opposable thumbs? Yes. The Isle of Langerhans. That, too. Big, fat opinions about everything. For sure.

But even more than the aforementioned stuff in the preceding paragraph which you just read and probably haven't yet forgotten even though your short-term memory is getting shorter by the nanosecond and you're probably wondering, by now, why I'm rambling on and on when most blog postings are supposed to be short and sweet, it dawned on me one fine day as I was scraping marinara sauce off my shirt that the main thing all my clients had in common was the blues.

Yes, indeed. The blues. The same blues Muddy Waters had. And Robert Johnson. And BB King. Those blues.

bb-king-7.jpg

Unlike the blues greats, however, my clients didn't have a way to express their blues. And, in the absence of this opportunity, their God given right to get right was lost.

But no more, brothers and sisters! No more!

Now, even the most buttoned down, white collared, bow-tied creators of spreadsheets at midnight have a chance to get those business blues off their chest and move towards a better future -- not to mention have fun, collaborate, and learn what it takes to innovate on the fly.

Ladies and gentlemen, without any further ado, allow me to introduce you to the world's first business blues band -- Face the Music!.

PS: Should you decide to contact them, be sure to mention that it was Idea Champions who sent you. (We give 5% of our referral fees to TPRF, one of the most well-run and inspired humanitarian organizations in the world).

The Six Sigma Blues

My blues encounter at Pfizer
The Email Blues
The Gotta Have a Process Blues

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:33 AM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2012
The One For Whom You Create

lit_longwalk_aug07.jpg

Poets, lose your pens,
Painters, toss your brushes
in the sea,
Musicians, give your instruments
away, then go for a long walk.

When you're done, keep walking,
notice the beauty all around you.
Don't try to remember
a single thing, breathe.

This holy moment is your poetry,
your art, your song.
Do not concern yourself with giving it form.
The One for whom you create
deeply loves
what you just didn't do.

Idea Champions
Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:53 PM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2011
How Do You Get Teenagers to Clean Up Their Room?

profimedia-0050653436.jpg

While it is true that this blog is the third most popular innovation blog in the world, and while it is also true that, last year, I was voted the #1 innovation blogger in the world, both of these factoids pale in comparison to what I am about to present to you in the next paragraph.

Today, I finally realized what all of my blogging has been about for the past four years. Not to monetize my efforts. Not to build the brand of my company. Not to win friends and influence people. No way.

messy+teenager+room.jpg

All of that stuff, of course, is nice, but none of it comes within a light year to the question I'm going to lay on you in the next paragraph -- the answer to which may just change the axis upon which the earth rotates or, at the very least, provide millions of parents with the answer to a question they have long since stopped asking.

How do you get teenagers to clean up their room?

As the proud father of a 14-year old girl and 17-year old boy, I now understand that all my efforts to help organizations establish robust, sustainable cultures of innovation is a piece of cake compared to the Olympian task of getting my two teenagers to clean their rooms.

Zen Masters cry when I ask them for advice on this subject. Grandparents laugh. Psychologists look wistfully into the distance and mumble very long German words.

I was beginning to think that no one knows the answer, but then I remembered there are thousands of really smart, creative, entrepreneurial innovators reading this blog -- some of whom are actually parents, and some of whom are actually in the Federal Witness Protection Program.

And so, ladies and gentleman, without further ado (adieu?), if you want to join in the crowd sourced, existential fun, all you need to do is write your answer to my question in the comments section below. (If you can't figure out how to do that, simply shoot me an email me (mitch@ideachampions.com).

messy room.jpg

To make it worth your while, I will be awarding fabulous prizes to the three people who submit the most insightful and actionable ideas (according to my big, fat highly subjective opinion).

FIRST PRIZE: A lifetime subscription to Free the Genie
SECOND PRIZE: Free the Genie deck
THIRD PRIZE: Awake at the Wheel

But wait, there's more!

I will present all of your suggestions to Jesse (17) and Mimi (14) -- assuming they will come out of their rooms to talk to me. I will then ask for their feedback and post their replies on this blog, along with an announcement of the three winners, in mid-January.

Multiple submissions are perfectly acceptable, even if the submissions, themselves, (like the rooms of teenagers and the parents of teenagers) are not perfect.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:26 PM | Comments (5)

December 17, 2011
Are You an Idea Addict?

There are lots of things in this world people get addicted to: alcohol, nicotine, heroin, sex, and iPhones just to name a few.

But perhaps the biggest addiction of them all is the addiction to our own ideas. Here's how it works:

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

At first, like most habits, it's a casual pursuit with a thousand positive side effects: increased energy, renewed focus, and a general feeling of well-being. Like wow, man. But then...

We think about it in the shower. We think about it in the car. We think about it when people are asking us to think about other things. We even dream about it.

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

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

If you have a business, of course, you want to conjure up cool ideas. That's a good thing. But if you cling to ideas just because they're yours, or just because you've invested major mojo in them, then it's definitely time to rethink where you're coming from.

50 quotes on ideas
Idea Champions

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

December 16, 2011
The Atlassian FedEx Day Goes Global

fedexday_logo_nocharlie_large-300x279.png

Atlassian is a very successful Australia-based software company founded in 2002. It has 400+ employees, with 125 of them in San Francisco.

It also has more than 17,000 satisfied clients including Google, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, LinkedIn, Pixar, Adobe, Hulu, Salesforce, UPS, Nike, and Coca-Cola.

Atlassian's software helps companies organize their data, track it, collaborate about it, and detect/fix bugs in their software.

Yeah, I know... I had never heard of them before either.

But those days may soon be over. Atlassian is fast becoming famous not only for their popular software development tools, but also for their rapidly-spreading innovation creation playfully named "FedEx Day".

Very simply, FedEx Day is a 24-hour innovation immersion event that enables employees to brainstorm, prototype, and pitch their emerging innovations.

Why is it called "FedEx Day"? Because the goal of the 24-hour blitz is for participants to originate, develop, and deliver new products, new services, or business process improvements overnight.

24.jpg

FedEx Days typically begin on a Thursday afternoon at 2:00 pm and end with a spirited round of presentations delivered exactly 24 hours later.

The experience is energizing, empowering, and exciting -- with the company supplying pizza and beer (this DID originate in Australia, after all) for everyone on Thursday night.

The end result? Lots of useful and successful innovations that would not have materialized had employees been required to stick with their "day jobs."

Atlassian has been, internally, conducting FedEx Days (now done quarterly) since 2005. But this program is now spreading like a Charlie Sheen Twitter meme. Many other organizations, like Yahoo, Symantec, Flickr, Hasbro Toy, and the Mayo Clinic have all begun conducting their own versions of FedEx Day.

And, NOW, for the first time ever, Atlassian is offering to send their own FedExperts to one deserving company in order to help them conduct their own FedEx Day.

Explains Jonathan Nolen, one of Atlassian's FedExperts, "It's so exciting. The possibilities are endless. Everyone has great ideas and this gives them a way to unleash the power of those ideas. And it happens all over the organization. It's incredibly inspiring to see this happen in real time."

Atlassian's Annelise Reynolds agrees. "This is part of a new trend in business where companies are understanding the importance of engaging and energizing their employees. It works wonders for both the companies and their employees. The employees have fun and the companies get some great innovations."

atlassian fedex day 10 champ.jpg

Interested? Want to enter the contest? Click here. Or here to find out what Dan Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind has to say about it.

Entering is simple. All you need to do is fill out this entry form and make a convincing case for why YOUR company or department could use a 24-hour innovation blitz.

Deadline is December 21st, 10:00 PM Pacific Time! Good luck! And good on ya, mate!

- Val Vadeboncoeur
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)

The Fork in the Road

When you come to a fork in the road, how do you know which way to go? How do you decide? Do you have a way to tune in? To yourself? To your team? To your customers?

If you don't, its time to find out how to navigate the expontentially increasing number of options available to you without hurting yourself or anyone else. The good news? It doesn't require Six Sigma or overpriced consultants telling you what time it is with your own watch.

Picture this. You're walking down a road, moving into a bright future, eyes on fire. And then, suddenly, standing there in front of you, is a fork -- a surprisingly bigger than-Godzilla fork. Whaddya do? How do you decide? Which way do you go?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:12 PM | Comments (0)

December 14, 2011
The Best Practice of Love

A few weeks ago, my wife and I had a huge fight. A doozy. The Superbowl of all fights. If you're married -- or ever were -- I'm sure you've had at least one of these. Probably more.

You think you're right. They think they're right. You attack, they deflect. They attack, you deflect. You get hopeless and weird. They get hopeless and weird.

And both of you -- self-appointed judges in a supreme court of your own creation -- feel diminished, abused, blamed, hurt, ignored, dissed, damaged, and demonized.

The love? Out the window. And the window? Stuck in a half-closed position.

Whenever I'm embroiled in this kind of dynamic and (hallelujah!) manage to make it out the other side, I get majorly humbled -- all concepts of myself as a conscious, loving, evolved human being completely blown to smithereens.

And yet... no matter how painful the experience, something good always comes out of it. A phoenix rises from the ashes. Like the list below, for example -- my wishes for my dear wife, Evelyne, (the day after) and, by extension, you, me, and all the other 8 billion people on planet Earth.

THE BEST PRACTICE OF LOVE: My Wishes for You

1. Gratitude every day
2. Deep inner peace, especially during tough times
3. Kindness gail-rein-gratitude.jpg
4. Patience
5. Forgiveness

6. The courage to be yourself
7. Rest and renewal
8. The vision to see God in everyone
9. Letting go of self-righteousness
10. Simplicity and ease

11. The willingess to let go of worry and doubt
12. Allowing yourself to be nurtured
13. More fun
14. Plenty of time to do nothing
15. Spaciousness

16. Heartfelt self-expression
17. Health and vitality
18. Moving through the tasks of your life as if you were a dancer
19. Relating to each person you talk to as if they were the only person on earth at that moment

listening.jpg

20. Laughter from your core
21. Appreciation of your family
22. A "live and let live" mindset
23. Waking up each day with gladness
24. Humility
25. The experience of community

26. Full responsibility for your own projections
27. Trust
28. Honoring all of the teachers in your life, past and present
29. Slowing down, going deeper
30. The ability to order a very rich dessert in your favorite restaurant without enrolling someone to share it with you

31. A wi-fi connection whenever you want
32. The end of lower back pain
33. Living the St. Francis Prayer without making a big deal of it
34. Knowing you are loved
35. Good sushi within a five-mile radius

36. Appreciation of other people's "spiritual path" -- with absolutely no judgment
37. Foot massages
38. Fresh air
39. Understanding what Krishna meant when he said: "The world is an illusion, but you have to act as if it's real."
40. Random acts of kindness

41. Nights on the town
42. The ability to be alone, but not lonely
elders.jpg
43. Accepting the aging process with dignity and delight
44. Fabulous dinners with friends

45. Nights in front of the fire
46. Having no regrets
47. Cranking up the music
48. Not judging your kids for texting or being on Facebook
49. Seeing the blessing in every challenge that comes your way
50. Loving yourself when you look in the mirror

51. Not having to look in the mirror to love yourself
52. New adventures
53. Endless learning
54. Giving up complaint
55. A dependable plumber

56. Snow angels!
57. Working smarter, not harder
58. Looking up at the stars
59. Never going to bed angry
60. Being happy for other people's successes

61. Realizing you are everything and nothing both at the same time
62. Unconditional love
Hand_holding_finger_bw.jpg
63. Reframing aging as "becoming an elder" instead of "getting old"
64. Weekends in exotic places
65. Someone else to wash the dishes

66. Enjoying the poetry of Rumi, Kabir, and Hafiz
67. Did I mention foot massages?
68. The commitment to immerse in the projects that most fascinate you
69. Deep listening
70. Longer vacations

71. Reaching out to those less fortunate than you
72. Holding hands with someone you love
73. Taking on an impossible project -- and making it happen
74. Really good chocolate
75. Unforgettable celebrations

76. Going beyond your limiting assumptions
77. The discipline that comes from love, not duty
78. Spontaneous generosity
79. One remote for all your electronics
80. A hot bath on a cold night

81. Wonderful surprises

surprise1.jpg

82. The laughter of children
83. Realizing you have enough
84. Timelessness
85. Understanding this quote: "When you're on the path it's a mile wide, when you're off it, it's razor thin."
86. Giving flowers to absolute strangers

87. A wardrobe you love
88. Resilience
88. Making a clear distinction between longing and desire
89. No fear of death
90. Dancing around the living room for no particular reason
91. Howling at the moon
92. Knowing how to say "no" without being negative

93. Completing what you came here to do
94. Experiencing life as a beautiful play
95. Freshly baked chocolate chip cookies
96. Forgiving everyone who has ever wronged you
97. Passion

98. Compassion
99. The peace that passes all understanding
100. Sweet watermelon on a summer day
More

Illustration
Painting
Image
Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:58 PM | Comments (0)

December 13, 2011
Before Decision, Get a Vision!

Yo!
2012 is right around the corner.
Have you envisioned
what you want to create yet?
Have you unplugged
from your short-term focus
to consider the long-term?
If not, what can you do, this week,
to imagine and conceive
bold new possibilities?
Who do you need to jam with?
What prep can you do?
Where will you meet?
When will you go offline?
And above all,
why is this important to you?

Idea Champions

50 quotes on vision
20 ways to see the invisible

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:09 PM | Comments (0)

December 12, 2011
Shining Eyes and Open Hearts

Ben Zander is the most extraordinary speaker/presenter/catalyst I've ever had the good fortune to experience other than my teacher, Prem Rawat. I first heard Ben at HSM's World Business Forum, in NYC. He entranced 4,000 business people for two hours and ended his enchantment by getting everyone to sing Ode to Joy in German. Ben is a masterful conductor, not just of orchestras, but of the human spirit of what's possible every single minute of the day.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:41 PM | Comments (0)

December 10, 2011
Be An Innovation Samurai!

If you expect to innovate in 2012, you will need to be more like a Samurai and less like a Slacker. Towards that end, here are the seven classic virtues of a Samurai. Food for thought... and action!

1. Rectitude
2. Courage
3. Benevolence
4. Respect
5. Honesty
6. Honor
7. Loyalty

Idea Champions
Heroic Leadership

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

December 07, 2011
The Movement With No Name

Idea Champions

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

December 06, 2011
The Healing Power of Music and Creativity

Inspiring 12-minute video about the power of music and creativity in the lives of teens with HIV. We need more of this approach to life!

Thanks to Eric Booth for the heads up.
His book.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:19 AM | Comments (0)

December 02, 2011
Buy Local, Bye Bye Wal-Mart



Another innovative approach

Idea Champions

Thanks to Val Vadeboncoeur for the heads up

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:14 PM | Comments (1)

November 22, 2011
The Upturn Is Upon Us!

Let me be the first to declare that, despite the gloomy pronouncements of the naysaying media, there is a glorious upturn upon us. Yes, it's true. That is, IF you are willing to shift your focus just a bit and let the joy and happiness inside of you come out.

Idea Champions
Thanks to Aliza Corrado for the heads up!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

The Architecture of Great Speeches

Very interesting presentation. Nancy Duarte has demystified the hidden structure of great speeches, using Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King speeches as examples. If you are a public speaker or aspire to deliver keynote presentations, this is a very useful tutorial. (Hint: Start with the current reality, build to the compelling vision of the possible).

Idea Champions
I am, therefore I speak

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:00 PM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2011
Creativity Rated #1 Leadership Quality in Global IBM Poll

Creativity is now considered the most important leadership quality for success in business, outweighing even integrity and global thinking, according to a much-referenced recent study by IBM.

The study is the largest known sample of one-on-one CEO interviews, with over 1,500 corporate heads and public sector leaders across 60 nations and 33 industries polled on what drives them in managing their companies in today's world.

What is YOUR organization doing to help it's senior leaders unleash their creativity?

Illustration
Creative Thinking Training
Ingenious Leadership

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:48 AM | Comments (2)

November 17, 2011
The Perfect Woodstock Getaway

BluePearl-SultanH.EDIT.2.jpg

Need a break? Want to get away for the weekend? Interested in visiting Woodstock, NY? Then stay at our fabulous Blue Pearl Guest Cottage. Just a 12 minute walk from town. Renew! Refresh! Revitalize!

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:43 PM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2011
Culture of Innovation Rule #1

298434_178068015611378_100002245433112_370565_870079876_n.jpg

If you want to create a sustainable culture of innovation, you will first need to find a way to animate the buoyant energy lurking within each member of your workforce. If you skip this step, you will never hit the critical mass of mojo needed to turn theory into practice. In other words, you need to spark more of the feeling that moves someone to dance, than the thought that moves someone to create the next spreadsheet.

Idea Champions
The Four Currents
50 Ways to Foster a Culture of Innovation

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:41 AM | Comments (1)

November 06, 2011
Going Beyond Digital Distraction

payattention.jpg

NOTE: The following piece is authored by Sarah Jacob, a new member of the Heart of Innovation blogging team. Sarah will be focusing on all things digital and the launching of Idea Champions new Virtual Innovation University -- a series of webinars and other online experiences that will make our work available to millions of people around the world. Welcome, Sarah!

Last night I read an article about the benefits of unplugging from the constant stream of information and data spew coming our way. The main message? Our addiction to distraction has made "human connection" unlikely, uncommon, and all too often, unavailable.

Forget "to be or not to be." The question these days is "To connect or not connect?"

At any given moment, any one of us is sitting in front of a computer with a seemingly infinite variety of social media options before us: e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Skype, Klout, and Google Plus just to name a few -- our cell phone just inches away ready to deliver the next text message (and the ever-more-rare phone call).

These days, it is easier than ever to connect with people -- a primordial urge that can be traced all the way back to our Neanderthalic roots and the ancient need to be accepted by our tribe.

Indeed, to the amygdala, the number of Likes we get on our latest Facebook status update is really just another form of survival!

"Am I accepted?" we wonder. "Do I belong?" Am I going to get booted from -- or worse, ignored by -- my virtual tribe if my status updates aren't interesting, profound, or funny enough?

Smart phones aside, we're really not all that different from our pre-Industrial Revolution ancestors who had to rely on family, neighbors, and community to harvest crops, raise barns, and fix roofs.

Skyscrapers have replaced farms, but our need to survive is as real as ever -- a need that is no longer satisfied by "job security". Why? There is none these days. It is gone, along with most of our seemingly unshakable economic structures.

Making a living these days is no longer about "getting a job" -- it's about creating work.

The good news? People are getting really creative towards that end. People are becoming their own brand. They are marketing their own unique skills, passions, and value to anyone and everyone who will listen.

They're doing it via social media in ways that blur the line between casual socializing and cunning marketing.

Was your friend's post about her exciting client meeting an enthusiastic desire to share, or was it "creating buzz"? Or both? These days, friends, acquaintances, and business contacts are all swirling around in the same human connection soup -- a soup that seems to be feeding most of us.

And yet, many of us share a gnawing sense that something about this recipe doesn't taste quite right. Something is missing. The mouth goes dry. No amount of drinking quenches our thirst. We are hungry all the time.

Today, for example, I communicated with 40 people and another 200 of my FB friends now know how I feel about the guy in high heels on the subway. But was there even the slightest hint of a sincere connection? A single authentic human exchange?

I'm being asked out on dates via text message and the most contact I've had, in the past three years, with my oldest friend is that she likes my Facebook status updates.

The constant tick of text bytes coming our way has become the digital equivalent of a strange clock ticking high on the wall in an empty room no one ever enters.

What are we really hungry for? What do we really want?

The answer is simple: Meaning. Beauty. Authentic connection. Soul. Experiences like seeing sunlight across a honey-colored wood floor. Like the sound of the wind scattering dry leaves. Like the perfect roundness of your dog's brown eye framed by a crescent of white.

In these all-too-rare moments of stillness come a surprise, an insight, an idea -- something brand new and utterly genius. Something worth sharing with another.

tango-0102a.gif

In this moment, without even thinking, you walk across the street to tell your neighbor. The animation in your gestures as you describe your idea is an act of creation. The aliveness you feel as you share your never-before-uttered thought is intoxicating. Your friend listens, really listens.

And if you're like me, you dance.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:23 AM | Comments (0)

November 01, 2011
The Last Words of Steve Jobs

steve-jobs1.jpg

Here is
a touching tribute
to Steve Jobs,
a eulogy, beautifully written,
by his sister, Mona Simpson.
It is deep, moving, and inspiring.
I was especially intrigued
by Steve's last words.
What was he seeing?
What was he feeling?
What moved him to say
what he said?
i-Liberation?
We will ALL
get the same chance one day.

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2011
Innovating Is Just Like Dancing

Whatever your innovation goals are for 2012 -- take a cue from the Nicholas Brothers. If you can innovate as well as they can dance, you are home free. Check out their timing, synchronicity, flexibility, creativity, and style -- all clues about to how to deliver an extraordinary outcome.



Talking the Dance

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:27 PM | Comments (1)

October 20, 2011
Drive Fear Out of the Workplace!

Fear.jpg

As I understand it, Peter Drucker (world class management guru) was totally committed to driving fear out of the workplace.

He knew (as you do, on a good day) that you cannot have a successful business if fear is running the show.

Fear constricts. Fear depresses. Fear limits the amount of options you have because survival rules the day -- and when survival rules the day, we end up operating like Neanderthals -- perceiving everything as a threat to our well-being.

What's fascinating about this is that all of us, at some level, are afraid -- and we end up bringing our fear into the workplace.

What kind of fear?

Fear of change. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of failure. Fear of being dominated. Fear of being judged. Fear of feedback. Fear of disappointing others. Fear of being overwhelmed. Fear of commitment. Fear of being manipulated. Fear of working hard and having nothing to show for it. Fear of losing your job. Fear of being penniless. Fear of other people. And on and on and on...

Well, then... what to do with all this fear business?

First off, recognize that you (and everyone else around you) is human and, as such, is subject to fear (and fear's second cousins -- anxiety, worry, discomfort, nervousness, agitation, and projection).

Secondly, realize that fear ("False Evidence Appearing Real") is not who you are and not what you want and that it is definitely possible to go beyond it.

And thirdly, do what you can to find the place inside yourself that is free of fear -- the place of faith, confidence, relaxation, clarity, innovation, trust, and resilience.

If you can't find it (and some days it ain't easy), connect with a co-worker, friend, or teammate and air it out. Don't keep your fear bottled up. It will eat you alive from the inside.

Remember, if you are feeling fear, acknowledge it. As Fritz Perls once put it, "Awareness cures." Just being aware of the fact that you are feeling fear, is the first step towards it dissipating.

And remember this: Fear is not necessarily a bad thing. It can also serve you.

Indeed, it was very useful for our Neanderthalic ancestors to feel fear from time to time. Why? Because it alerted them to real danger that needed to be dealt with. It got their adrenelin pumping enough to run from the saber-toothed tiger.

The fact that you are feeling some fear today may simply be due to the fact that you are actually sensing danger (i.e. funky business systems, bad accounting, lack of budgets, poor teamwork, old mindsets) that will eventually bring your business down unless something useful is done. So, that's a good thing.

But it's only a good thing if you let the fear you are feeling translate into intelligent action. Otherwise, you run the risk of being gobbled up by your fear which only leads to crappy feelings of powerlessness, hopelessness, and overwhelm -- not exactly the drivers of innovation and success.

Of course, if there is no saber-toothed tiger (down the hallway, around the corner, in the next office), then there's really no reason to be afraid, is there? If the saber-toothed tiger is only in your mind, you have the option to dismiss it. "Down boy!"

2255781557_d7148597a7.jpg

A QUICK GUIDE TO GOING BEYOND FEAR:

1. Acknowledge it.

2. Write down what you are afraid of (or anxious about).

3. Tell someone (a friend, teammate, your boss, your FB friends).

4. Item by item, come up with a game plan for what you (and your company) can do to address the root causes of what it is that is sparking fear in you.

5. Acknowledge your successes each time your fear subsides and is supplanted by relaxation, ease, insight, breakthrough, and success.

6. Read this aloud

OK, oh brave readers of this blog, what else can you do to transmute your fear into breakthrough? Tell us. Leave a comment. Share your wisdom with us.

If we get enough juicy suggestions, we'll publish something like "50 Awesome Things You Can Do to Go Beyond Fear."

Who We Are
Companies that have not been afraid to hire us

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:25 AM | Comments (0)

October 19, 2011
Stocks Are Not the Only Thing That Appreciate

I have been an innovation consultant since 1986 and have worked with hundreds of organizations in more than 15 industries. The products and services of my clients have all been different -- as have their acronyms, mission statements, and cafeteria food.

But they all have one thing in common -- and that is a pronounced tendency to undervalue the power of appreciation.

Sure, they give out gold watches and Employee of the Month awards, but the simple act of acknowledging and appreciating each other on a daily basis is in woeful short supply.

retirement-clock.jpg

The reasons are many.

Too many managers have come to believe that the expression of appreciation will be counterproductive, leading to a self-satisfied workforce -- a workforce that will be entitled and unmotivated.

The perceived lack of time is another reason.

Most people's plates are so full these days that the time and attention it takes to acknowledge another for their efforts is considered a luxury that cannot be afforded.

A third reason?

The majority of people who work in an organization do not know how to appreciate others. It is not, shall we say, their default condition.

Why should this matter to your organization?

Because there is a direct correlation between appreciation and success. The more appreciation, the more morale improves and the more moral improves, the more willing people are to go the extra yard.

Indeed, recent U.S. Department of Labor data shows that the number one reason people leave their jobs is that they do not feel appreciated. When you quantify the cost of recruiting, orienting, and training people, that adds up. Big time.

460741.jpg

Further research has revealed that companies that effectively value and appreciate their employees enjoy more than triple returns on equity and assets and achieve higher operating margins than companies that do not.

Time and again it has been proven: money is not the key driver of employee satisfaction. It is the experience of being appreciated.

"Celebrate what you want to see more," advises management consultant, Tom Peters.

"Appreciate everything your associates do for the business," advised Sam Walton, former CEO of Walmart. "Nothing else can quite substitute for a few well-chosen, well-timed, sincere words of praise."

Mother Teresa agrees: "There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread."

The paradox?

Business leaders want their stocks to appreciate, but they don't see the relationship between rising stock prices and the rise in employee performance that comes from employees being genuinely appreciated.

In what ways can YOU lead the charge by authentically expressing your appreciation to someone with whom you work?


GOOD NEWS: I will be giving two keynotes, this week, at Mitre, on this very subject. Contact me if you'd like to get the ball rolling in your organization.

More
My Speaker's Bureau

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:24 PM | Comments (2)

October 18, 2011
100 Reasons to Go Within

meditation-in-green.jpg

Since the beginning of time, and even last Thursday, there have always been inner-directed people living on planet Earth -- sincere seekers of truth who realized that the business of life wasn't necessarily a life of business.

They wanted more out of life than stock options, a corner office, and a 401K.

Some of these people radically turned away from the marketplace and ended up in caves, forests, or spiritual retreats. Some sought the guidance of Great Masters. Others, stayed closer to home and simply checked out their nearest yoga class.

Have you ever wondered why people make this choice -- what moves a person to go beyond business as usual and turn within? Well, I have -- and here they are -- 100 of the most common reasons.

Yours may be on it. If it isn't, just let me know and I will add it to the next edition.

100 Reasons to Go Within

1. You just lost your job.

2. Oprah told you to.

3. Your 401K is now a 101K.

4. The world always seems to let you down.

5. You're not getting any younger.

6. You've always been curious about this "going within" business.

7. Someone you love just died.

8. You think the Dalai Lama is cool.

9. You read it in a book.

10. Your girlfriend ran away with your therapist.

11. Your house just burned down.

apolojulianne3.jpg

12. Watching Dancing With the Stars no longer does it for you.

13. You're an unhappy atheist.

14. You've recently been diagnosed with a terminal disease.

15. You're about to have a root canal.

16. Your three-year plan has revealed itself to be a total charade.

17. It's free.

18. You have a living Master who keeps reminding you to go within.

19. Your wife, husband, kids, and hair have all left you.

20. You like what Jesus had to say about it.

Jesus3.jpg

21. There's no time like the present.

22. You had a near death experience a while ago, but could never figure out how to stay in that blissful place.

23. Your team just lost the Big Game and you realize that everything you give yourself to in this world eventually disappoints.

24. You're stuck in traffic
25. You're on your death bed
26. You're on vacation

27. Inner space is a lot more interesting than outer space.

28. Space is curved. If you looked long enough through a powerful enough telescope, you'd end up seeing your own butt.

29. You've always been fascinated by the lives of sages, saints, and monks.

30. Nothing else seems to be working for you.

31. You want to build your house of bricks.

32. You've seen Avatar twice.

james_cameron_avatar_trailer_poster_banner.jpg

33. You always knew that going within was important.

34. You finally figured out that the entire world is your projection and the flickering images on the screen aren't the only thing to focus on.

35. There's nothing good on TV.

36. You lost the remote.

37. You lost your way.

38. You read Siddhartha.

39. You'd rather have your own experience than read about someone else's.

40. You love George Harrison.

41. You want to lower your stress.

42. Googling it didn't get you anywhere.

43. You don't believe your own story anymore. (And you're tired of telling it).

44. You realize that your personality is a complete fabrication and you want to find out who (or what) exists behind the mask you call your "self."

45. Your best friend suggested it.

46. You're the reincarnation of Shiva.

shiva.gif

47. You're the reincarnation of Shiva's chiropractor.

48. You keep wondering why the spelling of "Shiva" and "Yeshiva" are so similar.

49. You've always favored silence and simplicity.

50. When you go to a video store, it takes you a long time to find anything you want to rent.

51. You once heard Prem Rawat talk about it and it sounded really good.

52. You went on a retreat last month and, even though the people there seemed to be completely full of themselves, smiled too much, and didn't have a sense of humor, you liked the way you felt when you weren't busy judging them.

53. It's good for your blood pressure.

54. You'd rather be on the inside than the outside.

55. The Dow is down (but not the Tao).

56. Your server is down.

57. All roads lead to Om.

58. You don't want to end up like the musk deer who wanders forever in search of the intoxicating fragrance that emanates from its own navel.

59. You prefer Rumi, Hafiz, and Kabir to Lady Gaga.

60. For thousands of lifetimes this is what you've done.

61. Your moon is in the House of Pies.

62. You want to find out what Prem Rawat meant when he said that "there are a lot of people who know there is a drop in the ocean, but only a few who know there is an ocean in the drop."

63. You want your mojo back.

64. Face it. You're just not that happy with your current state of affairs (even though you always tell people you are "fine" when they ask you how you are). It's kind of like you have a low grade virus or know there is a party going on nearby that you haven't been invited to and can't figure out why.

65. The happiest moments of your life have been listening to your Master speak about the beauty of going within.

66. You want shelter from the storm.

67. You've always sensed there was something universal inside of everyone -- far beyond religion or philosophy -- and you want to know what it is.

68. You read Be Here Now many years ago.

69. You're tired of waiting for Christmas, retirement, or a positive cash flow.

70. You've heard there's is at least one living Teacher who can show you how.

71. You'd rather know the "I" than the iPhone.

72. Three magi from Jersey City just showed up at your door. They are each holding a large pepperoni pizza and telling you that you better go within or they're gonna break your kneecaps.

73. Hey, if it doesn't work out, you can always get back into that network marketing thing.

74. Your favorite part of every meal is grace.

75. You don't need any credentials.

76. It's sugar free.

thing-called-love.jpg

77. Some time ago, for no apparent reason, you experienced a profound sense of gratitude, expansiveness, and joy. Everything made perfect sense. Alas...that feeling came and went. Now you want to get it back.

78. Rush Limbaugh has nothing to do with it.

79. It's non-caloric.

80. Every time you go to a bookstore, you find yourself wandering around the spiritual section.

81. When you were a little kid you alternated between feeling like an orphan and a visitor from another planet. You always wanted to "go home." Now you understand that home is not a geographical place, but a state of consciousness and "going within" has something to do with it.

82. Sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll took you only so far.

83. You realize that Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, and Lao Tzu can't all be wrong.

84. Your most favorite people on planet Earth have all committed to this journey.

85. You understand that to "go within" you don't need to give up bowling, poker, steak, sex, baseball, beer, crossword puzzles, scrabble, sushi, cappuccino, square dancing, break dancing, blogging, basketball, William Burroughs, designer jeans, Otis Redding, jello, science fiction, bonsai trees, tweeting, fruit loops, weightlifting, jazz, bargain hunting, coin collecting, the Kabaalah, dirty jokes, making fun of politicians, arm wrestling, Bruce Lee, Lee Marvin, Marvin Gardens, toasted marshmallows, and googling your own name when no one is watching.

86. You don't want anything else.

87. You realize that if you can't be happy in your own skin, nothing else is ever going to matter.

88. Your favorite songs are all love songs.

89. You feel a deep thirst within that cannot be quenched by anything else.

90. You want to.
91. You have to.
92. It's time.

93. You know that God is within and you would like to make his/her/its acquaintance.

94. Did I mention that you're not getting any younger?

95. Tick tock tick tock.

96. You're tired of the rat race.

97. You've been looking for love in all the wrong places.

98. You're almost coming to the end of this list.

99. You're almost coming to the end of your life.

100. Rush Limbaugh has nothing to do with it.

More

Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:58 PM | Comments (1)

October 12, 2011
The Power of Positive Feedback

Most high level executives do not expect a lot of recognition from others. Nor do they give a lot of recognition to others.

Many managers are like the guy who, when his wife complains that he doesn't tell her he loves her any more, responds that he told her he loved her when he married her -- and he would have let her know if anything had changed.

Similarly, most managers act as if the act of hiring an employee is recognition enough -- and they would have let them know if anything changed.

This in spite of the fact that every one of these managers wants to be valued and appreciated by their superiors, and is regularly disappointed by the lack of appreciation coming their way.

There is a great fear that only the most extraordinary achievements warrant recognition and that all "just good" or superior performance is merely what should be expected and does not require any special recognition...

The fear is that "excessive" recognition will dilute the praise, cheapen it, and reduce future motivation for outstanding performance.

The data, of course, indicates otherwise.

Mere acknowledgment of good performance increases the probability of more good performance. And specificity of feedback -- telling the person exactly what you liked about what they did and why you liked it -- dramatically increases the likelihood of that performance occurring again.

Giving people clear targets increases the likelihood that those targets will be hit, even if no incremental reward is associated with success. Hitting a valued target is rewarding in itself.

If we can get to a place where we are more generous and specific in our positive feedback, we will notice a dramatic increase in the quality of performance and overall satisfaction with work.

- Barry Gruenberg

Photo
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:53 AM | Comments (1)

September 26, 2011
Even Michelangelo's David Started Out as a Block

michelangelo-1.jpg

Stuck? Confused? Blocked?

Get over it by printing out this posting, filling in the blanks, and then reading your story aloud. Works wonders! Better than therapy! Cheaper than Prozac!

"Boy, am I blocked! I haven't felt this bad since ___________. I've tried __________________ and ____________________, but nothing seems to work. It's almost laughable the way I'm spending all my time ___________________.

I feel so frustrated I could _________________________.

I hate it when _____________________________. It makes me feel like a ________________ without a ____________.

I'm so tired of ___________________________. Just yesterday, I felt so ___________________ I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

light_at_end_of_tunnel_12.jpg

But now... it feels like the tunnel is filled with ___________________ and the light has turned to ___________________.

Uh oh! What if I stay stuck like this forever?

I can see the writing on my tombstone now: '__________________________ _______________________.' What an epitaph! That would really make me feel like a _________________________________________.

I wish there was someone I could blame besides myself!

Hmmm... Maybe ________________ would make a good person to dump on. If he/she was here with me now, I'd _________________________________________.

How did I get into this situation anyhow? I never really intended to _____________________________________________.

All I wanted was ____________________________.

Why does it have to be so unbelievably difficult? If only I could stop feeling so ________________________________.

Hey! Just last week I got tons of great ideas about my project -- ideas like ____________________ and ____________________ and ______________________.

Any one of those brainstorms could easily be the key. And even if they weren't, I could always ________________________________________.

I could even call ________________ and _______________. They're tuned into my project! Maybe they'd have a clue about how to proceed.

Actually, this is all pretty funny.

I seem to love focusing on my problems instead of possible solutions. Talk about creative! I must have ________ ways to avoid taking the next step.

Which reminds me.... I guess the next thing I need to do is ___________________________. And after that I'll _____________________.

the_next_step.jpg

Isn't it fascinating how this stuff works? In a little while, I'll probably look back at this crazy time and realize _____________________
_______________________.

Go beyond confusion

More support for you

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:30 AM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2011
22 Reasons Why We Love Lists

topten.jpg

1. Lists simplify.

2. Lists promise instant knowledge.

3. Lists provide choices.

4. We are all victims of information overload. Lists help us make sense of the world.

5. Lists make it seem as if the list maker knows something that list readers don't.

6. Lists appeal to an ever expanding population of ADD sufferers.

7. Lists appeal to the left brain need for order and linearity.

8. Lists are made of soundbytes. Soundbytes 'R Us.

9. Lists are familiar. We grew up making them: laundry lists, grocery lists, and Christmas lists.

10. Lists can be updated, added to, or subtracted from easily.

11. Lists give us an instant opportunity to disagree.

list2.jpg

12. Lists, with their declarative headlines, make list readers feel like they are just about to get a crash course on a topic of great significance.

13. Lists, when forwarded to friends or clients, position the list forwarder as a knowledgeable resource.

14. Lists include items that are numbered -- and most readers assume that an item that's numbered must be more true than an item that's merely bulleted.

15. Lists can be printed quickly, folded up, and put into one's pocket -- as opposed to New Yorker articles, the collected works of Henry Miller, or Sunday's New York Times.

16. Items on lists can be easily crossed off, giving the list maker an instant feeling of accomplishment

17. Lists are great ways for list makers, especially in the hyperlinked blogosphere, to plug their own books, products, and services.

18. Lists are easily scanned.

19. Numbered lists provide a sense of progression (either forward or backward).

20. Lists build suspense and excitement.

21. Lists provide bite sized facts and insights.

22. Lists make it easy to refer back to individual points or facts during a conversation ("Let's review point 10 again, it's relevant to what we're talking about right now.... ")

Thanks to Mark Dykeman for #18-22.
Can you think of any others?

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2011
THANK Tanks, Not THINK Tanks

I'd like your feedback on a new idea of mine which I have playfully named THANK TANKS (with the help of one of my FB friends).

The idea, still rough, is for organizations to provide their employees with a practical way to express their appreciation (of each other and the business) -- instead of always harping on what's wrong.

In the same way that Quality Circles were a big hit in the 80's, THANK TANKS (i.e. "Appreciation Circles"), might be exactly what the doctor ordered for these difficult times.

The idea is related to the practice of Appreciative Inquiry, but is not focused on improving organizational processes. Rather, it focuses on the all-too-rare moment of people appreciating each other.

I realize that some business leaders will consider this a trivial pursuit. So be it.

I'm betting there are many forward thinking leaders who will be open to the idea -- especially if the execution of it is simple, engaging, low cost, and raises morale.

At the very least, consider devoting 10 minutes, in some of your meetings, for people to acknowledge each other for all the good stuff that is going on.

Your thoughts? Ideas? Feedback? How do you see this working in your company?

Keynote
Idea Champions

Image

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2011
Innovators Don't Only Dream, They Remember Their Dreams

dare-to-dream.jpg

Many great breakthroughs have come in dreams.

Rene Descartes got the concept for the Scientific Method in a dream. Elias Howe came up with the final design for the lock stitch sewing machine in a dream. August Kekule arrived at the formulation of the Benzene molecule in a dream.

In the dream state, the subconscious mind arrives at solutions that the conscious mind is unlikely to discover during the daily grind -- no matter much it obsesses, gathers data, or blames the "organization."

That's why Thomas Edison and Salvadore Dali used to take naps during the day. They knew they got their best ideas in dreams, so they decided to wake up more than once a day. Yes!

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

1. Before going to bed tonight, bring to mind a compelling question, challenge, or opportunity that you've been wrestling with.

2. As you fall asleep, stay focused on it.

3. When you awake, write your dream down, even if it makes no sense.

picasso-the_dream-surrelism1.jpg

4. Stay in bed for a few minutes and reflect on each element of your dream. See if you can make any connections to the question you asked before going to sleep. If so... write them down.

PS: I once asked a group of chemical engineers to remember their dreams after the first day of a two-day creative thinking training I was leading.

Before the session started on the second day, one of the engineers -- with a huge grin on his face -- asked if he could address the full group and proceeded to explain that, the night before, he dreamed the solution to an engineering problem he'd been wrestling with for two years.

With great excitement, he then drew the solution on a flipchart, complete with detailed schematics. His collaborator, also attending the training, just sat there, completely speechless. Then they both started laughing.

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny!'" - Isaac Asimov

Technique excerpted from Awake at the Wheel.

Illustration
Picasso
Idea Champions University

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:18 PM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2011
Create More Time to Innovate If you are one of millions of people who want to innovate IF ONLY YOU HAD THE TIME -- the above slide show is for you. It's a simple exercise to help you identify simple ways you can simplify your work life so you have more time to innovate. (Click the FULL SCREEN option for max impact).


Idea Champions

Awake At The Wheel
Free the Genie

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

August 20, 2011
Exit Through the Gift Shop

It took me a while to finally watch this movie, but now that I have, I am beyond inspired. If you have even the slightest bit of desire to walk the high wire of beautiful insanity in service to whatever it is you are passionate about, this movie is for you. A force of nature. A farce of nature. A testimony to what's possible if you follow the yellow brick road with a camera and a can of spray paint.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:32 PM | Comments (0)

August 19, 2011
INNOVATORS: Be Who You Are!

Dr__Seuss_Quote_by_pianoxlove112.jpg

Idea Champions
Awake at the Wheel
Image

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

August 15, 2011
A Message to Workaholics

meditator-moon.gif


"The foolish man
is always
doing,
yet much
remains
to be done.
The wise man
does nothing,
yet nothing
remains
undone."

- Lao Tzu
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2011
The Bridge Over the River Loan

Well, America's financial crisis has finally hit home for me. Today, as I was withdrawing money from my local ATM, the guy behind me -- shirtless and smiling -- asked me if I would be willing to give him a $5,000 "bridge loan" until September.

He goes on to tell me that he's in the process of selling his house and would definitely pay me back in six weeks. Maybe sooner.

Fasten your seat belts, folks! This is going to be an interesting ride.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

July 19, 2011
Musing on Virtual Collaboration

There's an infinite amount of extraordinary experiences you can manifest when you have an inspired vision, the right technology, and committed people willing to go for it. Turn up the volume!

How can you collaborate virtually to create big time results?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2011
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

We now interrupt this blog about innovation and creative thinking to bring you a beautiful song by a relatively unknown singer, Daya Rawat. Hey, it's the July 4th weekend! No working! No heavy thinking. No planning! It's time to celebrate your independence!

More

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2011
Dan Pink on Motivation 3.0

IMG_5180-213x300.jpg

Here's a refreshing six-minute interview with Dan Pink (author of Drive and A Whole New Mind) on what it takes for organizations to go from Motivation 2.0 to Motivation 3.0

In other words, how to move towards a workplace environment that creates more soulful employee engagement.

If you're interested in exploring ways of providing employees more time to innovate on the job -- much like Google, 3M, W.L. Gore, and Atlassian have done, this is for you.

Photo
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2011
You Want Results? Immerse!

449597769_6175fe5a9d_m.jpg

Recently, I polled 140 people to find out what they need "more of" in order to succeed with their various creative projects. The sixth highest rated item was IMMERSION.

And then, this morning, noted in Drive, the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, I discovered a great example of how true this is:

Once a quarter, software developers at the Australian company, Atlassian -- for 24 hours -- are allowed to work on whatever they want, in any way they want, with whomever they want. All the company asks is that people show what they've created to the rest of the company at the end of those 24 hours. They call these experiences "FedEx Days," because people have to deliver something overnight.

It turns out that those one-day bursts of intense, undiluted autonomy have produced more innovation and creativity than just about anything else the company has done.

What can YOU do to create more immersion time for yourself and your team?

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:32 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2011
A Gift for the Parents of Teens

teenagers.jpg

Idea Champions

Teens End Terrorism!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

April 30, 2011
Are You My Kinetic Type or Is That a Motion Graphic in Your Pocket?

iWeb-155.png

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then what's a moving picture worth -- or better yet, the word "moving" that's moving?

I am speaking of the fabulous world of kinetic type -- sometimes called motion graphics -- the animation technique that mixes motion and text to express ideas.

The field is not new. It's roots go back to 1899. But the artfulness of it just keeps getting better and better.

Here's a recent example by Mary Jane Fahey.

If you are looking to launch a new campaign, initiative, or get the attention of your information overloaded workforce, think twice before sending yet another email. Think visual. Think graphic. Think kinetic.

FaheyDesign

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:39 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2011
Chubb Business School Rocks!

Spark ideas into reality.jpg

NOTE: This is the first in a series of posts about Idea Champions clients who are walking the talk and making great strides towards establishing a sustainable culture of innovation.


When Mary Ann Heenehan became Program Manager of the Chubb Business School in 2008, she knew it was her responsibility to keep the already successful program moving forward with vibrant and cutting edge content.

Precisely what that looked like, she didn't yet know.

The goal of the Chubb Business School had always been a simple one -- to support their business units by offering a "mini-MBA type program" that would broaden the perspective, knowledge, and impact of the company's up and coming talent.

Each year, 140 of Chubb's "high potential, high performers" from all over the world, gathered in Scottsdale, Arizona -- in groups of 40-50 -- for precisely that purpose.

Lighbulb in business man hands.jpg

Before Heenehan was on board, the program had focused on business acumen and included traditional modules on ethics, change management, and scenario planning.

The program was very popular and recognized as a hallmark learning event at Chubb. The challenge going forward? To maintain its vibrancy and help participants adapt to a radically changing marketplace.

And so Heenehan decided to focus the program on business acumen and innovation. She wanted CBS participants -- no matter what their function -- to think more creatively.

But even more than that, she wanted participants to be more skillful, proactive, and committed to turning their top of the line ideas into bottom line realities.

Action, not just theory.

Astute veteran of the corporate world as she was, Heenehan knew the program was going to need senior leadership support if it was ever going to get off the ground.

She wanted Chubb's senior leaders to support and participate in the program because they wanted to become an integral part of Chubb's still-to-be-determined future.

Enter Jon Bidwell, Chubb's Senior VP and Chief Innovation Officer.

If anything was music to Jon's ears, it was the fact that the Chubb Business School was going to focus on innovation. Jon, quite simply, was on a personal crusade to "increase the value and velocity of innovation" within the firm.

Computer Man on Mountain.jpg

He recognized a golden opportunity, collaborating with Heenehan, "to better connect all the competencies, levels, and geographies of the company -- and to push ideas closer to market needs instead of only being driven from top-down."

"We needed people to connect with each other earlier in the innovation process," explained Bidwell. "Innovation, at Chubb, had to become more than event-driven. It had to become the way we do business on a daily basis."

Bidwell and Heenehan both agreed that the gap between theory and practice had to be crossed -- not by words alone, but by real-time experience. Hands on was the name of game.

And so it began.

Inspired by the emerging synergies, Heenehan proceeded to re-design a seamless 5-day program, in collaboration with three outside vendors and Chubb's senior leaders, each of whom had a vital piece of the puzzle.

Teamwork 4 puzzle pieces in hand.jpg

Day 1 would continue to feature Franklin Covey delivering a business acumen session -- sharing timeless principles on what it takes to run a successful business.

Day 2 would be devoted to innovation and feature Idea Champions delivering a highly interactive session that would challenge people to think outside the box, ideate, and learn creative thinking skills that could be applied back on the job to foster a culture of innovation.

Days 3-5 would continue to focus on the development and implementation of those ideas, via an engaging business simulation facilitated by PriSim, a vendor who had been a long-time learning partner in the CBS program along with Franklin Covey.

Throughout the week, Chubb's senior leaders would present their thoughts and perspectives on topics such as professional development, marketplace conditions, international operations, and business case development.

Heenehan worked hard to integrate all of these elements, making sure all three vendors were familiar with each other's work and able to reference each other to build towards a greater whole.

At the end of each session, unlike most corporate training programs, the impact of Chubb's Business School did not end when the week was over. No way. Things were just beginning to heat up.

Graduates of the program were invited to participate in the "CBS Challenge" which operated within Chubb's innovation platform, Motivate, Drive and Deliver.

Lightbulb over head.jpg

Innovation efforts moved through idea generation, facilitation and review, and a series of pitches to surface the best ideas focused on profitability and growth.

Ideas selected by each of the idea teams then moved toward business case development and potential presentation to Chubb's Venture Fund Team. (CBS participants soon found themselves presenting a business case in Chubb's Board Room.)

Rebekah Martin, a graduate of the September, 2009 training, is quite familiar with the process.

Rebekah, a Senior CPI Underwriter from Chicago "didn't have any earth-shattering ideas" during her week of training, but five days later, upon reviewing ideas newly posted on the idea intranet, noticed one particular idea that was very relevant to her job.

Relevant and exciting.

She saw a new possibility -- and now that there was an online idea development process in place, had a way to help midwife that possibility.

Before she knew it, Rebekah had become part of a three-person virtual team to further develop the idea and, soon thereafter, prepare to present that idea to senior management, real-time.

"We had the right three people on the team," explained Rebekah, "so it didn't take that much attention away from my day job at all."

In March 2010, Rebekah found herself at Chubb headquarters, co-presenting the idea with one of her cohorts to some of the company's top officers.

Thumb up through wall.jpg

"I was fairly new to the company at the time," Martin chuckled, "so I didn't know who all those people were -- or I might have been really nervous."

The presentation was fast-paced, open and relaxed. Response from senior leaders was quite positive. And Rebekah and her team quickly realized how much easier it was than they had assumed to be a vital part of Chubb's innovation process.

Today, their idea (a way to take better advantage of face-to-face interactions with specific customers) is funded and moving through Chubb's innovation pipeline, along with several other winning ideas that emerged from the Chubb Business School.

Currently, six ideas have been funded through the Venture Fund Team, one idea was funded through a regional program, and five ideas have been pitched directly to the strategic business unit for further development.

Countless other ideas that were not selected for further development within the CBS Challenge are "out there" seeking support through branch or regional channels.

"Graduates of Chubb Business School," explains Bidwell, "come out of the program with a deeper understanding of the mechanics of innovation and how to stage the development of a new idea. Some Chubb employees may think you go from an idea right to a 40-page business case document, but that's not how it works. All new ideas are works in progress. They need to be given a fair hearing, aired out, responded to, developed, and presented in a setting conducive to meaningful feedback."

Adds Martin, "I learned a lot about Chubb from this experience. I learned that I really do have a say in what gets developed and out into the market. I find it refreshing that Chubb is actually interested in my ideas and what I think. My ideas don't have to be world-changing to make a difference. Even the simple ones can make a difference."

The CBS program founder beams.

"I'm really proud of what we've created," explains Heenehan. "People are very intrigued with it. We've taken a good, proven program and taken it up several notches."

Question mark in sky.JPG

What's next?

"Well," says Heenehan, "we're always trying to innovate within the innovation program. Originally, we had the three groups of CBS participants competing against each other. We thought it was a good idea at first, but later found it to be unnecessary. We're all on the same team, after all."

"For the 2011 program we made some changes -- eliminating the competitive aspect and allowed teams to function without the competitive aspect. This year, we're going to be more targeted with our assignments, more collaborative during the actual CBS event, and continue raising the bar for innovation at Chubb in new and exciting ways."

About Chubb

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:55 PM | Comments (3)

April 21, 2011
The Scoop on Google's 20% Time

fsm-google-doodle.png

Here's a nice post from Scott Berkun that demystifies some of the hype and hoopla about Google's "20% time" -- the much talked about practice of the high tech giant that gives their employees permission to spend 20% of their work time on projects born of their own fascination.

Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:40 AM | Comments (0)

April 14, 2011
Beer and the Invention of the Wheel

You may not know it, but I wrote an award-winning book in 2008, Awake at the Wheel. It's a business fable about the creative process. Easy to read. Fun. A real support for aspiring innovators.

I'm guessing the caveman in the Bud Lite ad below would have found a better way of getting their beer to the party if they had read it.

But enough about me. Let's talk about YOU.

Do you have a creative venture that needs an infusion of mojo, inspiration, and clarity?

Yes? Good. Click. Buy.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

Who Says Seniors Aren't Innovative?

image001.jpeg

PS: Stay tuned. Later today, we'll be posting an inspiring article on Creativity Late in Life -- great examples of how elders have done some of their most creative work during their "golden years."

Who We Are

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:37 PM | Comments (0)

April 05, 2011
The Trouble With Experts

Arrogance.gif

When somebody asks if you can do something, pause for a moment before saying "NO." Your first thought may be "that's impossible," but upon reflection you can probably figure out how to pull it off.

Indeed, there is a very good chance that what you are being asked to do is not what is really needed, anyway.

Think about it. We usually evaluate what we can contribute to a situation by imagining that there is someone else who really has the required expertise -- and then we interpret our feelings of uncertainty as proof that we are inadequate compared to this all-knowing other (who, by the way, is going through the exact same drill with someone else.)

Sound familiar?

In reality, our uncertainty (and the humility that, hopefully, accompanies it), are the essential elements of what we really bring to the table -- a curiosity about "the situation" -- and an open mindset that helps us listen to multiple points of view without being ruled by preconceived ideas and solutions.

Being curious enough to arrive at a deep understanding of what the problem really consists of is a much more valuable contribution than a knee-jerk offering of a so-called "solution."

detective.jpg

The two main problems with high levels of expertise?

1. When all you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

2. If you need to be seen as an expert, you'll have very little opportunity to learn anything.

-- Barry Gruenberg

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:53 AM | Comments (1)

March 02, 2011
Got the Process Improvement Blues?

y1p3GVTdYExQGQmDYMNMQggTgS6amwNlincAw4DE7dEJyVbdHLV9FRtwKkqV3FhSWkxAXShlCY0UhY.jpg

More
Cartoon

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:14 PM | Comments (0)

March 01, 2011
SNEAK PREVIEW: The President's Speech

Apparently, a sequel to The King's Speech is already underway. According to my sources, it should be in theaters by June. Here's the trailer.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:31 AM | Comments (0)

February 28, 2011
The 1-Step Program for Ideaholics

I'm sure you've heard about the 12-step program. If you haven't done it yourself, you probably know someone who has.

But have you heard about the 1-step program? Probably not. It's not for alcoholics. It's for ideaholics -- that is, inspired people who got tons of great ideas, but rarely seem to manifest them. Know anyone like that?

Here's how the 1-step program works: you take your next step. That's it. Plain and simple. You don't think about it. You don't obsess about it. You don't go to any meetings trying to figure out why you're not taking your next step. You just take it.

Because you know what you're next step is. You do.

If you think what I'm saying is mere blogspeak, consider this: If someone was holding a gun to your head right now and told you to take your next step with your most inspired idea or else... you'd take it. You would. You know what to do. You just don't have a sense of genuine urgency. You're not living as if your idea matters. Guess what? It does.

More
Photo

Thanks to Scott Cronin for his sage input on this piece... and the change from "Innoholic" to "Ideaholic." Works better that way.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2011
Listen to Your Subconscious Mind

subconscious.jpg

If you study the lives of people who have had Eureka moments, you'll discover that their breakthroughs almost always came after extended periods of intense, conscious effort.

They worked. They struggled. They abandoned all hope. They recommitted -- and then the breakthrough came. And often at the most unexpected of moments.

They weren't buying lottery tickets at their local deli, hoping to win a breakthrough fortune. They were digging for treasure in their own back yard.

Rene Descartes (Mr. "I-Think-Therefore-I-Am") got the Scientific Method revealed to him in a dream. Elias Howe arrived at the final design for the lock stitch sewing machine in a dream. Richard Wagner got the idea his uber work, Das Rhinegold, while stepping onto a bus after long months of creative despair.

In other words, the conscious mind works overtime in an attempt to solve a problem or achieve a goal. Unable to come up with the solution, the challenge gets outsourced to the subconscious mind, which then proceeds to figure things out in its own, sweet time.

Of course, all of this assumes we are listening to that still small voice of wisdom within us.

Well then, what's a not-so-still, left-brained, bottom-line-watching business person to do if he wants to increase the odds of tapping into his inner Einstein.

Here's a start:

This week, keep a log of your most inspired ideas, intuitions, and dreams. When something pops for you (an inspired thought, an inkling, a sudden insight) write it down -- even if it doesn't make sense. Then, at the end of the week, read your log.

Look for clues. Notice patterns. Make new connections. See what insights come to mind -- and if they do, let us know.

More on the subconscious mind

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:48 PM | Comments (3)

January 04, 2011
Do You Really Need More?

fisherman.jpg

An investment banker was standing at the pier of a small coastal village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat were several large yellow fin tuna. The banker complimented the fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The fisherman replied, "Only a little while."

The banker then asked, "Why didn't you stay out longer and catch more fish?"

The fisherman said, "Why bother? I now have more than enough to support my family's needs."

The banker then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening and spend time with my family, I have a full and busy life."

entourage-tv-22.jpg

The banker scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing; and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat! With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats. Eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the product, processing and distribution. You would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to the capital city. After that, who knows, maybe you could take on the world!"

The fisherman asked, "How long will all of this take?"

To which the banker replied, "I'd say about 15 to 20 years."

"But what then?" asked the fisherman.

The Banker laughed, "That's the best part! When the time is right, you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich, you would make millions."

"Millions?...Then what?" the fisherman replied.

"Then you would retire and do whatever you want," said the banker. "What would you want to do?"

The fisherman answered: "I would sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening and spend time with my family."

Idea Champions
My book
Free the Genie

Thanks to Neil Evans for submitting this wonderful story.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

December 31, 2010
The King's Speech

I don't usually review movies on this blog, but in this case I will make an exception. The King's Speech is an extraordinary movie. Inspiring. Lucid. Compelling. And extremely well acted. If you are looking for your "voice" in 2011, this movie is for you.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:22 PM | Comments (1)

December 30, 2010
The BEST OF The Heart of Innovation Blog for 2010

best-of-the-best.jpg

Here are the 25 most popular postings on Idea Champions' blog for 2010. As you'll notice, lists are popular. People love lists.

10.0 Thought Leaders Now Being Replaced By Feeling Leaders

10.0 The Four Currents of a Culture of Innovation

10.0 23 Reasons Why Nothing Happens After a Brainstorming Session


10.0 Rethinking Failure

10.0 50 Ways to Foster a Culture of Innovation

10.0 100 Simple Ways to Be More Creative on the Job

10.0 56 Reasons Why Most Corporate Innovation Efforts Fail

10.0 10 Ways to Help Left Brainers Tap Into the Best of Their Creativity

9.7 10 Reasons Why Your CE0 Sabotages Innovation

9.5 41 Ways Business Leaders Can Foster a Culture of Innovation

9.2 The Beauty of What's In Front of You

9.0 innovation from the inside out With Fascination

8.7 25 Awesome Quotes on Creativity

happy_kid-1.jpg

8.6 50 Awesome Quotes on Risk Taking

8.2 20 Qualities of an Innovator

8.1 The Paradox of Innovation

8.0 Metaphors: A Bridge Over Deep Waters

8.0 The Top 100 Lamest Excuses for Not Innovating

7.9 Create Something Before People Know They Need It

7.8 20 Reasons Why Creative People Work in Cafes

7.8 100 Awesome Quotes on What It Really Takes to Innovate

painting-wizard-j-w-baker.jpg

7.7 14 Ways to Get a Breakthrough Idea

7.7 John Cleese on Creativity

7.6 The Value of Confusion

7.6 The Good Thing About Bad Ideas

Idea Champions
Our Clients
Our Team
Talking the Talk

Illustration


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:34 PM | Comments (0)

NEW FOR 2011: Virtual Coaching for Innovators and Creative Thinkers

dranimation.gif

I've been noticing recently that there are a lot of aspiring innovators, entrepreneurs, intrapraneurs, and closet geniuses "out there" who are working in isolation.

They've got great ideas and the enthusiasm to turn their great ideas into something real, but they have precious little collaboration going on. Bottom line, they're too often working on their own.

Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it's definitely not sufficient.

Human beings -- especially creative human beings -- need community. They need feedback -- not to mention an occasional goose, prod, reality check, and chance to air things out.

Which is precisely why Idea Champions has created a dynamic, new service for 2011 -- Virtual Innovation Coaching.

SparkImage3_001.jpg

Simply put, it's a live, online coaching service -- weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, or quarterly -- that will help you:

1. Open your mind to new possibilities
2. Simplify your path forward
3. Solve tough problems in new ways
4. Unleash your hidden genius
5. Discover elegant solutions
6. Make sure you're working on the right problem
7. Generate breakthrough ideas
8. Cut through confusion, doubt, and worry

All you need is a phone, computer, internet connection, and the willingness to make some magic in 2011.

Intrigued? Contact me today (mitch@ideachampions.com) and I will fill you in on the specifics.

Immediate support for you
Idea Champions
My bio
Idea Champions clients
My kick asss
Free the Genie

Photo
Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

December 24, 2010
Whaddya Gonna Call It?

ChangeName.gif


There is something
you've created
(a business? a book?
a product? a service?)
that is great,
but has the wrong name.
I mean, the name is OK.
It sorta works,
but it lacks,
shall we say,
mojo?
Indeed, there are
many people who are
likely customers of yours
who are not attracted
to whatever you created
because it has the
WRONG NAME.
So change it.
Come up with something new, cooler, buzzier,
more attractive.

Free the Genie

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:40 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2010
Get the Creative Juices Flowing!

ftg-deck-photo-large2.jpg

Looking for a simple way to get the creative juices flowing? Take a tip from Mark Minnichelli, of BASF -- a contented user of our Free the Genie cards.

"We've been using Free the Genie within our business for 3-4 years now. We start most of our meetings by reviewing the ground rules for the meeting, and the last ground rule usually involves someone pulling a Free the Genie card at random, reading the card aloud, and then interpreting the card to make it relevant to our business and the issue at hand.

Free the Genie is a great tool for constantly challenging us to practice the techniques that make us more successful innovators! I carry a deck with me in my briefcase where ever I go, and use the cards regularly."

The online version
The offline version
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:25 AM | Comments (0)

Singapore Airlines Rocks!

2845853643-singapore-airlines-sq1-cabin-crew.jpg

I just flew 19 hours from Newark to Singapore on Singapore Airlines. In a nutshell, here's the difference between Singapore Airlines and all the other airlines.

When it's time to turn off your computer, just before landing, the flight attendant actually comes from a place of kindness and love rather than the gestapo-like monitoring of "bad passenger behavior" that most other airlines seem to be dominated by.

My flight attendant (who was as attentive in the 18th hour of the flight as she was in the first), ASKED me to turn my computer off instead of TELLING me. Huge difference.

Beautiful-Singapore-Airlines-AirHostess-4.jpg

After she continued down the aisle, moving like a cool breeze at 36,000 feet, I WANTED to turn my computer off instead of feeling as if my junior high school penmanship teacher had just berated me for something I didn't do.

Singapore Airlines gets it, big time. And it all starts with their flight attendants.

For starters, they like their job. That is totally clear. They treat you like a human being, not a possible disturbance in row 26. And their "customer interactions" don't smell of "training," but of genuine human decency, consciousness, and care.

Here's the bottom line, strange as it may seem. When my flight finally landed, I didn't want to get off the plane. I just wanted to keep flying around -- watching movies, washing with hot towels, and wondering how the Singapore Airlines flight attendants stay so gracefully benevolent for 19 hours in a row.

Idea Champions
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:22 AM | Comments (2)

December 10, 2010
Time for Your Elevator Speech!

SeizeMoment.gif


OK.
Let's cut to the chase.
Time is passing, eh?
You've got a BIG IDEA,
but it ain't worth squat
if it's only in your head.
You've to get it
out into the world.
Nor more procrastinating!
You need capital.
You need a sponsor.
You need someone
to invest in you.
Stop waiting for the
tooth fairy,
Kick it in high gear.
Get your rap together.
Not the blues -- gospel!


Free the Genie
The actual card deck
My elevator speech

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:49 PM | Comments (0)

Speed Is Good (but only sometimes)

Is it just me or does it seem as if things are speeding up? I keep noticing that my clients are moving faster and faster -- from one meeting to the next, one project to the next, one day to the next. I think it's time to slow down a bit... but not before watching this video.

Idea Champions
My kick asss (some fast, some slow)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2010
What You Can Learn from the Bloody Mary

bloodymary2jpg_2.jpg

In 1939, a Russian immigrant owned the rights to distribute vodka in the U.S. His efforts bombed, big time. Americans weren't interested in a colorless, odorless alcohol.

Depressed, he sold the rights to Heublein, who asked themselves: "What can we combine with Vodka to give it a distinctive taste and color?"

They came up with tomato juice and, voila, the Bloody Mary was born. Sales? Through the roof.

What most of us think of as an "innovation" is really just the elegant combination of two (or more) pre-existing elements resulting in the creation of a new, value-added product or service.

Want to try it for yourself? Click here for a cool, interactive technique.

Idea Champions
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:39 PM | Comments (0)

November 08, 2010
Build a Business Case!

BuildBusinessCase.gif


Attention, right brainers!
You obviously
have a great idea.
I know you
are pumped, excited,
fascinated, juiced,
and convinced
your idea
is the next Facebook
or yoyo or whatever.
But it's not enough
for YOU to be convinced.
If you want your idea
to manifest,
you'll need to
convince others,
and that will require
some left brain
business case building.
You can do this!
Start today!

Free the Genie

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

October 28, 2010
Live Your Mission

LiveMission.gif


Innovation
is really a
lot simpler
than you think.
If you can tune in
to your mission --
or what some people
would call
"your life's work",
innovation
is like breathing.
It becomes
a natural expression
of your innate
desire to serve.
Here's the deal:
You're not here
to make money.
You're here
to make a difference.

Free the Genie

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2010
Follow Your Feeling

FollowFeeling.gif


Here's the deal:
You know what to do.
You really do.
There is
something within you
that is
totally tuned in.
You don't need
another focus group.
You don't need
more data.
You don't need
another meeting.
All you need
is to follow
your own instincts.
It's time to
trust yourself.
You can do this!
Ready?

Free the Genie

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:14 AM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2010
Create an Innovation Portfolio

One of the biggest obstacles to innovation in most organizations is the addiction to short-term results.

Hustling, speed, and fire fighting rule the day -- resulting in the kind of over-caffeinated efforts that make everyone cranky.

Focusing on your next quarter, of course, is a necessary part of business. But not to the exclusion of the long-term.

Someone's got to focus on projects that won't see the light of day for tree years... or five .... or ten.

If you are serious about innovation, you will need to develop an Innovation Portfolio, one that includes short-term, mid-term, and long-term goals.

Innovation doesn't happen quickly. It takes time.

If you plant an apple seed today, you're not going to get an apple harvest tomorrow... or next week... or next year. Pulling on the seedling or yelling at the tree to deliver apples faster isn't going to work.

Here's an exercise to create your Innovation Portfolio:

1. Define "short-term," "mid-term," and "long-term."
2. Make three columns, headed by each of the phrases above
3. Jot down projects that fit into these three "time horizons."
4. Present this list to your team and get their feedback.
5. Tweak the list as needed.

And now for a related joke...

So there are these three yogis meditating in a cave. They've been there ten years -- in silence the entire time.

One day, in the tenth year of their retreat, an albino mountain lion makes his way to the mouth of the cave and lets out an earth-shattering roar.

Five years pass.

The first yogi says "WOW!"

Another five years pass.

The second yogi, says, "Yeah, I know what you mean."

Five more years pass.

"HEY! If you guys don't shut up," says the third yogi, "I'm moving to another cave."

Illustration

Illustration

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:37 AM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2010
The Antidote to Workaholism

"The foolish man
is always doing,
yet much remains
to be done.

The wise man
does nothing,
yet nothing remains
undone."

- Lao Tzu


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:43 AM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2010
Unity Takes Two

original.jpg Mitch Ditkoff and I have an interesting mercurial chemistry when we get together.

Certain things get completed when we riff and improvise. He and I, and the rest of the Idea Champions crew, have all been talking about what creates a culture of innovation for a few years now. Often, all it takes is two people who have what I call "creative resonance."

Show me any two people who can agree and disagree with equal enthusiasm and respect and I'll show you a duo who can brainstorm persistently at high heat.

A great new series on Creative Pairs at Slate talks eloquently about the dynamic balance and high energy the right two people can create when they "complete" each other.

As a successful professional songwriter, I grew up loving the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and older teams like Rogers and Hammerstein, the Gershwin brothers, and Lerner and Lowe. It makes perfect sense to a songwriter that creative pairs would launch some of the most successful companies of the last 35 years.

The creative boom in digital technology started in the early 70's with Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and continued a generation later when Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google.

Great duos exist in every vocational and artistic field: Watson and Crick, Gilbert and Sullivan, Engels and Marx.

Two centuries ago, breakthrough composers often arrived in pairs, pacing each other even when they weren't working as teams: piano innovators Chopin and Schumann (both born 1810), opera titans Wagner and Verdi (both born 1813).

Creative pair chemistry ignites when two people spontaneously strike a agreement to both compete and collaborate with each other simultaneously. That tension between collaboration and competition is more easily achieved and managed in pair relationships than any other kind of team configuration.

Joshua Wolf Shenk's Creative Pairs series is now in its third installment at Slate. Part 1 of Inside the Lennon/McCartney Connection starts here and continues on to Part 2.

If you really want to see how simple the crucible of creativity can be, be sure to keep following Shenk's series. You'll think differently about that colleague you argue with all the time.

One little tweak, a mutual change in attitude and mindset, and something magical could happen.

-- Tim Moore

Posted by Tim Moore at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

Unity Takes Two

original.jpg Mitch Ditkoff and I have an interesting mercurial chemistry when we get together.

Certain things get completed when we riff and improvise. He and I, and the rest of the Idea Champions crew, have all been talking about what creates a culture of innovation for a few years now. Often, all it takes is two people who have what I call "creative resonance."

Show me any two people who can agree and disagree with equal enthusiasm and respect and I'll show you a duo who can brainstorm persistently at high heat.

A great new series on Creative Pairs at Slate talks eloquently about the dynamic balance and high energy the right two people can create when they "complete" each other.

As a successful professional songwriter, I grew up loving the songs of John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, and older teams like Rogers and Hammerstein, the Gershwin brothers, and Lerner and Lowe. It makes perfect sense to a songwriter that creative pairs would launch some of the most successful companies of the last 35 years.

The creative boom in digital technology started in the early 70's with Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and continued a generation later when Larry Page and Sergey Brin created Google.

Great duos exist in every vocational and artistic field: Watson and Crick, Gilbert and Sullivan, Engels and Marx.

Two centuries ago, breakthrough composers often arrived in pairs, pacing each other even when they weren't working as teams: piano innovators Chopin and Schumann (both born 1810), opera titans Wagner and Verdi (both born 1813).

Creative pair chemistry ignites when two people spontaneously strike a agreement to both compete and collaborate with each other simultaneously. That tension between collaboration and competition is more easily achieved and managed in pair relationships than any other kind of team configuration.

Joshua Wolf Shenk's Creative Pairs series is now in its third installment at Slate. Part 1 of Inside the Lennon/McCartney Connection starts here and continues on to Part 2.

If you really want to see how simple the crucible of creativity can be, be sure to keep following Shenk's series. You'll think differently about that colleague you argue with all the time.

One little tweak, a mutual change in attitude and mindset, and something magical could happen.

-- Tim Moore

Posted by Tim Moore at 11:08 PM | Comments (0)

August 31, 2010
The Power of Intrinsic Motivation

Fabulous presentation by Dan Pink on the power of intrinsic motivation and the utter goofiness of "carrot and stick" methodologies to improve business performance. 18 minutes. Worth every second.

/>

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:11 AM | Comments (1)

July 23, 2010
Give Your Workforce More Time to Innovate!

During the past few years I've noticed a curious paradox heading its ugly rear among business leaders tooting the horn for innovation.

On one hand they want the rank and file to step up to the plate and own the effort to innovate.

On the other hand, they are unwilling to grant the people they are exhorting any more TIME to innovate.

Somehow, magically, they expect aspiring innovators to not only generate game-changing ideas in their spare time, but do all the research, data collection, business case building, piloting, project management, idea development, testing, report generation, and troubleshooting in between their other assignments.

Tooth fairy alert!

This is not the way it happens, folks!

Not only is this approach unreasonable, it's unfair, unbalanced, and unworkable. You cannot shoehorn game-changing innovation projects into the already overcommitted schedules of your overworked workforce.

If you do, it won't be innovation you'll get, only half-finished projects and a whole lot of cranky people complaining to you in between meetings.

Aspiring innovators don't need pep talks. They need TIME. Time to think. And time to dream. Time to collaborate. And time to plan. Time to pilot. And time to test. Time to tinker. And time to tinker again.

(Yes, I know there are always a select few fire-in-the-belly mavericks who will innovate under any circumstance, but I am NOT talking about these people. I'm talking about the other 95% who would greatly benefit from more time to explore, noodle, and immerse.)

That's why Google and 3M give its workforce 20% of their time to work on projects not immediately connected to its core business. That's why W.L. Gore gives its workforce a half day a week to follow their fascinations. That's why Corel instituted it's virtual garage program.

"Dig where the oil is," Edward deBono once said.

Indeed! And where is the oil? Right beneath the feet of each and every employee who is fascinated by the work they do, aligned with their company's mission, and given enough time to make magic happen.

Need proof? 50% of Google's newly launched features were birthed during this so-called "free time" -- midwived by engineers, programmers, and other assorted wizards happily following their muse.

The fear? If you give people "freedom" they'll end up playing video games and taking 3-hour lunches. Alas, when fear takes over, folks, (the same fear Peter Drucker asked us all many years ago to remove from the workplace), vision is supplanted by supervision and all his micromanaging cousins.

Time to innovate is not time wasted. It is time invested. Freedom does not necessarily lead to anarchy. It can lead to breakthrough just as easily.

Remember, organizations do not innovate. People do.

And people need time to innovate. Time = freedom. Freedom to choose. Freedom to explore. Freedom to express. And yes, even freedom to fail.

If you've hired the right people, communicated a compelling vision, and established the kind of culture that brings out the best in a human being, you are 80% there.

Now all you need to do is find a way to give your people the time they need to innovate -- or at least MORE time than they have now.

Photo
Idea Champions
Follow me on Twitter

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:05 PM | Comments (1)

July 12, 2010
Thought Leaders Now Being Replaced By Feeling Leaders

BusManPaint.jpg


A few weeks ago I attended the World Innovation Forum in NYCMy big insight? Thought leaders will soon be a thing of the past.

In their place? Feeling leaders -- business savants who have made the journey from head to heart and aren't afraid to let the rest of us know what they've learned along the way.

I'm not talking warm and fuzzy. Nor am I diminishing the thoughtfulness of the presenters at the World Innovation Forum. They were. Thoughtful, that is. Very.

But it wasn't so much their thinking that moved me -- as it was the feeling behind their thinking.

No matter what business you're in, the engine of innovation is really about being moved. That's what movements are made of -- the heartfelt, intrinsically motivated effort to get off of dead center and accomplish something meaningful.

This is the crossroads all of us are standing at these days -- the intersection between this and that. What the newspaper industry is going through. And the music industry. And the television industry -- just to name a few.

My heroes, these days, are the people who don't just stand at the crossroads, but dance -- inspired individuals who find great delight in the paradoxes, get juiced by the challenges, and realize that "innovation" is not a program, initiative, or model, but a way of life.

That's the main reason why I enjoyed the World Innovation Forum so much.

Because that was precisely the mindset of the presenters -- and the people who attended -- no matter what industry, pedigree, or astrological sign.

As I watched the WIF presenters do their conference thang, I got some unexpected insights into the art and science of delivering a memorable presentation to a global audience of innovation-hungry patrons.

So, for all of you conference kick ass wannabees out there, take note. Here's part 1 of your tutorial.

1. Be in tune with your purpose: If you're going to hold an audience's attention for more than 10 minutes, you've got to begin by holding firm to your purpose... your calling... what gets you out of bed in the morning. If it's missing, all you could ever hope to deliver is a speech -- which is NOT what people want to hear.

If your purpose is clear, you're home free and won't need a single note card.

Mark Twain said it best: "If you speak the truth, you don't need to remember a thing."

2. Be passionate: Realize you are on the stage to let it rip. Completely. People are sitting in the audience because they want an experience, not just information. They want to feel something, not just hear something.

So play full out. Pull the rip cord. Jump!

3. Connect with the audience: You may know a lot of stuff. You may have a double Ph.D, but unless you know how to connect with the audience, your knowledge ain't worth squat.

If you were a tree falling in a conference room, no one would hear it.

So tune in! Establish rapport! Connect! And that begins by respecting your audience and realizing you are there to serve, not preach.

4. Tell stories: That's how great teachers have communicated since the beginning of time. Storytelling is the most effective way to disarm the skeptic and deliver meaning in a memorable way.

"The world is not made of atoms," explained poet, Muriel Rukyser. "It's made of stories."

No bull. Parable!

sethgodin.jpg

5. Have a sense of humor: There's a reason why HAHA and AHA are almost spelled the same. Both are about the experience of breakthrough. And both are sparked when the known is replaced by the unknown, when continuity is replaced by discontinuity.

Hey, admit it. At the end of the day, if you can't find the humor in business, you're screwed. So, why wait for the end of the day. Find the humor now.

6. Get visual: It's become a corporate sport to make fun of power point, but power point can be a thrill if done right. A picture really is worth a thousand words.

If you want to spark people's imagination, use images more than words. The root of the word imagination is image.

7. Have confidence: Do you know what the root of the word "confidence" is? It comes from the Latin "con-fide" -- meaning "to have faith." Have faith in what? Yourself.

That's not ego. It's the natural expression of a human being coming from the place of being called.

and.jpg

So, if you're about to walk out on stage and are feeling the impostor syndrome coming on, stop and get in touch with what is calling you.

Let that guy/gal speak.

8. Trim the Fat: When Michelangelo was asked how he made the David, he said it was simple -- that he merely took away "everything that wasn't."

The same holds for you, oh aspiring-kick ass-presenter-at-some-future high-profile-conference (or, at the very least, pep-talk-giver to your kid's Junior High School soccer team).

Keep it simple. Or, as Patti LaBarre, the delightful MC at the World Innovation Forum put it, "Minimize your jargon footprint."

9. Celebrate what works: If you want to raise healthy kids, reinforce their positive behaviors -- don't obsess on the negative. The same holds true for conference kick asss.

If you want to raise a healthy audience, give them examples of what's working out there in the marketplace. Feature the "bright spots," as Chip Heath likes to say. Share victories, best practices, and lessons learned.

chip-heath.jpg

Save the bitching and moaning for your therapist.

10. Walk the Talk: Good presenters are genuinely moved. Being genuinely moved, it's natural for them come out from behind the podium and actually move around the stage -- as in, walking the talk.

Big thanks to Michael Porter, Michael Howe, Jeff Kindler, Chip Heath, Andreas Weigend, Biz Stone, Seth Godin, Brian Shawn Cohen, Wendy Kopp, Ursula Burns, Joel Makower, Jeffrey Hollender and Robert Brunner for their presentations at the World Innovation Forum.

Special thanks to Seth Godin for his bold effort to remind people that "there is no map, not even a fictional map" -- and that all he could do was point the way there. Lucid. (Start walking, people!)

DVDs from past World Innovation Forums, are available here.

To subscribe to HSM's Inspiring Ideas Newsletter, click here.

For articles, interviews, videos and podcasts featuring leading business experts, thought leaders, and the latest management training, do not move to Montana. Click here, instead.

This link? Well, let's consider this the token surprise link in today's Heart of Innovation posting. It's kind of like the prize in the crackerjack box. Come on! Take a risk! Click already.

And last, but not least, a big thank you to Patricia Meier, Santiago Muro, George Levy, Becky Gee, Sebastian Mackinlay, Kelsey Woods, and the entire HSM team for all their hard work, good cheer, and vision to make this year's WIF such a delight.

Photo

Photo

Illustration

Who We Are

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:57 AM | Comments (8)

June 28, 2010
Six Ways to Go Beyond Your Assumptions

brand_irony_colgate.preview.jpg

If you want to innovate, the first thing you'll need to do is check your assumptions -- those arbitrary lines you've delicately drawn in the sand.

The so-called "box" people say they want to get out of? Nothing more than their collective assumptions -- and, Lordy, there have been many throughout history.

Some real whoppers.

Assumptions are your blind spots -- what you don't know you don't know -- what you don't see when you look in the mirror just before crashing into the car about to pass you.

OK. Time is passing, too. What to do so you can undo?

SIX WAYS TO GO BEYOND YOUR LIMITING ASSUMPTIONS

1. Make a list of what you think they are.
2. Ask your friends, co-workers, and clients to add to your list.
3. Read these 30 examples, then note your own.
4. Brainstorm your biggest opportunity through the eyes of someone else.
5. Every time you see a FedEx logo, ask yourself: "What am I assuming about Project X?"
6. Turn your biggest assumption into a "How can I?" question, then brainstorm it with friends.

This is just a starter list. You got more? Let me hear from you.

Or, you can invite me in to your organization in order (or disorder) to shed a little non-refracted light on the topic.

Unless, of course, you're assuming I'm too expensive or any number of the other top hundred reasons why you think it can't happen.

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:56 AM | Comments (0)

June 20, 2010
Breakthrough As an Accident Waiting to Happen

happy-accident-31.jpg

Contrary to popular belief, breakthroughs are less about the act of inventing new things than they are the art of recognizing "happy accidents" -- those unexpected moments when an elegant solution reveals itself for no particular reason.

The discovery of penicillin?

The result of Alexander Fleming noticing the formation of mold on the side of a Petri dish left unattended overnight.

Vulcanized rubber?

Discovered in 1839 when Charles Goodyear accidentally dropped a lump of the polymer substance he was experimenting with onto his wife's cook stove.

The post-it? An accident in the lab. After all, 3M made adhesives -- things that stick -- and the post-it didn't stick all that well.

Breakthroughs aren't always about inventing things. They're often about the intervention required to notice something new and surprising.

For this to happen, you'll need to let go of your expectations and assumptions. Not to mention, ideas, concepts, beliefs, paradigms, and dinner plans.

Bottom line, you'll need to get really curious and allow yourself the luxury of following your curiosity to the ends of the earth.

What pundits typically refer to as "brilliance" is less about IQ or enlightened vision than it is letting your eyes adjust to the available light -- so you can see what's already there.

"I invent nothing," said Rodin. "I rediscover."

What failed experiment of yours or unexpected outcome might be worth taking another look at?

Image
Imsge

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2010
20 Ways to See The Invisible

fedex-truck.jpg

See that FedEx logo on the truck? What do you notice? Letters? Colors? Shapes? Probably. But if that's all you see, you are missing something.

Take another look. Do you see an arrow? A white arrow. No? Look again. Look at the space in between the "E" and the "x". The white space. See it? Cool, huh?

Well then, given our tendency to miss what's right in front of us, is there a way to increase our ability to see the invisible?

Yes, there is. And here, dear readers, are 20 simple ways to begin. Choose one. Experiment. Then see what happens...

20 Ways to See the Invisible

1. Pay attention to your dreams.

2. Honor synchronicity.

3. Immerse. Dive in.

4. Stop projecting your own assumptions onto everything.

5. Trust your instincts more.

6. Let go of attachment to your thoughts.

7. Ask impossible questions.

8. Notice patterns.

9. Sneak up on your project (work in the cracks).

10. Let go of doubt.

11. Work in a different environment.

12. Ask friends to tell you what your blind spots are.

13. Look through the eyes of the person who inspires you the most.

14. Take a break.

15. Slow way down.

16. Share your AHAs.

17. Daydream.

18. Stop trying so hard.

19. Ask children for the answer.

20. Invite unusual suspects to share their point of view.

By the way, every time I see a FedEx truck these days, I stop and ask myself "What am I not seeing?" It only takes 10 seconds, but usually reveals some very useful insights. And even when it doesn't, the act of asking the question opens my eyes a bit wider.

Here's to the revelation of your white arrow!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:06 AM | Comments (1)

May 24, 2010
All Ducks Do Not Walk in a Row

ducks_AT00463.jpg

Breakthrough results are not always the result of a revolutionary Eureka moment. Quite the opposite.

They are often the result of doubt, confusion, ambiguity, and experiments that go awry.

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 answer was a revealing one. "Fail?" he said. "I didn't fail once. I learned 800 times what didn't work."

Edison had the ability to tolerate ambiguity.

Like most breakthrough thinkers, he had the ability to dwell in the grey zone -- the space between knowing and not knowing. He had faith in the creative process and was willing to be disoriented, muddled, baffled, and confused because he knew that stuff was often a pre-condition to discovery.

Confusion was not his enemy.

"Confusion," as Henry Miller put it, "is simply a word we have invented for an order that is not yet understood."

Kapish?

If you are trying to birth a breakthrough idea, product, service, or business, get comfortable with ambiguity.

Even more importantly, get comfortable with the discomfort that accompanies ambiguity. Give up your addiction to having all your ducks in a row.

mainimage.gif

People may think you're a quack, but so what? Ducks don't always march in a row. And those that do, may be closer to wind-up toys that the real thing.

Besides, wasn't the universe itself born from chaos? All those swirling gases! All those nebulae! And all without a Starbucks in sight!

THE BIG QUESTION: What new idea of yours is bubbling on the brink of breakthrough? In what ways can you stay with it -- even if you are impatient for an answer NOW?

More about the creative process
Photo

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

May 18, 2010
Are You a Happy Manager?

481949902_581b0dbdf5_m.jpg

Managers, in most organizations, are expected to be efficient, effective, organized, focused, strategic, forward-thinking, and committed.

They are not expected to be HAPPY.

Happiness, as a "management attribute" is usually way down the list -- something reserved for the weekends, stock splits, or Christmas parties.

But recent research on the subject flips this kind of thinking on it's ear.

In today's highly stressed workplace, the time has never been as ripe for managers to radiate genuine happiness.

More about this here.

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2010
14 Ways to Get Breakthrough Ideas

Is there a way to increase the odds of coming up with breakthrough ideas? Yes, there is. In fact, there are several. Here are 14. (I'm sure you know of others, so lay them on me -- and the next edition of the downloadable pdf below will be "54 Ways to Get Breakthrough Ideas." Or whatever.

Download file

This article was originally published as a Change This Manifesto. If you're not familiar with Change This!, check it out.

They publish very interesting papers in a wide variety of fields. Good people. No BS. Very inspiring. I think the omnipresent Seth Godin started it. (Does Seth ever sleep?)

Image

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:31 PM | Comments (0)

March 31, 2010
The Art of Good Decision Making

A good decision that everyone owns and supports is better than a great decision that is only owned by the boss.

Even when the boss's conviction about a desired direction or solution is warranted, it is often insufficient to ensure a high quality decision.

Why? Because a critical part of a high quality decision is its implementation. Commitment to high quality implementation often requires discretionary effort -- the kind of effort that is the outgrowth of real belief and sustained ownership of the desired direction.

This belief and ownership of a given outcome is generally an outgrowth of the quality of the decision-making process, especially the degree to which all participants have had the opportunity to contribute to the outcome.

Good decision making is often a case of pay me now or pay me later.

If sufficient time is not devoted to including all key implementers in the decision-making process, time will be saved on the front-end (i.e. the time required for processing everyone's contributions) -- but lost on the back-end (i.e. the time required to deal with lackluster implementation efforts.)

If the person in authority wants to exert true leadership, what's required is creating context for effective dialogue in which all ideas are heard and appreciated... and a solution is reached... and a decision made that builds on a distillation of the best of all available perspectives.

When authority is used to create and maintain a high quality decision making process, the result is usually a high quality solution and a high level of commitment to the outcome.

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:28 AM | Comments (1)

March 21, 2010
Create Something Before People Know They Need It!

GuyKawasaki.jpg

Here's a juicy definition of innovation from the almost omnipresent Guy Kawasaki. (Excerpted from a recent interview by Diann Daniel of CIO.com)

"Innovation is creating something before people know they need it. The process involves building upon the work of others -- i.e. "copying," grinding it out, and deleting what doesn't work to jump to the next curve. Innovation isn't a lightning bolt of inspiration in the middle of a muse. More often than not, it's a process of grinding, cogitating, and doubting. There truly is no shortcut to innovation. Over the course of a career, you come up with dozens, if not hundreds of ideas, and reject most, try some, and you are lucky if a handful succeed."

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:23 AM | Comments (3)

March 15, 2010
Real Innovation in Health Care

dparker1.jpg

If your organization is interested in raising the bar for innovation and maximizing the creativity of its workforce, you might be interested in the following comment we just received from AtlantiCare's President of Health Care Services, Don Parker...

"AtlantiCare was searching for guides who could help us infuse our organization with creative genius. What we found in Idea Champions was the 'Lewis and Clark' of innovation. Over the past two years of our work with them, we have blazed trails in a number of new areas, including:

1. The seating of a system-wide Innovation Council charged with the responsibility of stimulating and guiding the application of innovation principles throughout our organization.

2. The selection and training of Creativity Champions deployed throughout our organization to assist in new process design, redesign, and remediation of performance problems.

3. The creation of a new, innovative program for random and focused idea submission. (All ideas are responded to, referred to the appropriate process owners, and rewarded when and implemented).

4. Management training and deployment strategies on innovation for more than 350 middle managers.

5. Innovation processes, practices, and knowledge embedded throughout our 5,200 employee workforce.

"No organization, especially those in Health Care, can expect to thrive -- let along survive -- without drawing on all of the collective talent and ideas of their workforce. Idea Champions helps us discover and apply those talents and ideas in a highly productive and practical system. With their guidance, we expect to continue to blaze new trails as we meet the challenges of Health Care Reform."

NOTE: AtlantiCare is one of America's five recipients of the 2009 Baldrige Award. They were recently acknowledged for this accomplishment by President Obama.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

March 04, 2010
The Third Eye of the Brainstorm

Nowhere in the human psyche is the conflict between the need for independence and the need for support more pronounced than in the creative act, especially the very specific act of generating new ideas in a group -- an activity that has come to be known as brainstorming.

Historically, most people have believed that ideas come to them like bolts from the blue, flashes of inspiration that descend from the
beyond -- a dimension free of the laws of Earth.

Even the modern dictionary speaks of ideas as "transcendent entities." The implication of this way of thinking is that people need to be highly attuned in order to attract new ideas -- becoming a kind of channel through which ideas flow.

The importance of other people, in this approach, is almost non-existent.

Thus the desire for many creative types to seek solitude, moon howling, and any number of artificial stimulants -- whatever it takes to increase their chances of tapping into the exoteric source of brilliance.

But there is another way to get ideas -- a way that does not require solitude, long walks, opium, or surprise visitations from the muse. Quite the contrary.

This approach requires people -- committed people who come together with a focused intention to collectively tap into the unknown, unseen, and untried.

For want of a better word, let's call this activity "brainstorming" -- the creative act by which exciting new ideas are generated through the catalytic action of one mind upon another.

Or, to put it more simply, two heads are better than one.

Unfortunately, the word "brainstorming" has become totally abused in our culture. Like the phrase "Web 2.0," it is applied to anything and everything until it means absolutely nothing.

Meeting with friends to talk about a business deal? "We're brainstorming."

Tossing a few ideas around over cappuccino? "Um... brainstorming."

Kicking around a concept for a screenplay? "Brainstorming, dude."

Not really.

What most people call brainstorming these days is usually just a veiled attempt to impress others with their particular brand of "genius," a caffeinated opportunity to trot out pet ideas, foist opinions, or play out a lifelong ambition to dominate a group.

Brainmisting? Maybe. Braindrizzling? Sure. But not brainstorming. Uh-uh. No way.

Real brainstorming is different. Very different.

High Velocity Brainstorming
Conducting Genius
More on the topic

Photo
Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

February 21, 2010
You Decide the Value of Our Services

Ten months ago, I heard an intriguing report on the radio. Seems like the Java Street Cafe in Kettering, Ohio, slammed by the economic meltdown, had erased all prices from its menu and was letting customers decide what they wanted to pay...

And so, in the spirit of innovation and removing all obstacles to entry, Idea Champions has decided to make the same offer to all organizations who have never done business with us.

For the months of March, April and May, any organization who engages the following services of ours (High Velocity Brainstorming, Banking on Innovation, Do More With Less, Team Innovation, or Applied Innovation), only pays expenses and what they think our services are worth.

Interested? Call us at 845.679.1066 and let's talk turkey -- or turkey burger.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

The Rise of the Innovation Ninjas

garyhamel-225.gif

Every once in a while I come across a quote or excerpt from an article that I want to immediately post on the windshield of every client of mine. It cuts to the chase and lucidly states what I've been trying to say, in various Neanderthalic ways, all these many years.

Take Einstein for example: "Not everything that counts can be counted; and not everything that can be counted counts." Bingo! Bullseye! What a perfect way of explaining to a left-brained addicted world that metrics and analysis is not the only game in town.

And then there's Gary Hamel. He takes a bit more time than Albert to make his point, but hey, it's all relative isn't it? Check this out from the man behind one of my favorite business books of all time:

"Today, innovation is the buzzword du jour in virtually every company, but how many CEOs have put every employee through an intensive training program aimed at boosting the innovation skills of the rank and file? Sure companies have electronic suggestion boxes, slush funds for new ideas, elaborate pipeline management tools, and innovation awards -- but in the absence of a cadre of extensively trained and highly skilled innovators, much of the investment in these innovation enablers will simply be wasted."

"Imagine that you coaxed a keen, but woefully inexperienced golfer onto the first tee at Pebble Beach. After arming the tyro with the latest titanium driver, you challenge him to split the fairway with a monster drive. You promise the neophyte a $100 bonus every time he hits a long bomb that stays out of the rough, and another $100 for every hole where he manages to break par.

But what you don't do is this: You don't give him any instruction -- no books, no tips from Golf Digest, no Dave Pelz and Butch Harmon, no video feedback, and no time off to perfect his swing on the practice range. Given this scenario, how many 200-yard drives is our beginner likely to land in the fairway?

How long is he likely to stay avidly devoted to the task at hand? And what kind of return are you likely to get on the $2,000 you spent on a bag full of high tech clubs and the 450 bucks you shelled out for a tee time? The answers are: Not many, not long, and not much. And no one who knows anything about golf would ever set up such a half-assed contest.

"That's why I'm dumbfounded by the fact that so few executives have invested in the innovation skills of their frontline employees. The least charitable explanation for this mind-boggling oversight: senior managers subscribe to a sort of innovation apartheid.

They believe that a few blessed souls are genetically equipped to be creative, while everyone else is a dullard, unable to come up with anything more exciting than spiritless suggestions for Six Sigma improvements.

A more charitable reading: CEOs and corporate HR leaders simply don't know how to turn on the innovation genes that are found in every human being.

"Obviously, you can't teach someone to be an innovator unless you know where game-changing ideas come from. In other words, you need a theory of innovation -- like Ben Hogan's theory of the golf swing.

This is why, a few years back, I and several colleagues analyzed more than a hundred cases of business innovation. Our goal: to understand why some individuals, at certain points in time, are able to see opportunities that are invisible to everyone else. Here, in a pistachio-sized shell, is what we learned:

Successful innovators have ways of seeing the world that throw new opportunities into sharp relief. They have developed, usually by accident, a set of perceptual "lenses" that allow them to pierce the fog of "what is" in order to see the promise of "what could be." How? By paying close attention to four things that usually go unnoticed:"

1. Unchallenged orthodoxies -- the widely held industry beliefs that blind incumbents to new opportunities.

2. Under-leveraged competencies -- the "invisible" assets and competencies, locked up in moribund businesses, that can be repurposed as new growth platforms.

3. Under-appreciated trends -- the nascent discontinunities that can be harnessed to reinvigorate old business models and create new ones."

4. Unarticulated needs -- the frustrations and inconveniences that customers take for granted, and industry stalwarts have thus far failed to address."

Thanks Gary!

Clearly, what's needed these days are organizations full of Innovation Ninjas. Skillful, agile, perceptive, courageous, and highly trained individuals who know how to find their way through the seeming obstacles in the way in order to get a result.

These obstacles might be "internal" -- as in the outdated assumptions, paradigms, and habits of people with three letter acronyms after their name. OR the obstacles might be "external" -- as in an organization's funkadelic infrastructure, protocols, and processes.

But whatever the obstacles encountered (not counted!), our nimble ninjas of necessity manage to find their way to the goal. Imagine if you had hundreds of these people working in your company. Imagine you had thousands.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:57 AM | Comments (0)

December 25, 2009
One More Difference Between Men and Women

Since the beginning of time, pundits, psychologists, and philosophers have been waxing poetic about the differences between men and women.

Many well-researched theories and observations have been postulated -- everything from variations of XY chromosomes to moon cycles to shopping habits.

Though I am not a pundit, psychologist, or philosopher, I would like to take this moment to propose yet another difference between the sexes -- something I've been noticing for years, but never completely understood until this morning's opening of Christmas presents:

1. Men and women wrap presents completely differently.

Presents wrapped by women look really good. The edges are square. The tape is in all the right places. There are no unnecessary wrinkles, crunched up paper, or rips. The presents women wrap could easily be photographed for a catalog or Good Housekeeping centerfold.

Presents wrapped by men are usually a joke. Asymmetrical. Random. Pitifully sophomoric. Like an old pair of sweat pants stuffed into a drawer a little too quickly before the dinner guests arrive.

2. Men and women open presents completely differently.

Women look for the seams and the tape and use their tapered fingers in mysteriously delicate ways so the wrapping can be flawlessly removed, flattened, folded, and used again in the future.

Men are huns. They rip. They tear. They plunder the paper as if it was a small village needing to be taken over immediately.

The remains of the wrapping, no matter how beautifully conceived by the giver, ends up in a balled-up heap of chaos on the floor -- unusable for anything but kindling or throwing at other males across the room.

NEXT WEEK: Nail care

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:19 PM | Comments (1)

December 10, 2009
PRODIGY

Mozart was composing and performing for royalty at 4. Ethan Bortnick, from Hollywood, Florida, is not far behind. Yes, practice makes perfect, but then there are those who are prodigies.

And how about this 11 year old?

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:33 PM | Comments (0)

December 03, 2009
Frequently Asked Questions

OK.
Confession time.
I've never liked FAQs.
They always seemed so predictable.
So boring.
So customer-servicey.
That's why I wrote this.
Makes FAQs more fun to read.
(Don't bail out too soon.
It builds).
Well, I guess you'll be the judge of that, eh?

Idea Champions

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

November 11, 2009
Here Come the 15-Year Olds!

camalien.jpg

Tom Peters once said that unless 20% of a company's workforce was under the age of 20, they didn't have a chance.

I totally agree -- especially now that my kids, Jesse and Mimi, are 15 & 12.

Their creativity and resourcefulness blow my mind. See the image above? Photoshopped by Jesse, my son. If you have a photo or illustration that needs to be tweaked, repaired, refined, improved, or manipulated in any way, he's your guy. Forget about outsourcing to a 30-year old from Mumbai. How about a 15-year old from Woodstock? Faster, cheaper, and cooler.

Contact Jesse today: yumyum@hvc.rr.com.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:12 PM | Comments (0)

October 27, 2009
Twitter Gets It

Twitter-Logo.png

Stop beating your head against the wall trying to conjure up great, new products and services. Get your customers into the act!

Take a tip from Twitter, who has found a number of ways to access -- and execute -- their users' cool ideas.

Explains Twitter co-founder and CEO, Evan Williams, "Most companies or services on the Web start with wrong assumptions about what they are and what they're for. Twitter struck an interesting balance of flexibility and malleability that allowed users to invent uses for it that weren't anticipated."

Complete NY Time article here. (Thanks to Tim Moore for the link).

Want to help your customers generate great ideas? Give them this.

Image.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:09 PM | Comments (0)

October 22, 2009
Rapping Southwest Airlines Flight Dude

Hallelujah! Finally an airline gets it right! I am definitely flying Southwest sometime soon. (What can YOUR business do to spice up it's communication -- delivering an old message in a new way?)

A different kind of FAQ

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:52 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2009
Let Your Boss Have the First Say

genie_large.gif

A sales rep, a clerk, and their manager are on the way to lunch when they find an antique oil lamp on the side of the road. They rub the lamp and a Genie appears.

"Thank you for releasing me!" exclaims the Genie. "In return for your kindness, I will grant each you a wish."

"Me first! Me first!" says the clerk. "I want to be in the Bahamas, driving a speedboat, without a care in the world."

Poof! The clerk is gone.

"Me next! Me next!" shouts the sales rep. "I want to be in Hawaii, relaxing on the beach with my personal masseuse, an endless supply of Pina Coladas, and the love of my life."

Poof! The sales rep is gone.

"OK, your turn," says the Genie to the manager.

"Hmmm..." replies the manager. "I want those two back in the office right after lunch."

Moral of the story: Always let your boss have the first say.

Consult our online genie

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

October 13, 2009
Adapt Like an Iguana

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

We can help

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

September 25, 2009
What You Can Learn from Mimi

9418_1228168711348_1442994497_645240_2191647_n.jpg

This is my daughter, Mimi.
She is 12 years old
and very flexible.
I'm guessing your business
is more than 12.
I'm also guessing
your business
is not as flexible
as my daughter
(even if it's less than 12).

Ah, flexibility --
nature's way of saying
"Loosen up, adapt, relax."

What can YOU do, today,
to be more flexible,
more adaptive,
more able to stretch?

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:39 AM | Comments (0)

September 14, 2009
Teenage Manifesto from My Son

28991_1277313413093_1237737154_30695861_1965792_n.jpg

We interrupt this blog to bring you the most recent manifesto from my 15-year old son. If you have a teenager (or will), the following epistle will be worth the 3 minutes it will take to read.

"There are a couple of main rules for parents to live by in order to have a happy teenage child:

Let them live, but not unsafely.

Trust them. Keep in contact, but let them contact you, not the other way around.

Accept mistakes, but the second time around give them something so they regret it.

In your generation, staying out until midnight wasn't exactly the cool thing to do, but for some reason it is now. Once your kid has a cell phone, let them stay places late as long as they call you when you ask them to. How late completely depends on their age.

Raise them so they know that lying is wrong, so they can talk to you about sex, drugs and alcohol without feeling the need to hold things back.

Let them have parties, and don't insist on being in the house. Just say that whatever is broken when you get back, or whatever is not cleaned up they will have to pay for or have consequences for.

They can choose their own friends, only if they can control them when at your house or in public.

Let your teens express themselves. If that means wearing chains and listening to heavy metal, so be it. If it means painting their own room and writing poetry you don't understand, that's also fine.

100_1547.JPG

One random tip: when they start listening to music you don't like, soundproof their room. It's no fun having to turn down the volume. The best way to listen to music is when you can feel it in your ribcage.

Talk to them, but don't force them to talk back.

Don't introduce them to caffeine, they'll discover it in time.

Buy them one amazing present every one or two years because even though you both know love isn't shown through exchanging possessions, it feels great to get something you know your parents had to put aside money for, and they did it for you.

Don't force your religion or political beliefs on them."

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:39 PM | Comments (1)

July 11, 2009
Yoo Hoo! Customer Service! Wake Up!

Mahatma Gandhi knew how to get the word out. Mother Teresa, too. Now, along comes Dave, a guitar player who wouldn't take NO for an answer after United Airlines blew him off after breaking his guitar. Dave didn't just write a complaint letter, he posted a YouTube video that has now been viewed more than 2 million times. Customer service take note! Every customer is a possible Dave.

Thanks to Val Vadeboncouer for the heads up!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2009
You're Right!

00019_s_8aoowifpp0008.jpg

There is a scene from Fiddler on the Roof that has taught me more about life than most holy books I've read.

In it, two men are heatedly arguing over the age of a horse. When they see Tevye, the town milkman/sage, walking by, they begin passionately pleading their case.

"Tevye!" blurts the first, "I've been cheated! Last month a bought a horse from this sorry excuse for a man. He told me the horse was six, but it was 12!"

Tevye listens carefully, strokes his beard, nods his head, and smiles. "You're right!" he says.

"What!" screams the second. "No way! Not true! The horse I sold him was six years old and I have the papers to prove it!"

Again, Tevye listens, strokes his beard, nods his head, and smiles. "You're right!" he says.

A third man, who'd been watching the argument from the beginning, boldly steps forward.

"Tevye... with all due respect for your great insight and wisdom, how can he be right" (pointing the the first) "and he be right" (pointing to the second).

Tevye listens, strokes his beard, nods his head, and smiles. "You're right!

Then he starts dancing like a madman.

Next time you think you're right... remember Tevye.

Business and innovation are FULL of paradox, contradiction, and seeming dissonance. See if you can dance your way through them without making anyone wrong. You'll enjoy the process more AND fabulous new things will manifest as a result. To life!

large_Fiddler.JPG

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:44 AM | Comments (2)

May 09, 2009
STICKY IDEA: Post-It Entertainment

stickynotes.jpg

If you can spell "innovation," you've probably heard the story about the origins of the post-it note -- how it was an accident in one of 3M's labs and how Art Frye and others saw a market for something that didn't quite stick all that well.

Relax. I'm not going to tell that story again.

What I AM going to do is call your attention to the next creative use of the omnipresent post-it -- a use you are unlikely to have considered yet: the post-it as pure entertainment.

When you're done viewing the 3:19 video, take a few minutes to conjure up some non-traditional uses of your company's best (or worst) selling product. If you don't work for a company, think of some new uses for whatever product or service you are offering the world these days.

As one wise pundit put it, "Discovery is seeing what everybody else has seen, and thinking what nobody else has thought."

(Thanks to my very creative, 14-year old son, Jesse, for turning me on to this video).

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

March 15, 2009
GOOGLE UPDATE: Hire smart people and ask them for your objectives

google-logo.jpg

Just found this interesting update, at Bill's Blog, on innovation at Google (via Google Alerts, of course). If you're looking for some best practices to adapt (and are willing to go beyond business as usual), this one's for you. Here's what I mean:

"Seems like many things at Google, are voted on, or managed by peer reviews. An example are their quarterly objectives and key results. They are done bottoms up with very little top down input. Google's approach is to hire the smartest people they can and then ask them what they should be doing."

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:24 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2009
Taking a Flying Leap

Sometimes, the act of creating something new feels like jumping off a cliff, doesn't it? The ground beneath your feet completely disappears. All the familiar reference points are gone and you need a ton of courage to proceed. And so... in the spirit of "a moving picture is worth a thousand words," check this out, oh aspiring innovators...


wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

PS: How does this relate to your life? It does, but only YOU know. If you make any connections, let us know. Happy leaping!

(Thanks to Tim "Wingsuit" Moore for the link.)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:00 PM | Comments (1)

February 14, 2009
Find Your Creative Tribe on Facebook

Og.jpg

Yo! Back in the day, whenever I wanted to hang out with other "creative types" I had to do weird stuff like pound my chest or send smoke signals at midnight. No more!

Now there's Facebook Groups. Or more specifically, my new Create, Innovate, Get Out of the Cave! group -- a place for aspiring innovators to gather round the cyberspatial fire and stoke the flames of creation.

Hey, don't be a neanderthal! You're not in this alone!

Dig it. I struggled to invent the wheel thousands of years before the Mesopotamians (who got all the credit). I had, like, one friend, Ugh, to help me through the process. But YOU have thousands! And they're all starting to meet here.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:31 AM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2008
Forget About the Box, Get Out of the Cave!

caveman_wheel_shadows.gif

See the caveman to your left? That's Og. He's the protagonist of my new book, Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your Great Ideas Rolling (in an uphill world). The word "protagonist" is not in Og's vocabulary. Even I don't use the word "protagonist" all that much -- though I have used it three times in this paragraph.

Hmmm... That's pretty odd.

Then again, the experience of inventing the wheel was pretty odd, too. Which is what Og did. 24,000 years ago. Long before Game Boy, i-Pod, or Starbucks. And yes, long before the Mesopotamians -- the people who usually get all the credit for the wheel -- some 20,300 years after my main man, Og.

(Hey, when was the last time you used the word "Mesopotamian?" That's another word not in Og's vocabulary.)

Actually, Og didn't need a big vocabulary. He had something else going for him: Neanderthalic genius. Stone age brilliance. Originality. Og, you see, was the first innovator. Intrinsically motivated, he was. Fascinated. Inspired. Mojo-driven. And while he was not without imperfections, he needed no attaboys, cash awards, or stock options to follow his muse.

Back in Og's time, when men were men, and stones were stones, even the idea of an idea was unthinkable. And yet... somehow, he had one -- an IDEA, that is -- and not just your dime a dozen variety. Nope. A GREAT idea, a BIG idea, or what I like to call an "out of the cave" idea: The wheel.

Ah... but I go on too long. If Og were here, he'd be frowning by now, shrugging his stooped shoulders, wondering in his delightfully pre-verbal way what other new ideas and discoveries awaited his wonderfully hairy touch.

Want to order the book now? (Og gets 10% of every sale). Go ahead. Help him put bear meat on the table.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:37 AM | Comments (1)

November 05, 2008
Baking the Change and Innovation Cake

Mimi and Zoe and Obama.JPG

Last night, my 11-year old daughter, Mimi, and her good friend, Zoe, stayed up late to watch the election results. After Obama was declared the winner, they baked a cake in his honor and, in the morning, frosted it.

As they left the house this morning, Mimi stopped, cake in hand, and shouted out Obama's name at the top of her lungs. Something deep within her rose to the surface and begged to be expressed. Which, being 11 and free of the politically correct constraints that rule the lives of too many adults, she accomplished with great flair.

That same intrinsic motivation that moved Mimi and Zoe to bake their cake, needs to be alive and well in your company if you are truly serious about raising the bar for innovation and change. Mimi and Zoe didn't need to be TOLD to bake the cake. They wanted to. Even more than that, they HAD to.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: In what ways can you create the kind of culture in your organization that will encourage everyone to bake their cake for change and innovation?

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

November 04, 2008
"It's No Time to Forget About Innovation"

Writing in the New York Times, Janet Rae-Dupree reminds us that even or especially in times "of corporate belt-tightening," companies reduce their efforts to strengthen innovation at their own risk.

She quotes Jon Fisher, a business professor, serial entrepreneur, and author of "Strategic Entrepreneurism," saying, "'Innovation has to be embedded in the daily operation, in the entire work force.' Addressing companies whose aim is to be bought by a major player in their vertical, he explains, 'A large acquirer's interest in a start-up or smaller company is binary in nature: They either want you or they don't, based on the innovation you have to offer.'

"In fact, hard times can be the source of innovative inspiration, says Chris Shipley, a technology analyst and executive producer of the DEMO conferences, where new ideas make their debuts. 'Some of the best products and services come out of some of the worst times,' she says. In the recession of the early 1990s, 'tiny Palm Computing managed to revitalize the entire industry in a matter of months.'"

Also on the encouraging side: as I write this, Rae-Dupree's article is number six on the most-emailed in the Business section.

"It's No Time to Forget About Innovation" - NYT, 11/1/08.

(Illustration: The White Rabbit, by John Tenniel (1820-1914), from the original "Alice In Wonderland.")

Posted by at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

October 24, 2008
TV or Not TV

The 2 minute video below is the first in a series of Idea Champions' public service announcements -- our small attempt at giving back to society. Feel free to forward the link to any TV-watching family members or neighbors of yours who may be technologically challenged re: the immiment shift from analog to digital...

Thanks to the amazing Cary Bayer for the link.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2008
It's Never Too Late to Be Creative

100_8961.JPG

Grandma Moses started painting at 64. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim museum at 91. Mary Baker Eddy began the Christian Science Monitor at 87. My wife, Evelyne Pouget, began painting at 40 -- and with absolutely no formal training.

One day she just sat down at the easel and began doing portraits and landscapes. Yes, she had been a graphic designer before then. And yes, she was always considered "artistic." But she had never done an oil painting until she turned 40.

The roots of all this? One day Evelyne mentioned to me that her teacher, Baba Muktananda, used to call her "The Painter." I found this quite intriguing and asked her if she had ever painted. When she said "no," I noted that his calling her "The Painter" may have been a clue about a hidden talent of hers -- and that she might want to explore it.

The first portrait Evelyne did (I will post it here later) was a mind blower -- one of those jaw-dropping Mozart/prodigy moments. Without a single lesson, she had created a likeness of her teacher that stunned both of us.

The painting above is a recent one of Evelyne's, -- one of 27 that will be featured at her upcoming opening at the Back Stage Productions Art Gallery in Kingston, New York.

The opening party is Saturday, November 1, 5:00 -- 9:00 pm. Please come if you can. You can preview her paintings here. The work of Scott Cronin, another late artistic bloomer (he started at 50), will also be featured.

The question for you?

What hidden talent of yours is aching to be released? What creative pursuit do YOU want to manifest, but have been too shy or doubtful to let rip? Now's the time! Take your next step. Have more faith in yourself and the power of creation.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:39 AM | Comments (2)

October 13, 2008
14 Year Old Running for President!

600px-Seal_Of_The_President_Of_The_Unites_States_Of_America_svg.png

There are 25 days left before the Presidential election. Things are heating up, big time. You may have already decided who to cast your vote for. But before you go to the polls, I think it's worth two minutes of your time to view this video.

It was put together (adapted) by my 14-year old son, Jesse, who has decided to run for President. He knows he's not old enough to run for the highest office in the land, but he's going for it, anyway. More power to him!

And guess what? A grass roots movement has sprung up in the past few weeks to support his bold efforts to lead this country. Take a look.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2008
The Top Seven High Tech Excuses

One way to measure just how omnipresent technology has become in our lives these days is to notice the number of times our EXCUSES include a techno-bent.

In days gone by, breaking a commitment had far more of a human aspect to it, as in "The babysitter was late" or... "I got caught in traffic" or... "The dog ate my homework."

No more. These days, high tech excuses rule -- simple, and often untrue, ways of saving face (and maybe your job.) Here's some of the most common ones:

1. "The server's down."
2. "You're breaking up."
3. "Your email ended up in my spam folder."
4. "I'm out of range."
5. "My laptop crashed."
6. "I can't find my Blackberry."
7. "I forgot to recharge my battery."

I know I'm forgetting some. What? The first three people who send me a reasonable excuse get a free copy of my new book (unless I can think of a really good high tech excuse not to mail it.)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:36 PM | Comments (9)

September 06, 2008
Doing the Seeming Impossible

OK. Here's a wake up call for all of us who think our life or work challenges are impossible. Click below to see what this chap accomplished, then ask yourself whether or not what YOU'RE trying to accomplish (i.e. invent a new product, grow your business, make a new transition, establish a culture of innovation, forgive someone etc.) is really so difficult to pull off.

For more inspiration, click on the link below the YouTube video.

MORE INSPIRATION TO GO BEYOND THE "IMPOSSIBLE"

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

"There is no such thing as a long piece of work, except one that you dare not start. - Charles Baudelaire

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

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

"Genius is infinite painstaking." - Michelangelo

"A pile of rocks ceases to be a rock pile when somebody contemplates it with the idea of a cathedral in mind." - Antoine Saint-Exupery

"Whenever anything is being accomplished, it is being done, I have learned, by a monomaniac with a mission." - Peter Drucker

"No idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered." - Winston Churchill

"If you can dream it, you can do it." - Walt Disney

"I am looking for a lot of people who have an infinite capacity to not know what can't be done." - Henry Ford


And here's an intro to my new book about a neanderthal who also accomplished the seeming impossible. Go for it!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

August 30, 2008
Innovation Slush Funds

Nortel, the fiber optics giant, allocates pools of money (or "innovation slush funds") at different organizational levels for any idea a manager thinks has great potential, but doesn't want to be accountable for the bottom-line result. Very cool.

A client of mine, at Michelin, does a similar thing. He is authorized to distribute as much as $10,000 to aspiring innovators who have done their homework and are able to convince him that their high potential projects need a bit funding to get untracked. Also very cool.

What I like about this approach is that it sidesteps the bureaucratic hokey pokey, run-it-up-the-flagpole, command and control, funky chicken shuffle that all too often scuttles powerful new ideas in need of a timely infusion of capital to get them rolling.

Of course, these "innovation slush fund" scenarios require some trust and clearly defined evaluation criteria to keep things on the up and up -- but that is simply done. No Six Sigma required. It's such a simple thing to do and can radically reduce the time it takes for breakthrough ideas and aspiring innovators to make magic happen in your organization.

In what ways can YOU establish some kind of innovation slush fund this month? And if you have already done so, click "comments" below and let us know how it's working out.

And remember, as one wise pundit put it, "It's not the money that starts the idea, it's the idea that starts the money."

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:30 PM | Comments (1)

August 11, 2008
Big Problem or Right Problem? The Egg Freckles Saga.

Have you ever spent hours trying to solve a problem only to find you've been working on the wrong problem? Try doing it for five years. That's what Apple Computer engineers did with the Newton handheld computer over a decade ago.

From 1993-1998, Apple made a valiant effort to break open a market for portable handheld pen computers. Unfortunately, they spent most of that time working on a problem that didn't really exist for consumers. And as they labored at it, their intended market was stolen by Palm Computing's PalmPilot.newton130x.jpeg

What follows is a tale about a fatal assumption -- an obsession with a Big Problem that led to one of Silicon Valley's great product misfires.
Consider the moral first.


Solving a Big problem doesn't mean you're solving the Right problem.

Apple's team chose to tackle the biggest challenge in pen computing: high-level handwriting recognition. Newton would be the first portable computer people could write on directly using their natural hand. From anyone's scrawl, the computer would extract the standard ASCII characters computers need to work with. This posed a massive challenge in pattern recognition. Since every user's handwriting is different, the Newton would need to learn the particular way its user wrote each letter and number. IF it got all the letters in, say, the word "thing" right, Newton would compare that string of letters to words in its 10,000 word native memory. IF the word "thing" was stored there, Newton would find a match and "know" the word.

The Newton team was determined to build the world's most sophisticated pattern learning pen computer. But why were they doing it? And for who? Here they made one fatal assumption about their potential buyer, an assumption that would seal the Newton's fate.

The assumption went something like this:

"Users want to do things the way they've always done them. The user shouldn't have to learn anything new to adapt to a machine. A smart machine can and should adapt to the user (in this case, learn the user's handwriting)."

This assumption became a frame and the frame became a mindset. Without ever turning back to question their customer premise, Newton's team labored to build a noble, mind-blowing machine that could recognize the diverse scrawls of any and every human on Earth. But was this the Right Problem to solve?

When the Newton Message Pad debuted in 1993, its handwriting recognition fell way short of the mark, and a public drubbing ensued. The Doonesbury comic strip showed a character writing a six-word sentence on a Newton-like hand-held. The unit coughed up "Egg freckles?" Then The Simpsons piled on. The world laughed.

All through 1993, the Newton was skewered in the press. In October of that year, Apple CEO John Sculley left with freckled egg on his face. Humiliated, the Newton team redoubled their efforts to solve their core problem: getting Newton to learn better.

At the heart of Newton's learning challenge was the "second-stroke problem." Each time a user's pen lifted off the tablet and set back down, Newton's brain detected a pause and became uncertain. "What did that pause mean? Is this next stroke part of the current letter, or a new letter or word?" As it turns out, many alphabet characters need multiple strokes, leaving plenty of room for uncertainty. Capital "T" and "X" involve two strokes. "H" needs three. Add user hesitancy and writing quirks, and you have a thorny problem. And that's just English. Try Cyrillic or Japanese ideograms.

Because Newton's recognition engine was unsure so often, it routinely threw a list of possible words at the user. This was both inconvenient and embarrasing. Who wants their computer to say, "I'm confused. Take time out, scan these words and select the right one"? Worse, if you wanted Newton to learn a word outside its native 10,000 word database, you had to train it. You first had to write it your way, then type it letter by letter using an on-screen keyboard. All that to tell Newton, "This is what 'Hoboken' looks like when I write it."

The upshot? To "save" users from having to adapt their writing habits to machines, the Newton subjected ordinary people to drawn out and repetitive clarification and training routines; a tacit admission that Newton wasn't doing its core job cleanly.

None of this was lost on Jeff Hawkins, inventor of the Palm Pilot, who was carrying around a wooden block as a pretend pocket PDA and using a whittled down chopstick as a pen to imagine his interface.

Hawkins never lost sight of what consumers would want most in a pen computer: fast writing and true mobility - something they could fit in their shirt-pocket. He cut to the chase and questioned Apple's core assumption:"Why must the computer learn everything? Why can't users adapt? Why build a sophisticated learning machine at all? Let's get the job done. People learn faster than computers, so why can't people help the machine? People could easily get the hang of a new single-stroke alphabet. Hmm. One stroke per character and presto! No more second-stroke problem."

So that's what Jeff Hawkins did. With his Grafitti language, he simply redesigned the alphabet, turning centuries-old letters and numbers into single-stroke symbols that mostly kept the look of the original characters. Suddenly the computer had only one master rule to follow. "When the pen lifts up, the character is done. When the pen comes down again, it's a new character. Want to end a word? One stroke makes a space." Simple. And while we're at it - since each stroke is a new character, lets not even write along a line. Write letters on top of each other, in the same input space, and let them display as type in another. Presto - a smaller screen.

Hawkin's low-tech solution made Palm Pilot's pen input "good enough." (Apple even licensed Grafitti in 1995 as an input option for the Newton. Some say it kept the Newton alive.) But the real power of Grafitti was size. It shrank the screen, which shrank the box, which created a viable pocket-PDA market.

In March, 1996, when Newtons were selling as digital writing tablets for up to $1000, the first pocket-sized PalmPilots debuted for under $300. A million of them sold in the first 18 months. The Newton team countered with a much improved Newton 1000 and 2000, but by then it was too late. Two years after the PalmPilot was released, Apple cancelled the Newton product line on February 27, 1998. The project had cost the company half a billion dollars.

Hawkins "technology" was a low-tech workaround; it wasn't "handwriting recognition" in the high-level MIT sense. But while PhD's may have felt Grafitti was a cheat, ordinary people, not giving a hang about the technology issues, found PalmPilots handy and useful. While engineers rallied around solving the Big Problem, consumers swarmed to buy the solution to the Right Problem, which started with a chopstick and a block of wood.

By year 2000, Palm owned 70 percent of PDA sales and had sold well over five million units. At the peak of PDA use, white boards everywhere were covered with Grafitti symbols, which many considered faster to write for high-velocity brainstorming.

The Newton team spent five years working on the Big Problem, writing and rewriting untold lines of code to create a learning machine for the existing alphabet. Hawkins spent a few days designing a new alphabet any computer could easily understand.

Despite its truly impressive interface, Newton stumbled at the main task it promised to do - turn writing into standard ASCII characters quickly. And why did Apple paint themselves into this corner? Because they assumed consumers would want their handheld to adapt to their personal way of writing. Instead of biting into Apple's Big Problem, Jeff Hawkins assumed people would adapt. As he once put it, "It takes you weeks or months to learn how to type, so why not spend 15 minutes learning [how to talk to a computer] with a pen?"

The Lessons

In hindsight, Apple's underlying user assumptions made little sense. What makes people's standard routine (handwriting) so sacred? Who said people shouldn't adapt to machines? Who said you had to work with the existing English alphabet? Why make a program strain to recognize every possible variant of every letter and number? Who said your program had to recognize scrawled words by finding them in a limited word database? Engineers set up these problems, not users.

Great minds often get hijacked by their own brillliance and vision. They forget that simple is smart, dumb is basic and low-tech often beats high tech. We can get so obsessed with an elusive quarry and so enamored of our intelligence that we never go back up to the 20,000 foot level and see that we're hacking the wrong problem. The famous monkey trap metaphor is worth repeating here.

If a monkey reaches through a hole for a banana, but the hole is too small for her hand to withdraw with the banana, she's presented with a quandry. "Which do I want? - the banana or my freedom?" All she has to do is let go of the banana in order to be free of the trap. But the monkey doesn't let go of the banana. She sits there determined to extract it, even in the face of being captured.

Big Problems are like monkey traps. If your Solution quest starts feeling "heroic," or your Big Problem is "big" mostly because everyone is trying to solve it (big kudos await if YOU solve it), its likely you're trapped by the epic magnitude of your quest. In that mindset, the simplest options are likley to escape your notice. Check to see if your solving the Right Problem by running your mind through the following four steps:

1. Restore objectivity. Take time off and come back fresh later. Sleep on it.

2. Once you're fresh, carefully and slowly go over your assumptions about the people who will use you product or service. Put yourself in their shoes. Separate your needs from theirs. Don't underestimate their intelligence or overestimate the rightness of your point of view. Break down every assumption you have about your prospective buyer and question it.

3. Especially question your assumptions about what your "users" expect. Often they don't know what they want. They rarely see the next development much less have an opinion about it. But they are ready for a surprise, a break in routine, a new challenge. Keep in mind that IF the payoff is strong, humans will learn new tricks. Are student drivers motivated learners? You bet.

4. Review your supposed technical limitations, challenges or goals to see if you can use lower-tech or human-scale solutions. Stretch for new metaphors that can change the problem, shift the frame, reverse figure and ground.

5. Simplify. Simplify again. Keep simplifying.

Whenever you're stuck or breathing hot and heavy about a solution, you're too close to your work. It's time to step out of problem-solving mode and reassess the problem you're trying to solve.

This excerpt is from the author's book-in-progress, Big Problem or Right Problem? Innovating For Real People.

Copyright © 2007 Tim Moore. All reproduction rights except blog linking are reserved.

Posted by Tim Moore at 02:03 PM | Comments (2)

Big Problem or Right Problem? The Egg Freckles Saga.

Have you ever spent hours trying to solve a problem only to find you've been working on the wrong problem? Try doing it for five years. That's what Apple Computer engineers did with the Newton handheld computer over a decade ago.

From 1993-1998, Apple made a valiant effort to break open a market for portable handheld pen computers. Unfortunately, they spent most of that time working on a problem that didn't really exist for consumers. And as they labored at it, their intended market was stolen by Palm Computing's PalmPilot.newton130x.jpeg

What follows is a tale about a fatal assumption -- an obsession with a Big Problem that led to one of Silicon Valley's great product misfires.
Consider the moral first.


Solving a Big problem doesn't mean you're solving the Right problem.

Apple's team chose to tackle the biggest challenge in pen computing: high-level handwriting recognition. Newton would be the first portable computer people could write on directly using their natural hand. From anyone's scrawl, the computer would extract the standard ASCII characters computers need to work with. This posed a massive challenge in pattern recognition. Since every user's handwriting is different, the Newton would need to learn the particular way its user wrote each letter and number. IF it got all the letters in, say, the word "thing" right, Newton would compare that string of letters to words in its 10,000 word native memory. IF the word "thing" was stored there, Newton would find a match and "know" the word.

The Newton team was determined to build the world's most sophisticated pattern learning pen computer. But why were they doing it? And for who? Here they made one fatal assumption about their potential buyer, an assumption that would seal the Newton's fate.

The assumption went something like this:

"Users want to do things the way they've always done them. The user shouldn't have to learn anything new to adapt to a machine. A smart machine can and should adapt to the user (in this case, learn the user's handwriting)."

This assumption became a frame and the frame became a mindset. Without ever turning back to question their customer premise, Newton's team labored to build a noble, mind-blowing machine that could recognize the diverse scrawls of any and every human on Earth. But was this the Right Problem to solve?

When the Newton Message Pad debuted in 1993, its handwriting recognition fell way short of the mark, and a public drubbing ensued. The Doonesbury comic strip showed a character writing a six-word sentence on a Newton-like hand-held. The unit coughed up "Egg freckles?" Then The Simpsons piled on. The world laughed.

All through 1993, the Newton was skewered in the press. In October of that year, Apple CEO John Sculley left with freckled egg on his face. Humiliated, the Newton team redoubled their efforts to solve their core problem: getting Newton to learn better.

At the heart of Newton's learning challenge was the "second-stroke problem." Each time a user's pen lifted off the tablet and set back down, Newton's brain detected a pause and became uncertain. "What did that pause mean? Is this next stroke part of the current letter, or a new letter or word?" As it turns out, many alphabet characters need multiple strokes, leaving plenty of room for uncertainty. Capital "T" and "X" involve two strokes. "H" needs three. Add user hesitancy and writing quirks, and you have a thorny problem. And that's just English. Try Cyrillic or Japanese ideograms.

Because Newton's recognition engine was unsure so often, it routinely threw a list of possible words at the user. This was both inconvenient and embarrasing. Who wants their computer to say, "I'm confused. Take time out, scan these words and select the right one"? Worse, if you wanted Newton to learn a word outside its native 10,000 word database, you had to train it. You first had to write it your way, then type it letter by letter using an on-screen keyboard. All that to tell Newton, "This is what 'Hoboken' looks like when I write it."

The upshot? To "save" users from having to adapt their writing habits to machines, the Newton subjected ordinary people to drawn out and repetitive clarification and training routines; a tacit admission that Newton wasn't doing its core job cleanly.

None of this was lost on Jeff Hawkins, inventor of the Palm Pilot, who was carrying around a wooden block as a pretend pocket PDA and using a whittled down chopstick as a pen to imagine his interface.

Hawkins never lost sight of what consumers would want most in a pen computer: fast writing and true mobility - something they could fit in their shirt-pocket. He cut to the chase and questioned Apple's core assumption:"Why must the computer learn everything? Why can't users adapt? Why build a sophisticated learning machine at all? Let's get the job done. People learn faster than computers, so why can't people help the machine? People could easily get the hang of a new single-stroke alphabet. Hmm. One stroke per character and presto! No more second-stroke problem."

So that's what Jeff Hawkins did. With his Grafitti language, he simply redesigned the alphabet, turning centuries-old letters and numbers into single-stroke symbols that mostly kept the look of the original characters. Suddenly the computer had only one master rule to follow. "When the pen lifts up, the character is done. When the pen comes down again, it's a new character. Want to end a word? One stroke makes a space." Simple. And while we're at it - since each stroke is a new character, lets not even write along a line. Write letters on top of each other, in the same input space, and let them display as type in another. Presto - a smaller screen.

Hawkin's low-tech solution made Palm Pilot's pen input "good enough." (Apple even licensed Grafitti in 1995 as an input option for the Newton. Some say it kept the Newton alive.) But the real power of Grafitti was size. It shrank the screen, which shrank the box, which created a viable pocket-PDA market.

In March, 1996, when Newtons were selling as digital writing tablets for up to $1000, the first pocket-sized PalmPilots debuted for under $300. A million of them sold in the first 18 months. The Newton team countered with a much improved Newton 1000 and 2000, but by then it was too late. Two years after the PalmPilot was released, Apple cancelled the Newton product line on February 27, 1998. The project had cost the company half a billion dollars.

Hawkins "technology" was a low-tech workaround; it wasn't "handwriting recognition" in the high-level MIT sense. But while PhD's may have felt Grafitti was a cheat, ordinary people, not giving a hang about the technology issues, found PalmPilots handy and useful. While engineers rallied around solving the Big Problem, consumers swarmed to buy the solution to the Right Problem, which started with a chopstick and a block of wood.

By year 2000, Palm owned 70 percent of PDA sales and had sold well over five million units. At the peak of PDA use, white boards everywhere were covered with Grafitti symbols, which many considered faster to write for high-velocity brainstorming.

The Newton team spent five years working on the Big Problem, writing and rewriting untold lines of code to create a learning machine for the existing alphabet. Hawkins spent a few days designing a new alphabet any computer could easily understand.

Despite its truly impressive interface, Newton stumbled at the main task it promised to do - turn writing into standard ASCII characters quickly. And why did Apple paint themselves into this corner? Because they assumed consumers would want their handheld to adapt to their personal way of writing. Instead of biting into Apple's Big Problem, Jeff Hawkins assumed people would adapt. As he once put it, "It takes you weeks or months to learn how to type, so why not spend 15 minutes learning [how to talk to a computer] with a pen?"

The Lessons

In hindsight, Apple's underlying user assumptions made little sense. What makes people's standard routine (handwriting) so sacred? Who said people shouldn't adapt to machines? Who said you had to work with the existing English alphabet? Why make a program strain to recognize every possible variant of every letter and number? Who said your program had to recognize scrawled words by finding them in a limited word database? Engineers set up these problems, not users.

Great minds often get hijacked by their own brillliance and vision. They forget that simple is smart, dumb is basic and low-tech often beats high tech. We can get so obsessed with an elusive quarry and so enamored of our intelligence that we never go back up to the 20,000 foot level and see that we're hacking the wrong problem. The famous monkey trap metaphor is worth repeating here.

If a monkey reaches through a hole for a banana, but the hole is too small for her hand to withdraw with the banana, she's presented with a quandry. "Which do I want? - the banana or my freedom?" All she has to do is let go of the banana in order to be free of the trap. But the monkey doesn't let go of the banana. She sits there determined to extract it, even in the face of being captured.

Big Problems are like monkey traps. If your Solution quest starts feeling "heroic," or your Big Problem is "big" mostly because everyone is trying to solve it (big kudos await if YOU solve it), its likely you're trapped by the epic magnitude of your quest. In that mindset, the simplest options are likley to escape your notice. Check to see if your solving the Right Problem by running your mind through the following four steps:

1. Restore objectivity. Take time off and come back fresh later. Sleep on it.

2. Once you're fresh, carefully and slowly go over your assumptions about the people who will use you product or service. Put yourself in their shoes. Separate your needs from theirs. Don't underestimate their intelligence or overestimate the rightness of your point of view. Break down every assumption you have about your prospective buyer and question it.

3. Especially question your assumptions about what your "users" expect. Often they don't know what they want. They rarely see the next development much less have an opinion about it. But they are ready for a surprise, a break in routine, a new challenge. Keep in mind that IF the payoff is strong, humans will learn new tricks. Are student drivers motivated learners? You bet.

4. Review your supposed technical limitations, challenges or goals to see if you can use lower-tech or human-scale solutions. Stretch for new metaphors that can change the problem, shift the frame, reverse figure and ground.

5. Simplify. Simplify again. Keep simplifying.

Whenever you're stuck or breathing hot and heavy about a solution, you're too close to your work. It's time to step out of problem-solving mode and reassess the problem you're trying to solve.

This excerpt is from the author's book-in-progress, Big Problem or Right Problem? Innovating For Real People.

Copyright © 2007 Tim Moore. All reproduction rights except blog linking are reserved.

Posted by Tim Moore at 02:03 PM | Comments (2)

July 18, 2008
The First Annual Last Words Contest

death bed.jpg

"I wish I had drunk more champagne."

With these last words, John Maynard Keynes, the famous British economist, passed into the Great Beyond. Way to go Johnny!

Conrad Hilton, grandfather of Paris and founder of one of the world's most acclaimed hotel empires, left us with a slightly different message. "Leave the shower curtain on the inside of the tub."

Thank you, Conrad. I will do my best to remember that.

What about you? What do you imagine your last words will be? Or better yet, what would you like them to be? Oh sure, you may have lots of emails to answer, spreadsheets to read, and meetings to attend... but it's never too soon to get your legacy in gear.

Setting a clear intention is not only important for business, it's also important for LIFE.

Got it? Good! Now share it with the rest of us. When four or more submissions are received I'll post them here for everyone to read.

And soon thereafter, Idea Champions' esteemed panel of imperfect judges will bestow one lucky reader of this blog with the FIRST ANNUAL LAST WORDS prize (a copy of the book from whence these quotes were quoted). Should be interesting.

If you need some inspiration to get you going, click below to see what Mata Hari, P.T. Barnum, Oscar Wilde and a host of others had to say just before they left their mortal coil...

"I am in a duel to the death with this wallpaper. One of us has to go." - Oscar Wilde

"Why not? After all, it belongs to Him." - Charlie Chaplin

"How were the circus receipts in Madison Square Garden?" - P.T. Barnum

"Death is nothing, nor life either, for that matter. To die, to sleep, to pass into nothingness, what does it matter? Everything is an illusion." - Mata Hari

"I've had a hellava lot of fun and have enjoyed every minute of it." - Erroll Flynn

"That was the best ice cream soda I ever tasted." - Lou Costello

"Die, I should say not, dear fellow. No Barrymore would allow such a conventional thing to happen to him." - John Barrymore

"Don't pull down the blinds. I feel fine. I want the sunlight to greet me." - Rudolf Valentino

"More light!" - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

"That was a great game of golf, fellers." - Bing Crosby

"God, don't let me die. I have so much to do." - Huey Long

"I shall hear in heaven!" - Ludwig Van Beethoven

"I have just had 18 whiskeys in a row. I do believe that is a record." - Dylan Thomas

"Go on. Get out! Last words are for fools that haven't said enough!" - Karl Marx

"Wait a second." - Madame de Pompadour

"Don't let it end this way. Tell them I said something." - Pancho Villa

OK. Your turn...

Excepted from Famous Last Words by Ray Robinson (Workman Publishing, 2003)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:57 PM | Comments (1)

July 11, 2008
The 30 Second Summer Blog for People on the Go

78% of all people who log onto the Idea Champions website spend less than 30 seconds there. It's probably the same for this blog. Short and sweet is the name of the game these days.

And so... for the rest of the summer, all our blog postings will take you less than 30 seconds to read. The one you're reading now has taken you about 23 seconds so far. Which means I have another 7 seconds or so to say something meaningful.

To be continued...

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:42 PM | Comments (1)

June 29, 2008
More On Where and When You Get Your Best Ideas

A big thanks to Chuck Frey of Innovation Tools for his June 26th posting on our just-released poll results re: "Where and When People Get Their Best Ideas?"

Chuck notes the top ten catalysts:

1. When you're inspired
2. Brainstorming with others
3. When you're immersed in a project
4. When you're happy
5. Collaborating with a partner
6. Daydreaming
7. Analyzing a problem
8. Driving
9. Commuting to and from work
10. Reading books in your field

And here are the bottom ten:

70. Swimming
71. Brushing your teeth
72. Drinking anything with alcohol
73. Playing a sport
74. When you're sad
75. Mowing the lawn
76. Shaving
77. Procrastinating
78. In a bar
79. Having sex
80. Smoking tobacco

(If you're looking for a fun way to spark some great ideas, click here.)

Or here.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:14 AM | Comments (1)

June 10, 2008
Getting All Googley

google-dr-evil.jpg

Interesting summary of Google CEO's speech to the Economic Club of Washington this Monday.

Among other things, Schmidt talked about his company's attempts to innovate, including allowing engineers to use 20 percent of their time to work on projects of their own choosing. Schmidt acknowledged that trusting the workforce to follow their fascination has resulted in many successes for the enterprise. "Part of Google's success is creating more luck," he said.

Success also needs a positive environment and encouragement for employees to be more creative and innovative, Schmidt said.

"It is possible to build a culture around innovation, it is possible to build a culture around leadership, and it is possible to build a culture around optimism," added the googley Mr. Schmidt

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2008
AWAKE AT THE WHEEL: Getting Your Great Ideas Rolling (in an uphill world)

AATW cover.jpg
Ta da! After seven years, 22 rejections, multiple rewrites, 2 agents, and a whole lot of looking at myself in the mirror, here it is: the publication of my new book, AWAKE AT THE WHEEL: Getting Your Great Ideas Rolling (in an Uphill World). Part fable, part creative thinking toolbox, the book is a wake up call for all aspiring innovators -- a simple way to help people "get out of the cave" and manifest BIG ideas in a world not always ready for the new and the different.

If you have an inspired idea that is lingering in your mind and needs a fresh jolt to see the light of day, this book is for you.

To order from Amazon, click here.

Tim Gallwey: "A superb catalyst for anyone with the urge to bring their best ideas into reality."

Donna Fenn: "Og may have invented the wheel, but Mitch Ditkoff has created a GPS for the innovation process. Awake at the Wheel is a witty and inspiring roadmap for the journey from ideas to invention."

Jay Conrad Levinson: "Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. The time has come for this book and Mitchell Lewis Ditkoff has put it into words. He has done a masterful job."

Jack Mitchell: "Go ahead and 'hug' your employees by giving them Awake at the Wheel and creating a company culture that fosters, develops, and celebrates the best of their ideas."

Joyce Wycoff: "A highly accessible alchemist's stone for aspiring innovators."

Melinda McLaughlin: Awake at the Wheel illuminates! It's the perfect book for those of us who have felt the excitement of the 'aha' moment only to experience the frustration that comes when no one sees the brilliant lightbulb above our head. Mitch Ditkoff takes us on an engaging journey that re-imagines how to turn an idea into great success and makes it suddenly seem easy.?

Chuck Frey: "Entertaining and inspiring."

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:05 AM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2008
If You Want a Breakthrough, Take a Break

tunnel.jpg

True innovators rarely follow the straight and narrow path. Not only do they march to a different drummer, they're often not even on the same playing field as most people.

Take Seymour Cray, for example, the legendary designer of high-speed computers.

According to John Rollwagen, ex-chairman of Cray research, Seymour Cray used to divide his time between building the next generation super computer and digging an underground tunnel below his Chippewa Falls house.

Cray's explanation of his tunnel digging behavior is consistent with the stories of many other creatives -- inner-directed, boundary-pushing people who understand the need to go off-line whenever they get stuck.

Bottom line, whenever they find themselves struggling with a thorny problem, they walk away from it for a while.

They know, from years of practical experience, that more (i.e. obsession, analysis, effort) is often less (i.e ideas, solutions, results).

Explained Cray, "I work for three hours and then get stumped. So I quit and go to work in the tunnel. It takes me an hour or so to dig four inches and put in the boards. You see, I'm up in the Wisconsin woods, and there are elves in the woods. So when they see me leave, they come back into my office and solve all the problems I'm having. Then I go up (to my lab) and work some more."

Explained Rollwagen, "The real work happens when Seymour is in the tunnel."

Many thanks to Chuck Frey for linking to our 100 Simple Ways to Be More Creative on the Job list on his excellent InnovationTools blog.

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

January 21, 2008
The Big Game

t1home.tynes.ap.jpg

Last night I watched the NY Giants beat the Green Bay Packers 23-20 in an NFL championship football game.

I watched it with eight friends. As always, we had a fantastic time - an experience that our wives (no matter how wonderful they may be) have never been able to truly fathom. Our viewing behavior, to them, is a merely a parody of the American male: two-dimensional, woefully predictable, and absurd.

That assessment, however, was not my experience last night. No way. On the contrary, my experience was noble, ecstatic, tribal, and divine. Beyond the pretzels, popcorn, chips, and beer something else was happening.

At the risk of making a mountain out of a football game, allow me to share a few observations about the experience and, by extension, the experience of millions of men huddled together before the Big Game. In that sacred act of viewing, NOTHING ELSE WAS HAPPENING! Zero. Nada. Zilch. No work. No bills. No back taxes. No car repairs. No war in Iraq. No recession. No primaries. No relationship issues. No cholesterol. No this and no that. Only The Game.

Pure immersion it was. Spontaneous expression. Presence. Unbridled emotion. Liberated laughter. And the kind of concentration most yogis would trade their third eye for.

What, you may ask, has any of this to do with innovation -- the supposed topic of this supposed blog? Plenty. The state of mind (no, make that state of being), of last night's BIG GAME watching, pretzel munching men is exactly the state of being required by an individual, team, or organization in order to have even the slightest chance of innovating.

OK. Let's go to the slow motion, video replay of that last sentence: I'm talking focus, friends. I'm talking compelling goal. The experience of community. Uncensored delight. Resilience. Loyalty. Humor. Hope. Perseverance. The entertainment of possibility. And the soulful appreciation of each other.

Please don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about the common garden variety trance experience induced by watching TV or a movie. No. I'm talking about the BIG GAME. The "All In" moment. The Full Monte. The No Turning Back. The This Is It. The There's No Tomorrow. And all of it sprinkled with a healthy dose of pepperoni and celebration even before anyone knows the final score.

Yes, I admit, the eight of us didn't deliver anything as a result of watching the BIG GAME -- no output, no product, no proof that we had used our time well. But so what? When you're eating chips and experiencing the Unified Field of Consciousness on the day the Lord rested and time stops as your team huddles in the freezing cold, against all odds, to gather together one more time, focused on the goal and absolutely free of constraint, doubt, and delusion, what is there left to say except:

Giants 23, Packers 20. (And in overtime, yet!)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:30 AM | Comments (0)

January 02, 2008
Give Everything You Have

If you are looking for a breakthrough in 2008 -- whether it's in the realm of innovation, collaboration, business, or personal relationships, allow me to offer you one simple piece of advice: give everything you have. Yup. Go all the way. Let it rip. Put all your chips on the table. Go all in. "A monomaniac on a mission" is how Peter Drucker once put it.

Martha Graham said the same basic thing, but a bit more poetically: "There is a vitality, a life force, that is translated to you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and will be lost."

Yessiree. Now's the time -- the time to translate your life force into action no matter what form it takes. Book to write? Move to make? Idea to manifest? Business to turnaround? Whatever. The key is to go for it. Give it everything you have. And yet, the act of giving everything you have is only HALF the battle. The other half... is HOW you give it.

And so, for all Heart of Innovation readers and any one else who has somehow found their way to this virtual space and time, I offer the following as a gift to you for a life well-lived in 2008. Imbibe it's meaning and you will find yourself succeeding beyond your wildest dreams. Not only will your cash flow, but so will you...


GIVE EVERYTHING YOU HAVE

Give everything you have,
and after you have given,
give what's left.
After you give what's left,
give what remains.
After giving that,
give the feeling of having given.
After giving the feeling
of having given,
give what you get
for having given.
Then give again,
never stopping, always giving.
And should it come to pass that you forget,
forgive yourself immediately.
Then begin again,
giving everything you have,
and after you have given,
give what's left.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:17 PM | Comments (0)

December 30, 2007
Seeing Innovation Clearly

perception_vase.gif

There's an old Indian adage that goes something like this: "When a pickpocket meets a saint, all he sees are pockets." Psychologists summarize this phenomenon in three words: "Motivation affects perception." In other words, if you're hungry when driving through a town, you'll notice the restaurants. If you're running out of gas, you'll notice the gas stations. If your mother is dying, you'll notice the funeral homes.

What is the meaning of this to you?

Simply this: If you are really serious about innovating in 2008, first you will need get clear about your motivation -- what's driving you. The clearer you are, the more your efforts will be free of the hidden agendas, assumptions, and filters that limit your ability to create what you SAY you want to create.

For example, if you think your real motivation is to create a breakthrough product, but what is really driving you is the need for short term profits, you won't have the kind of patience and perseverance required to aacomplish your goal.

Metaphorically speaking, if "innovation" is the "saint" you are seeking, you don't want to be approaching it like a pickpocket.

Next month, in this space, we'll be posting a poll to explore this phenomenon more deeply. We want to find out WHY people want to innovate. To jump start this effort, we invite you NOW to tell us why YOU want to innovate in 2008. What's in it for you? Why bother? What's the payoff?

Is it survival? Is it an attempt to keep pace with the competition? A way to enjoy your job more? A calling? Your strategy to get promoted? Something else? Simply click the "comments" link and let us know.

Which reminds me of that old Woody Allen joke: This guy goes into a psychiatrist's office and, in great distress, confesses that his brother thinks he's a chicken.

"Bring him in," the psychiatrist says.

"I can't," explains Woody.

"Why not," the psychiatrist asks.

"We need the eggs."

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:43 AM | Comments (0)

December 28, 2007
ANNOUNCING: The Winners of Our First Annual Blog Contest!

All-Winners_Squad2.jpg

Ta da! It's official! We have a winner! Actually, we have five winners and a bonus sixth -- the first people to respond to our Dec. 17th 30 Second Blog Contest.

And they are, in the exact order they left their "I-am-about-to-win-something-free-on-this-new-blog" comments: Nettie Hartsock, Paul D. Williams, Harmony, Bill Pearce, and James Todhunter.

Congratulations one and all for responding so quickly and winning a free copy of Mitch Ditkoff's Awake at the Wheel: Getting Great Ideas Rolling (in an Uphill World). The book is in the mail.

And a special acknowledgment to Paul Kwiecinski for entering the contest after the polls had closed and after most of our readers thought there was no more chance to win. Paul's tenacity has earned him a free copy of the book. Perseverance furthers.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:29 AM | Comments (0)

ANNOUNCING: The Winners of Our First Annual Blog Contest!

All-Winners_Squad2.jpg

Ta da! It's official! We have a winner! Actually, we have five winners and a bonus sixth -- the first people to respond to our Dec. 17th 30 Second Blog Contest.

And they are, in the exact order they left their "I-am-about-to-win-something-free-on-this-new-blog" comments: Nettie Hartsock, Paul D. Williams, Harmony, Bill Pearce, and James Todhunter.

Congratulations one and all for responding so quickly and winning a free copy of Mitch Ditkoff's Awake at the Wheel: Getting Great Ideas Rolling (in an Uphill World). The book is in the mail.

And a special acknowledgment to Paul Kwiecinski for entering the contest after the polls had closed and after most of our readers thought there was no more chance to win. Paul's tenacity has earned him a free copy of the book. Perseverance furthers.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:29 AM | Comments (0)

December 22, 2007
Time to Catch the Bubbles

jesse blog.jpg

A few years ago I found myself standing in my closet, madly searching for clean clothes in a last minute attempt to pack before yet another business trip, when I noticed my 4-year old son standing in the entrance. In one hand he was holding a small plastic wand. In the other, a plastic bottle of soapy water. "Dada," he said, looking up at me -- his eyes wide open -- "do you have time to catch my bubbles?"

Time? It stopped. And so did I. At that moment it suddenly made no difference whether or not I caught my plane. (I could barely catch my breath.) The only thing that existed was him and that soulful look of longing in his eyes.

For the next ten minutes, all we did was play -- him blowing bubbles and laughing, me catching and laughing, too. His need was completely satisfied. His need for connection. His need for love. His need for knowing, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that absolutely everything was perfect -- just the way it was.

He is 13 now. His bubbles are digital. But his need is still the same -- and so is mine. And so is yours, I would venture to say.

And so dear friends, clients, prospects, bloggers, and fellow earthlings, I wish you the happiest of holidays and a fabulous New Year. If you are busier than you want to be, I wish you stillness. If things are a little too still, I wish you more business. But no matter where you are on the continuum of life, please remember -- as my young son reminded me not that many years ago -- to take some time to catch the bubbles. Be in the moment. Enjoy the gift of life. Be grateful for every single breath, your family, and all the wonderful people who love you.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:50 AM | Comments (1)

December 17, 2007
The 30 Second Blog Contest

If you are one of the first five people who leave a comment in response to this blog posting, you win a free copy of Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book on what it takes to manifest bold new ideas, Awake at the Wheel. Thirty seconds of your time is all it will take -- about the time it takes to put your socks on. You see... the Idea Champions team has a little bet going on. We want to find out how many people will actually respond to this invitation.

Alright, enough context. Now's the time. Post your comment already...

Winners will be announced by Dec 31.

(PS: Idea Champions staff and family are excluded from this little contest.)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:39 PM | Comments (6)

December 15, 2007
Create In-House Start Ups

BOI hlaf size jpeg.jpg

If your organization is finding it slow going cranking up its innovation machine, take a tip from the world of high tech.

Teradyne, a manufacturer of testing equipment for semiconductor chips, phone networks, and software, has found a way to cut to the chase and go beyond the internal money grubbing game that all too often drives aspiring innovators up the wall or out the door. Simply put, Teradyne funds ersatz start-ups inside the company for its best ideas. The start-ups report not to a boss, but to a Board of Directors. It has venture capital -- not a budget.

Now you're talking -- a simple way to turn "one's job" into "one's work" -- and that is the secret sauce. If you want to spark innovation, you first have to spark the innovators. And one way to do that is to treat them like entrepreneurs, not worker bees. Go beyond the command and control budget game. Give people room enough to match their excitement. Let them create a business, not just work for a business.


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2007
InnovationTools' "Quote of the Week" is from Mitch

In a nice and unexpected coincidence with the kickoff of our blog here, the Quote of the Week in the current InnovationWeek newsletter is from our own Mitch Ditkoff, President and co-founder of Idea Champions. The newsletter is published by the respected InnovationTools.com.

Innovation Quote of the Week

"In today's flattened, restructured, downsized organization, your role is much more than getting the best out of people. It's getting the best out of the best part of people - out of their inspired imaginations, their ability to dream, conjure and conceive - and transforming those inspired ideas into the products, services and improvements that will not only keep your business humming, but make the world an even better place for all of us to live."

- Mitch Ditkoff


The quote comes from near the end of an article of Mitch's, "Innovation Coaching, The Manager as Idea Midwife." The article also appears on the InnovationTools site (demonstrating at the very least what a thorough reader their Chuck Frey is).

Posted by at 07:12 PM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2007
Talking Innovation: 3M's Secret Weapon

When talking (or blogging) about practical innovation in the corporate world, there's no better place to start than 3M, a company whose name has become synonymous with the word. 3M is committed to 30% of its revenues coming from recently introduced new products.

Impressive, indeed, but how do they do it?

Dr. Larry Wendling, VP of 3M's corporate research labs, revealed 3M's "secret weapon," in what he refers to as the "Seven Habits of Highly Innovative Organizations."

The Seven Habits are (paraphrased from Amy Rowell's Innovate Forum article):
1. Totally commit to innovation from top management on down.
2. Actively maintain an innovative culture.
3. Maintain a broad base of technology.
4. Encourage formal and informal networking.
5. Reward employees.
6. Quantify efforts.
7. Tie research to customers.

It all makes perfect sense, of course, starting with Wendling's first habit, the commitment of top management. But the fourth habit, what Wendling calls 3M's "secret weapon," is often overlooked, or even ignored, much of the time in organizations. In Rowell's words: "Talk, talk, talk. Management at 3M has long encouraged networking -- formal and informal -- among its researchers."

I think Wendling calls this 3M's "secret weapon" because so few other companies do this well, or are even aware of its importance. But what could be more important to innovation than encouraging the collaboration and teamwork we know lies behind every innovation since the invention of the wheel?

This is where the "silo" mentality and the "not invented here" syndrome intrudes on an innovation culture. Strict, formal reporting structures, loyalty to business unit before the organization, and the human tendency to only interact with people who already share our own views and experiences, all come into play. Any or all of these can block, or at least slow down, many companies' internal "network of innovation."

I can't tell you how many times I've facilitated a brainstorm session at a major corporation when a proposed idea will get criticized, or even rejected, because the development of the idea would involve another department or business unit! Sometimes the excuse is that there is no protocol for working with the other unit, and one would have to be created. Sometimes there is a poor previous history of collaboration between the two departments, (often involving, unsurprisingly, the two people at the top of each division).

In any case, I can't help but wonder how many great ideas fall between the cracks because executing them falls between the purviews of two different departments. And, unfortunately, it is in space between two major realms of focused business activity where we would expect to find some of the most exciting and profitable innovations!

To its credit, 3M actively encourages employees to talk to each other; across business units and despite formal roles, responsibilities, and organizational charts. If an employee has the kernel of an idea, he (or she) has the permission, indeed, the responsibility, to reach out and find out if it's viable, or if someone else has the missing piece. They're free to ask if others are interested in developing it, no matter where they work in the organization! (You mean you're allowed to DO that? Who knew?)

So, how does YOUR company's culture deal with employee networking? Does it encourage employees reaching out across organizational boundaries to share insights and ideas? Does it ignore this important aspect of innovation? Or is it actually hostile to it, punishing employees who reach out to others in order to get something started?

Here's a relatively cost-free way to improve the culture of innovation of your organization. Take advantage of 3M's experience and success and make employee networking your innovation "secret weapon" as well.

And, yes, you ARE allowed to do that!

Posted by Val Vadeboncoeur at 06:45 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.

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.
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.
See Mitch's keynote address Enjoy a 7-minute interview with Mitch at the Ethical Sourcing Forum in NYC: 3/28/11
Featured in Alltop Guy Kawasaki's Alltop "online magazine rack" has recognized Idea Champions' blog as one of the leading innovation blogs on the web. Check out The Heart of Innovation, and subscribe!
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

Breakthrough Cafe.
A totally unique brainstorming salon. Great food. Great food for thought. Great people. Collaborate, have fun, get out of the box.

"Inno-waiters With Whine Lists" – The Breakthrough Cafe featured in January 2006 issue of
© IDEA CHAMPIONS