August 02, 2014
Unleashing Business Brilliance

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That's what we do. And below are five ways we do it.

Conducting Genius

Engaging Innovation
Ingenious Leadership
What's the Problem?
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What our clients say

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June 13, 2014
100 Reasons Why You Don't Get Your Best Ideas At Work

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Since 1986, I've asked 10,000 people where and when they get their best ideas. Less than 2% have said "the workplace."

Based on my 25 years of working with a ton of innovation-seeking organizations, here's my take on WHY:

1. Too much to do, not enough time.

2. Too many distractions and interruptions.

3. You work in a risk averse organization.

4. Sleep deprivation.

5. Mental clutter.

6. Fear that someone will steal your idea.

7. You don't think of yourself as creative.

8. Boring meetings that put you in a bad mood.

9. You're not measured for the quantity or quality of ideas you generate.

10. Stultifying routine.

11. You are worried about layoffs and don't want to draw undue attention to yourself.

12. Poor ventilation -- not enough oxygen.

13. The last time you came up with a great idea, you were either ignored or ridiculed.

14. It's not in your job description.

15. It's not in the strategic plan.

16. It's not in the cards.

17. It's not in the Bible.

18. Your manager has made it clear that he/she does not have the time to consider your ideas.

19. Lack of immersion. Lack of incubation.

20. No one's ever told you that they want your ideas.

21. You are understaffed and don't have the time to try an innovative approach.

22. You are angry at the company.

23. You get no input from people outside your department.

24. Your company has just been acquired and you don't want your new overlord to succeed.

25. You know there's no one to pitch your new ideas to -- and even if there was, it's a long shot they would listen.

26. You're concerned that your great idea is so great that it will actually be accepted and then you will be expected to work on it in your spare time (which you don't have) with no extra resources made available to you.

27. All your great ideas are focused on trying to get Gina or Gary, in Marketing, to give you the time of day.

28. You're a new parent.

29. You've got other projects, outside of work, and have no energy left to think about anything else.

30. They don't pay you enough to think creatively.

31. You're expected to leave your mind at the door when you come to work.

32. No incentives or rewards.

33. You don't have the intrinsic motivation .

34. Actually, you don't want to be working at all -- and you wouldn't be working if the financial meltdown didn't happen.

35. You have not identified a challenge or opportunity that inspires you enough to think up new ideas.

36. No timely feedback from others.

37. There's no one to collaborate with.

38. Constantly changing priorities.

39. "Work," for you is synonymous with things you have to do not want to do, thus creating two parallel universes that never intersect.

40. You haven't read my award winning book yet.

41. It's too noisy.

42. Endless hustle and bustle.

43. You can't stop thinking about new ways to improve your Match.com profile.

44. You're too busy tweeting.

45. You have the attention span of a tse tse fly.

46. Just when a good idea pops into your head, you dismiss it as "not good enough".

47. Your left brain has become a kind of Attila the Hun in relation to your Pee Wee Herman-like right brain.

48. You didn't get the memo.

49. You are too busy deleting spam.

50. The brainstorming sessions you attend are pitiful.

51. You believe that new ideas are a dime a dozen.

52. You're not paid to think. You're paid to DO.

53. Actually, you don't have a job.

54. You are hypoglycemic.

55. You're not allowed to listen to music at your desk.

56. You have no sense of urgency.

57. Your office or cubicle feels like a jail cell.

58. You're too busy filling out forms.

59. Not enough coffee.

60. Drugs are not allowed in the workplace.

61. Existential despair.

62. There's a call on Line 2.

63. You have no time to incubate or reflect.

64. You've got to show results fast.

65. You know your boss will, eventually, get all the credit for your great ideas.

66. You've just been assigned to another project.

67. Brain fatigue.

68. You haven't tried Free the Genie yet.

69. You don't feel valued or appreciated.

70. You deciphered a much talked about sighting of a Crop Circle in England as meaning: "Stop coming up with good ideas at work."

71. Every extra minute you have is spent on Facebook.

72. There's too much stress and pressure on the job.

73. Naysayers and idea killers surround you.

74. Inability to relax.

75. It's summertime.

76. You've got this weird rash on your leg and you think it might be Lyme's disease or leprosy.

77. What you think of as a great idea and what your manager thinks of as a great idea are two entirely different things.

78. You know you won't get the funding, so why bother?

79. You're just trying to get through the day.

80. Every time you get a great idea, it's time to go to another meeting.

81. You only get your great ideas in the shower and there are no showers at work.

82. Your head is filled with a thousand things you need to do.

83. Relentless deadlines.

84. Too much input from others.

85. You have to stay focused on the "job at hand".

86. You'll only end up making the company richer and that is not what you want to do.

87. Those bright, annoying, overhead fluorescent lights.

88. No one besides you really cares.

89. You've just been assigned a project that is boring the hell out of you.

90. There is no one to brainstorm with.

91. Your husband/wife is complaining that all you ever do is work -- or talk about work.

92. No alcohol.

93. Your cultural upbringing has taught you that it is not your place to conjure up new ideas.

94. Your job is too structured to think outside the box.

95. People seem to be staring at you and that makes you self-conscious.

96. You're too busy complaining about the organization.

97. Wait! How come they're taking so much out of your paycheck?

98. You're only working there to beef up your resume for the next job.

99. A vast right wing conspiracy.

100. You let too many of the aforementioned 99 phenomena have their way with you. Your resulting assessment of the corporate environment not being conducive to the origination of great ideas then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Possible antidotes

A big thank you to Jim Aubele, Fran Tyson-Marchino, Nirit Sharon, Cindy Pearce, Robert Fischaleck, Deborah Medenbach, Amy de Boinville, Glenna Dumay, Bert Dromedary, and Sally Kaiser for their contributions to this list.

A good way to get ideas at work
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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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VIDEO: The 8 Dimensions of a Brainstorm Session

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March 16, 2014
How to Spark Wisdom in the Workplace

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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

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February 19, 2014
How to Open the Door to Innovation

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There is no magic pill, but there is a key. And the key has a lot to do with creating a critical mass of savvy innovation catalysts and change agents who know how to open doors (and minds).

Idea Champions

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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

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December 10, 2013
Storytelling and the Creative Process

This is bleeping brilliant. Not only WHAT its says, but HOW it's presented. Two minutes on what it takes to really do creative work. Inspiring. Truthful. And in your face like a fresh arctic wind off a lake you've been waiting too long to sail on...

Ira Glass on Storytelling from David Shiyang Liu on Vimeo.

Idea Champions

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December 06, 2013
The DNA of Our Brainstorm Facilitation Training

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VIDEO: The eight dimensions of a brainstorming session

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November 14, 2013
One Reason Why Brainstorming Fails

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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October 24, 2013
How We Spark Innovation

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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. confucius-757900.jpg

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. gatsby-idea!.jpg

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.

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October 22, 2013
Look to Nature for a Creative Breakthrough

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Leonardo DaVinci got his idea for the airplane by watching birds in flight. The creators of Kung Fu developed many of their techniques by watching animals fight. The pharmaceutical industry develops many of its "miracle cures" by studying the natural healing properties of herbs and plants.

Bottom line, nature is a great source of breakthrough ideas.

The secret for meeting your biggest challenge, in fact, may have already been worked out thousands of years ago by a cockroach.

THE TECHNIQUE

1. Frame your challenge as a question that begins with "How can I"

2. Everywhere you go today, notice how nature "gets things done." (i.e. bee hives, ants, sunflowers, etc.)

3. Make a connection between the natural world and your challenge (i.e. "What can I learn about my challenge from an ant colony?")

Technique adapted from Awake at the Wheel
Photo: Ira Meyer

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September 19, 2013
10 Ways to Help Left Brainers Tap Into the Best of Their Creativity

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If your job requires you to lead meetings, brainstorming sessions, or problem solving gatherings of any kind, chances are good that most of the people you come in contact with are left-brain dominant: analytical, logical, linear folks with a passion for results and a huge fear that the meeting you are about to lead will end with a rousing chorus of kumbaya.

Not exactly the kind of mindset conducive to breakthrough thinking.

Do not lose heart, oh facilitators of the creative process. Even if you find yourself in a room full of 10,000 left brainers, there are tons of ways to work with this mindset in service to bringing out the very best of the group's collective genius:

1. Diffuse the fear of ambiguity by continually clarifying the process
Most left-brain-dominant people hate open-ended processes and anything that smacks of ambiguity.

Next time you find yourself leading a creative thinking session, make it a point to give participants, early is the session, a mental map of the process you'll be using. Explain that the session will consist of two key elements: divergent thinking and convergent thinking.

In the divergent segment, you'll be helping people consider non-traditional approaches. In the convergent segment, you'll be helping people analyze, evaluate, and select from the multiplicity of ideas they have generated.

If participants are going to get uneasy, it will happen during the divergent segment. Your task? Periodically remind them of where they are in the process. "Here's our objective," you might say. "Here's where we've been. Here's where we are. And here's we're going. Any questions?"

2. Get people talking about AHAS! they've had
No matter how risk averse or analytical people in your sessions may be, it's likely that all of them -- at some time or another -- have had a really great idea. genie2 .jpg"Creativity" really isn't all that foreign to them (although they may think it is). All you need to do to get them in touch with that part of themselves is help them recall a moment when they were operating at a high level of creativity.

Get them talking about how it felt, what were the conditions, and what preceded the breakthrough. You'll be amazed at the stories you'll hear and how willing everyone will be, after that, to really stretch out.

3. Identify (and transform) limiting assumptions
One of the biggest obstacles to creativity is the assumption-making part of our brain -- the part that is forever drawing lines in the sand -- the part that is ruled by the past. Most people are not aware of the assumptions they have -- in the same way that most drivers are not aware of the blind spot in their mirror.

If you want people to be optimally creative, it is imperative that you find a way to help them identify their limiting assumptions about the challenge they are brainstorming. "Awareness cures," explains psychologist Fritz Perls. But DON'T get caught in a lengthy discussion about the collective limiting assumptions of the group. This is often just another way that left-brain dominant participants will default to analyzing and debating.

Instead, lead a process that will help participants identify and explore their limiting assumptions. Then, time allowing, help them transform each of these limiting assumptions into open-ended "How can we?" questions for brainstorming.

4. Encourage idea fluency
Dr. Linus Pauling, one of the most influential chemists of the 20th century, was once asked, "How do you get a good idea?" His response? "The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas and throw the bad ones away."

That's why "Go for a quantity of ideas" is the first rule of brainstorming. You want to encourage people, early and often, to go for quantity. This will short circuit participants' perfectionistic, self-censoring tendencies -- two behaviors that are certain death to creativity.

5. Invite humor

The right use of is a great way to help people tap into their right brains. Indeed, "haha" and "aha" are closely related. Both are the result of surprise or discontinuity. You laugh when your expectations are confronted in a delightful way.

Please note, however, that your use of humor must not be demeaning to anyone in the room. Freud explained that every "joke" has a victim and is used by the teller to gain advantage over the victim -- a way to affirm power. And when a group finds itself in the realm of power (and the yielding of power), it will undoubtedly end up in left brain territory.

You don't want to feed that beast.

Instead, set the tone by telling a victimless joke or two, or by your own self-deprecating humor. But even more important than "joke telling" is to allow and encourage a free flowing sense of playfulness.

6. Do the right brain/ left brain two-step
Brainstorming for 3, 4 or 5 hours in a row is unusually exhausting, resulting in the "diminishing returns" syndrome. Creative thinking, like life itself, follows natural laws. Day is followed by night, winter by spring, inbreath by outbreath.

That's why the design of your creative thinking session needs to alternate between the cerebral and the kinesthetic -- between brainstorming and some kind of hands-on, experiential activity. By doing this two-step, participants will stay refreshed and engaged.

7. Periodically mention that chaos precedes creative breakthroughs

Left-brained, logical people are rarely comfortable with ambiguity, chaos and the unknown. It seems messy. Disorganized. Downright unprofessional. Indeed, much of the Six Sigma work being done in corporations these days is to reduce variability and increase predictability.

Paradox alert!

If you want to get really creative, you will need to increase variability and help participants get more "out of control." Picasso said it best, "The act of creation is first of all an act of destruction." Tom Peters said it second best, "Innovation is a messy business."

So, when you sense that your session is filled with ambiguity-phobic people, remember to mention how it's normal for ambiguity to precede a creative breakthrough. You may even want to mention how you will be purposefully infusing the session with moments of ambiguity, just to prime the creative pump.

8. Establish criteria for evaluation
The reason why ideas are usually considered a dime a dozen is because most people are unclear about their process for identifying the priceless ones. That's why a lot of brainstorming sessions are frustrating. Tons of possibilities are generated, but there is no clear path for winnowing and choosing.

Let's assume, for example, that the session you facilitate generates 100 powerful, new ideas. Do you have a process for helping participants pare the 100 down to a manageable few? If not, you need one. Ideally, the criteria for selecting ideas will be clarified before the session and introduced to participants early in the session.

Please note that there is some debate amongst brainstorm mavens as to when to offer the criteria. Some say this should happen at the beginning of the session (to help assuage the left brain need for logic and boundaries). Others suggest delaying the identification of criteria until just before the idea evaluation process. Either way will work. Your call.

9. Be a referee when you have to
No matter how many ground rules you mention about "suspending judgment" or "delaying evaluation," you are going to have some heavy hitters in the room just waiting for a moment to doubt your approach or "the process."

Indeed, one of the favorite (often unconscious) strategies of some left-brainers is to debate and question the facilitator every step of the way. While you want to honor their concerns and right to speak their truth, you also want to hold the bar high for the intention behind the brainstorming session -- and that is to challenge the status quo, entertain the new, and create space for imaginations to roam.

Don't be afraid to be firm with participants who want to control the session. At the very least, ask them to suspend their need for "convergence" (i.e. evaluation, judgment, decision making) to the end of the session when there will be plenty of time to exercise that very important muscle.

10. Consult with the tough people on the breaks
Every once in a while, a really opinionated person shows up in a session -- someone who is probably very smart, competent, experienced, with a big BS detector, and just enough arrogance to make you feel uncomfortable. These people can really affect the group, especially if they hold positions of power in the organization.

In the best of all worlds, these people would always be on your side. They won't be. Be careful about playing to these people in a neurotic attempt to get their approval. You won't get it. But DO seek them out on breaks and engage them. Get them talking. Pay attention. See if you can pick up any useful feedback or clues about revising your agenda or approach.

Even though you wouldn't choose to be trapped on a desert island with them, these folks may turn out to be a huge blessing -- because they are carriers of a particular sensibility that needs to be honored. More than likely, some of the other people in the room are feeling the same thing, but have been too polite to show their true colors. So, don't be afraid of these people. They can be a very valuable resource.

Idea Champions

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May 08, 2013
The Selective Attention Test

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February 19, 2013
Go Beyond Analysis Paralysis

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One way to do so
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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)

December 13, 2012
What's Next After Twitter

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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

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November 21, 2012
The Top Ten Reasons Why The Top Ten Reasons Don't Matter

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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.

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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

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October 16, 2012
Create 'Til You're Blue in the Face

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Idea Champions
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What they say about us

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September 29, 2012
The Top 10 Reasons Why the Top 10 Reasons Don't Matter

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1. Reason is highly over-rated.

2. If you need more data to prove your point, you'll never have enough data to prove your point.

3. Analysis paralysis.

4. You're going to follow your gut, anyway.

5. By the time you put your business case together, the market has passed you by.

6. "Not everything that counts can be counted; not everything that can be counted counts." - Albert Einstein

7. The scientific method came to Rene Descartes in a dream!

8. Most reasons are collected to prove to others what you have already decided to do.

9. "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." - G.B. Shaw

10. I am, therefore I think.

Idea Champions
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August 10, 2012
Web Workshops from Idea Champions

Here's a 3minute video overview of Idea Champions newest service -- Web Workshops -- highly engaging 60-minute tutorials to help your workforce raise the bar for innovation, collaboration, and communication.

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July 27, 2012
Creative Thinking Webinars for People Who Work in Corporations

40-minute overview of Idea Champions' newly launched series of creative thinking webinars (aka "Web Workshops") -- a simple, cost-effective way to spark brilliance and breakthrough in your organization.
Creative thinking web workshops
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July 17, 2012
Rethinking The Role of a Manager

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The root of the word "manager" comes from the same root as the words "manipulate" and "maneuver", meaning to "adapt or change something to suit one's purpose".

Although these words may carry a pejorative meaning, there is nothing inherently wrong with them. Indeed, into each life a little manipulation and maneuvering must fall.

For example, if the door to your office gets stuck, a handyman might need to manipulate it to get it working again. If there is a log jam at the elevator, you might decide to maneuver around the crowd and take the stairs.

However, there is another kind of manipulation and maneuvering that is a problem -- when managers use their position to bend subordinates to their will.

While short-term gains may result, in the end the heart is taken out of people.

Your staff may become good soldiers, but they will lose something far more important in the process -- their ability to think for themselves.

General George Patton said it best, "Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity."

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Unfortunately, ingenuity in many corporations has gone the way of the hula-hoop. "Intellectual capital" is the name of the game these days -- and it is the enlightened manager's duty to learn how to play.

Only those companies will succeed whose people are empowered to think for themselves and respond creatively to the relentless change going on all around them.

Managers must make the shift from manipulators to manifesters.

They must learn how to coach their people into increasingly higher states of creative thinking and creative doing.

They must realize that the root of their organization's problem is not the economy, cycle time, strategy or outsourcing, but their own inability to tap into the power of their workforce's innate creativity.

Where does this empowerment start?

First, by recognizing what power is: "the ability to do or act".

And second, by realizing that power is intimately connected to ideas.

Most managers, unfortunately, perceive new ideas as problems -- especially if the ideas are not their own.

More often than not, managers don't pay enough attention to the ideas of the people around them. They say they want innovation. They say they want "their people" to do something different. But they do precious little to support their subordinates in their efforts to do so. More commonly, they foist their own ideas on others and can't figure out why things aren't happening faster.

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That's not how change happens.

If people are only acting out somebody else's ideas, it's only a matter of time before they feel discounted, disempowered and just plain dissed.

People are more than hired hands; they are hired minds and hearts, as well.

Let's start with the basics.

Everything you see around you began as an idea. The computer. The stapler. The paperclip, the microchip and the chocolate chip. All of these began as an idea within someone's fevered imagination.

The originators of these ideas were on fire.

Did they have to be "managed?" No way. In fact, if they had a manager, he or she would have done well to get out of the way.

If you want to empower people, honor their ideas. Give them room to challenge the status quo. Give them room to move -- and, by extension, move mountains.

Why? Because people identify most with their ideas.

"I think therefore, I am" is their motto. People feel good when they're encouraged to originate and develop ideas. It gives their work meaning, makes it their own, and intrinsically motivates.

Who has the power in an organization? The people who are allowed to think for themselves and then act on their ideas! Who doesn't have power? The people who have to continually check-in with others.

Think about it. The arrival of a new idea is typically accompanied by a wonderful feeling of upliftment and excitement -- even intoxication.

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It's inspiring to have a new idea, to intuit a new way of getting the job done. Not only does this new idea have the potential to bring value to the company, it temporarily frees the idea originator from their normal habits of thinking. A sixth sense takes over, releasing the individual from the gravity of status quo thinking.

In this mindset, the idea originator is transported to a more expansive realm of possibility. All bets are off. The sky's the limit. All assumptions are seen for what they are -- limited beliefs with a history, but no future.

If you are a manager, you want people in this state of mind. It is not a problem. It is not the shirking of responsibility. It is not a waste of time.

On the contrary, it's the first indicator that you are establishing a company culture that is conducive to innovation.

This is not to say, of course, that you have to fund every idea that comes your way.

On some level, ideas are a dime a dozen -- and only a handful of them are ever going to amount to much. But if you treat all ideas as if they are worthless, you will never find the priceless ones.

Creativity, you see, is often a numbers game. Einstein had plenty of bogus theories. Mozart wrote some crap. But they continued being prolific. And it was precisely this self-generating spirit of creation, which enabled them to access the good stuff.

You, as a manager, want to increase the number of new ideas being pitched to you. You want to create an environment where new ideas are popping all the time. If you do, old problems and ineffective ways of doing things will begin dissolving.

This is the hallmark of an innovative organization -- a place where everyone is encouraged and empowered to think creatively. Within this kind of environment managers become coaches, not gatekeepers.

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"Coaching", of course, has been widely written about and there are many fine books on the subject. What hasn't been written about very much is how to become an "innovation coach" -- how to create the kind of environment that elicits the hidden genius of the people around you.

It's one thing to tell people "you want their ideas", it's quite another to create the kind of environment that makes this rhetoric real.

Creativity cannot be legislated. It cannot be sustained by pep talks. What needs to happen is that YOU, as a manager, need to change the way you relate to people. Each encounter you have with another person in the workplace needs to quicken the likelihood that their unexpressed ideas will get a fair hearing -- enabling a far greater percentage of them to eventually take root.

How does a manager do this?

First, by expressing a lot of positive regard. Get interested! Pay attention! Be present to the moment!

This is not so much a technique as it is a state of mind. If your head is always filled with your own thoughts and ideas, there won't be any room left to entertain those of others. It's a law of physics. Two things cannot occupy the same place at the same time.

Here's an example: Let's say someone comes up to you in the middle of the day and says something like, "I have this great idea for a new product that will generate over $200 million for our company."

The first thing you need to do is realize the opportunity you have. An idea is about to be shared, one that may herald a breakthrough or, at the very least, solve a problem, capitalize on an opportunity, or make your life easier.

Your willingness to sit up and take notice needs to be just as strong as if a customer were to call and complain. If possible, drop what you're doing, focus all of your attention on the idea generator, take a deep breath, and begin a series of questions that demonstrate your interest. If you cannot drop what you are doing, schedule some time -- as soon as possible -- for the idea originator to pitch you.

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And whether the pitch is now or later, your response -- in the form of exploratory questions -- needs to be as genuine as possible. Consider some of the following openers:

* "That sounds interesting. Can you tell me more?"

* "What excites you the most about this idea?"

* "What is the essence of your idea - the core principle?"

* "How do you imagine your idea will benefit others?"

* "In what ways does your idea fit with our strategic vision?"

* "What information do you still need?"

* "Who are your likely collaborators?"

* "Is there anything similar to your idea on the market?

* "What support do you need from me?"

* "What is your next step?"

Basically, you want the idea originator to talk about their idea as much as possible in this moment of truth. An idea needs to first take form in order to take root, and one of the best ways of doing this is to encourage the idea originator to talk about it -- even if their idea is not yet fully developed.

The telling of the idea, in fact, is not unlike someone telling you their dream. The telling helps the dreamer flesh out the details of what they imagined and the subsequent hearing of it firmly installs it in their memory -- and yours -- so the idea does not fade quite as quickly.

Most of us, however, are so wrapped up in our own ideas that we rarely take the time to listen to others. Your subordinates know this and, consequently, rarely share their ideas with you.

But it doesn't have to be this way. And it won't necessarily require a lot of time on your part. Some time, yes. But not as much as you might think.

Bottom line, the time it takes you to listen to the ideas of others is not only worth it -- the success of your enterprise depends on it.

Choose not to listen and you will end up frantically spending a lot more time down the road asking people for their ideas about how to save your business from imminent collapse.

By that time, however, it will be too late. Your workforce will have already tuned you out.

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June 12, 2012
What You Can Learn from WC Fields

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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.

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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
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Innovation Kits

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May 08, 2012
Creating Time to Innovate

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On Thursday May 17th, I will be delivering a live webinar on Fostering a Culture of Innovation. The first 50 people to sign up get half off, so register now!

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 yet another unnecessary meeting.

Oh sure, there are always a few who will find a way, via skunkworks and caffeine, to find the time... but for the most part, organizations are painting their people into a corner.

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.

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That's why Google gives its engineers 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.

For more of our wisdom on innovation, creative thinking, and becoming the best company you can be, check out our newly launched webinars at www.ideachampionsuniversity.com!

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:36 AM | Comments (1)

May 07, 2012
Fascination is the DNA of Innovation

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I own a huge library of books on innovation. Mostly hardcover. The $27.95 variety with big indexes and forwards by people who make more money than I do.

Some of these books are actually good. Most of them bore me. (I must confess I have a secret desire, whenever I enter a bookstore, to put glue between pages 187 & 188 in all of the new releases just to see if the publishers get any complaints).

The books attempt to describe the origins of innovation. You know, stuff like "the innate human impulse to find a better way" and "the imperative to find a competitive edge." That sort of thing.

Corporate-speak, in other words.

In my experience, the origin of innovation is fascination -- the state of being intensely interested in something. Enchanted. Captivated. Spellbound. Absorbed.

What kids are naturally good at.

Kids and those mavericks at work who make everyone nervous and running for their spreadsheets at the drop of a hat.

A person who is fascinated does not need to be motivated... or managed... or "incentivized."

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All that person needs is time, some resources, meaningful collaboration, and periodic reality checks from someone who understands what fascination is all about.

That's why Google gives its workforce 20% of their time to explore projects on their own. That's why 3M and W.L. Gore do something similar. They know that the root of innovation is fascination.

If you, or the people who report to you, are not currently in a state of fascination it's time to turn things around. That is, IF you want to spark some innovation.

How do you do this?

For starters, here's one way, excerpted from Awake at the Wheel.

THE SEED OF FASCINATION

1. On a piece of paper, create three parallel headlines -- "What Fascinates Me," "People I Admire," and "What I Would Do If I Knew I Couldn't Fail."

2. Jot down at least five responses beneath each headline.

3. Look for intriguing, new connections between your responses. Any insights? Ahas?

4. Jot down your new ideas.

5. Circle your favorite idea and brainstorm it with a friend. Then pitch anyone who's influence can help you launch your ideas for how to bring more fascinating projects into your work life.

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:24 PM | Comments (7)

May 06, 2012
"Anonymous" Revealed

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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.

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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)

April 14, 2012
100 Simple Ways to Be More Creative on the Job

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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.

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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 10, 2012
Manifest Your Big Idea By Friday

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On April 11th (double April Fool's Day?), I will be delivering a 60-minute webinar to any earthling with an internet connection and a pressing need to manifest one of their BIG IDEAS.

I am offering a 50% discount to dyslexics, Buddhists, vegetarians, Republicans, Democrats, fans of James Taylor, or anyone who has ever wondered what kind of companies hire Idea Champions.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:51 PM | Comments (0)

April 01, 2012
Our World Wide Webinatrix Speaks!

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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.

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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.

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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 05, 2012
Innovation from the Inside Out

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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.

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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

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

February 24, 2012
Creative Thinking Technique #6

KIDDING AROUND

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Some years ago, as the story goes, a large truck got stuck in a New York City tunnel. (Apparently the driver did not notice the maximum height sign and wedged his vehicle against the roof of the tunnel.)

Traffic backed up for miles while angry motorists honked their horns and waited impatiently for police to arrive.

Just as the authorities were about to weld the top off the truck, a five-year old girl, watching from the backseat of her parents' car, calmly asked why the grown ups didn't just let some air out of the tires to lower the height of the truck so it could continue through the tunnel.

Her father, tickled by his daughter's suggestion, got out of his car and shared the idea with the powers that be. Problem solved.

THE TECHNIQUE

1. Think of a challenge you have been struggling with.

2. Present it to a child.

3. Listen carefully to their suggestions.

4. Even if no brilliant ideas emerge, look for the wisdom hidden within their most interesting approach.

PS: Psychologists claim that a human being is most creative at the age of five.

Idea Champions
Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:51 PM | Comments (3)

February 18, 2012
The Romance of Creativity

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If you are trying to bring something new into the world, know this:

The creative process is very much like a relationship.

And like most relationships, it usually begins with fascination -- that curious state of mind that keeps you spellbound, charmed, and aroused.

Whenever someone gets a new idea, a kind of romance begins.

For many of us, just thinking about a new idea is an aphrodisiac. It turns us on, psyches us up, and otherwise makes it hard to eat, sleep, or obsess about cash flow.

While some people involved in a new relationship are able to sustain this excitement for months, most of us are less fortunate. It's the rare person who knows how to savor and expand upon this feeling for years.

After the intoxication of the initial encounter wears off, a less-than-incredible reality sets in.

Where once we saw only beauty, now we see blemishes.

To make matters worse, a werid kind performance anxiety enters the picture.

"Will I be good enough to achieve my goal?" we ask. "Do I have what it takes?"

Call it doubt if you like, but any way you slice it, the honeymoon is over.

What follows is a painful period of re-evaluation.

Long-buried fears of being consumed by the "other" surface, driving us into withdrawal. Instead of enjoying the outpouring of creative energy that accompanies a new idea, we study it. We dissect about it. We doubt it. Anything but let go to it.

Before you know it, the approach/avoidance game is upon us. On Monday we're totally absorbed in our new venture. On Friday, we're sure it's a waste of time.

The plot soon thickens.

Instead of maintaining our commitment to our HOT new idea, we begin having flings.

We flirt with other ideas, other possibilities, other new loves. We get into everything and anything -- whatever it takes not to sustain our ongoing relationship with our original inspiration.

Is there any hope?

Yes, there is. And something a lot more powerful than hope -- awareness.

Simply by being aware of the mind games you play will go a long way towards making magic happen.

To begin with, understand that all romances, no matter how inspiring, are temporary. The trivial ones end. The good ones mature, often growing into committed relationships -- even marriages.

If you are serious about your current hot idea, be willing to get closer to it. Be willing to go from the romance stage to an intimate relationship.

Understand what the creative process is -- an impossible-to-deny encounter with yourself -- your fears, your power, your vision, and what drives you to play the game of life.

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Know that you will have your falling out periods and your disagreements. Know that you will sometimes feel like a fraud. And know that the fuel for many creative breakthroughs has not only been passion, purpose, and power, but confusion, conflict, and collapse.

It's normal. It's human. It's part of the process.

Above all, do whatever it takes to put the elation back into your relationship to creativity.

Illustration

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Idea Champions
Awake at the Wheel

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:09 AM | Comments (1)

February 07, 2012
Creative Thinking Technique #5

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THE THIRD EYE OF THE STORM

At the center of every storm is total stillness. No matter how much swirling, flooding, and high winds are happening on the periphery, at the core of every storm is complete quiet.

The same holds true for the creative process.

At the edges of your Big Idea, there is a great swirling: bills to pay, ovens to clean, cars to repair -- the kind of stuff that can easily occupy all your time and attention. That is, if you let it.

A true innovator will find a way to deal with the high winds and still have enough time to hatch their big idea. And they will do so in a way that does not judge the stuff on the seeming "periphery" to be any less important than the quiet at the center of the storm.

THE TECHNIQUE

1. Make a list of your three biggest responsibilities.

2. Create a plan for handling them. Today.

3. Whenever one of these responsibilities competes with time you have to develop your Big Idea, take a few, deep breaths. Remember how lucky you are to be alive.

4. Acknowledge the peripheral task that needs to be done. Acknowledge the person who is reminding you to do it. Remember how lucky you are to be alive.

5. As you begin handling your responsibilities, remain at the center of the storm, concentrating on your breathing with the full realization that you will be returning to your "creative space" at just the right time.

6. Stop bitching and moaning. It's a waste of time.

Idea Champions
Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)

February 02, 2012
Creative Thinking Technique #4

IDEA BRAHMACHARYA

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In India, spiritual adepts who give up sex to pursue God are known as "brahmacharyas."

They believe that their vital power (i.e. kundalini) needs to be completely intact in order for them to have the ultimate experience. They celebrate by being celibate.

What does this have to do with you, oh sexually active seeker of the Big Idea? Plenty -- especially when you consider that one of the main reasons why many new ideas never see the light of day is because their originators have a tendency to "prematurely articulate."

Indeed, the act of talking about one's idea often takes the place of doing anything about it -- and the idea, regrettably, ends up merely a fantasy.

THE TECHNIQUE

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1. In the beginning stages of your idea, don't talk about it.

2. If you get the urge to talk about your idea, abstain.

3. If someone asks you about your idea, thank them for asking, but explain it's still too early to talk about it.

Idea Champions
Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:54 PM | Comments (1)

January 31, 2012
Go Beyond Your Pet Ideas!

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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 29, 2012
Creative Thinking Technique #3

THE EMBEDDED REPORTER

There is a state of mind psychologists have dubbed the hypnopompic state that is a rich source of inspiration and fresh ideas.

In this state, most often associated with the first few minutes upon waking, the analytical mind is at bay and a fuzzier logic prevails.

It is as if a portal opens between worlds and we gain greater access to the subconscious part of mind where brilliance, insight, and expanded perception often reside.

Explained Victor Hugo, "There is visible labor, and there is an invisible labor."

In the hypnopompic state, invisible labor rules the day.

THE TECHNIQUE

1. When you wake up, don't get out of bed.
2. Just lay there.
3. Don't speak. Don't think. Don't move.
4. Let dreams, images, and feelings come to you.
5. Surf them. Then write them down.

Idea Champions
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Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel
More about the book

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:02 AM | Comments (1)

January 27, 2012
Creative Thinking Technique #2

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DREAM CATCHING

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, our subconscious mind arrives at solutions that our conscious mind is unlikely to discover no matter much it obsesses.

That's why Thomas Edison and Salvadore Dali used to take naps during the day.

Click the link below for a simple technique you can use to help remember your dreams...

The Technique:
1. Before you go to sleep tonight, bring to mind a question, challenge or opportunity you've been struggling with

2. As you fall asleep, stay focused on it

3. When you awake, write down your dream even if the dream makes no sense to you

4. Reflect on each element of the dream and see if you can make any connections to the project you are noodling on.

Illustration
Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel
Awake at the Wheel website
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2012
Creative Thinking Technique #1

This is the first in a series of 35 postings that describe simple techniques you can use to liberate your innate creativity.

1. WRITE ON!

Buddha, as the story goes, once said that human beings have 2,000 thoughts per second -- and that he had slowed his mind enough to be able to identify the last two.

Few of us are in Buddha's league. Our thoughts are often a blur, flying in under the radar -- great ideas mixed with odd bits about shoe sales, sex, and salad dressing.

Like unremembered dreams, our ideas come and go, having little or no effect on our lives. That's why you need a way to track and capture them. At the very least, the effort will give you the option of remembering them.

Cavemen recorded their ideas on the walls of their cave. You also need a way.

The Technique

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1. Keep an idea notebook with you at all times

2. When an inspired idea comes to you, write it down

3. At the end of the day (or week), review your notebook, circling the ideas that sing to you

4. Look for connections between ideas and see if you can synthesize something new from their interplay.

Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel
Awake at the Wheel website
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:00 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 02, 2012
Top Innovation Bloggers of 2011

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Well, I've got good news and great news to share with you.

First the good news: I was just voted the #1 innovation blogger in the world in a contest sponsored by Innovation Excellence, the #1 innovation blog in the world.

Now the great news: 2012 is going to be an awesome year for you -- full of happiness, abundance, creativity, collaboration, community, fun, gratitude and, yes, innovation. That is, if you want it to be.

I'd like to take this moment to thank all of you who voted for me. (And by the way, for those of you who think that all I do is write about innovation, please know that this is just a sideline).

My real work is in the trenches...

I'd also like to acknowledge some amazing people who have inspired and encouraged me throughout the years.

These include Evelyne Pouget, Tim Gallwey, Prentiss Uchida, Seth Godin, Gary Hamel, Ben Zander, Roger van Oech, Guy Kawasaki, Erika Andersen, Rumi, Hafiz, Kabir, Morihei Ueshiba, the entire Idea Champions team, Joe and Eddie, Ron Brent, Phyllis Rosen, Joan Apter and, most of all, Prem Rawat (aka Maharaji).

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I first heard about Prem Rawat when he was 13 (and I was 24). At that very young age, he came to America (from India) to bring a very powerful message of peace -- a message he doesn't just talk about, but helps people experience for themselves.

He is not the first to talk about this message. Nor will he be the last. But he is here and now -- helping thousands of people, from all walks of life, go beyond ideas to find their way to the source of peace within themselves.

His dedication, brilliance, love, and endless commitment to innovating is a great source of inspiration to me.

More
The Keys
TPRF

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:11 PM | Comments (2)

December 27, 2011
The Selective Attention Test

Idea Champions
Free the Genie

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:13 PM | Comments (0)

December 21, 2011
Water the Seed of Fascination

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The reason why many of us do not get inspired ideas is because we are not inspired. The reason we are not inspired is because we do not follow our fascinations. The reason we do not follow our fascinations is because we judge them as impractical, irrelevant, or impossible.

And so it goes -- sometimes for an entire life.

The good news? This cycle can be reversed.

It begins by suspending judgment. It's followed by entertaining what fascinates you. It continues by getting inspired and then acting on the fruit of your inspiration.

WHAT TO DO
1. On a piece of paper, create three parallel headlines -- the first, "What Fascinates Me," the second, "People I Admire," and the third, "What I Would Do If I Had More Time."

2. Jot down at least five responses under each headline.

3. Look for connections between your various responses.

4. Write down your inspired ideas. Then circle your favorite.

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Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your Great Ideas Rolling (in an uphill world).
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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:19 PM | Comments (2)

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

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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.

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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."

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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)

December 09, 2011
Free Your Genie Before 4:00 Today

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Here is Idea Champions pre-Christmas, post Thanksgiving gift to you -- a two week free trial of our very cool, online Free the Genie app -- a simple, user-friendly, low-calorie, high bandwidth, fun, engaging, gluten-free way to stir your creative juices, tease out brilliance, generate breakthrough ideas, and jump start innovation.

The only thing it doesn't do, as far as we know, is make cappuccino or prove the existence of extraterrestrials. All you need is 7 minutes and a question that begins with "HOW CAN I?"

Read the review
Buy the deck
Stare at sushi

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:48 AM | Comments (0)

December 05, 2011
Product Development Technique #14

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Conventional wisdom has it that the best time to name a new product is after you create it. Unconventional wisdom has it the other way around: first you give your product a name, then you create it.

With this approach, the name -- instead of being the description of your creation -- becomes the catalyst for its existence.

The key is to come up with a compelling name -- one that intrigues, delights, and has embedded within it the kind of multiple meanings that stimulate you enough to decode them.

Let's use the topic of my book -- creativity -- as an example. If I was looking to invent new products to hawk in the back of the book, but had no clue what they were, I might start by generating some creativity-themed names -- and then work backwards.

CreativiTeas: Exotic teas that boost brainpower.

CreativiTees: T-shirts featuring photos of creative geniuses on the front and their inspiring quotes on the back.

CreativiTease: A strip poker card game in which players match famous quotes on creativity with the people who said them.

Invent some products that are sparked by these names:

Shower Power?
Chakra Chip Cookies?
Cheeses of Nazareth?
Sing Kong?

USING THE TOOL:

1. Make up a compelling name for something -- even if you don't know what that "something" is. HINT: Humor, double entendre, and spelling variations are good catalysts.

2. Now that you have a compelling name for an imaginary product, brainstorm what this something might be.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:51 PM | Comments (0)

November 13, 2011
Obvious to You, Amazing to Others

Derek Sivers, Founder of CD Baby, used to live one street away from me in Woodstock, NY. I saw him only once, walking on the road. Now here he is on YouTube. Yo, Derek! Thanks for this! So true...

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

October 30, 2011
Act As If!

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Do you know what the opposite of a "professional" is?

A "con-fessional."

And, at the risk of being unprofessional, here's mine:

One of the great secrets to manifesting anything on planet Earth is to act as if -- to proceed in the spirit of already having succeeded -- or what Steven Covey refers to as "beginning with the end in mind."

Why is this important?

Because you already are what you profess to be, even if it's not apparent yet.

This state of mind, which is the polar opposite of doubt, could easily be construed to be some kind of con game. But it's not.

In a con game, the intention is to deceive -- to manipulate others by pretending to be something you're not.

When you act as if, you are simply being that which you already are, but hasn't manifested yet.

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You are, as described in the introduction to Awake at the Wheel, the IDEA of something not yet fully embodied.

The intention, always, in the game of creation, is never to deceive, but to CONCEIVE -- to bring into being a positive, life-affirming outcome.

When you, with integrity, act CONFIDENTLY (from the Latin "con-fide" -- meaning "with faith"), you are not playing a "confidence game" -- you are jump starting the creative process.

Got it? Good.

WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Suspend all doubt.
2. See your BIG IDEA as already manifested.
3. Fully express yourself from that place -- with authenticity, style, and a good sense of humor.

Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your Great Ideas Rolling (in an uphill world).

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:17 PM | Comments (5)

July 11, 2011
Where Good Ideas Come From



The Idea Lottery

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:44 AM | Comments (4)

July 08, 2011
Introducing Whatify

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Whatify.org, a very cool online innovation magazine, has just published my Six Sides of the So-Called Box article (also, by the way, available as an interactive keynote, workshop, or cheese grater).

Check it out, along with a lot of other interesting articles by various mavericks, thought leaders, and unidentified flying consultants.

And while you're at it, here's a few simple things to noodle on before you die:

1. Who are you?
2. Why are you here?
3. How can you make your greatest contribution to mankind?

Six Sides on this blog
Need more time?

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

April 28, 2011
How to Change Your Persona

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Do you know why Halloween is such a popular holiday in America? Because people get permission to be somebody else for a night.

Wearing a costume makes it easier for people to think and act differently -- one the simplest ways to change perspective and open up bold, new possibilities.

And so, if you are feeling bound by old perceptions, declare today your own, personal Halloween.

Let go of who you think you are. Try on a different mask. Be someone else for a change.

The more you look at the world through the eyes of another, the easier it will be for you to go beyond "business as usual" and have a creative breakthrough.

In other words, ACT AS IF!


WHAT TO DO
1. Choose a new persona -- anyone who inspires or intrigues you.
2. Imagine you actually ARE this person.
3. Identify their approach to your challenge -- the gist of what he/she would do.
4. Using this gist as a clue, jot down a bunch of new ideas about what you might do differently.

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This technique is one of 35 described in Awake at the Wheel.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:56 PM | Comments (2)

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)

April 04, 2011
Getting Out of the Organizational Box

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Last Thursday, I had an opportunity to be the keynote speaker at the Ethical Sourcing Forum, in NYC, a conference sponsored by Intertek, a world class organization dedicated to "helping customers improve performance, gain efficiencies in manufacturing and logistics, overcome market constraints, and reduce risk."

The topic? Sustainable Innovation. Or, more specifically, how people who work in large organizations can get out of the so-called "box".

After the keynote, I was approached by two very animated people from 3BL, a savvy media company specializing in corporate social responsibility, sustainability and cause marketing communications. Apparently, they liked what they heard and wanted to dig deeper -- on camera.

So, it was off to their make shift media center down the hall for an impromptu interview. Click here to watch the 7-minute video.

My innovation keynotes

My speaker's bureau

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:40 PM | Comments (1)

March 03, 2011
What, Exactly, IS the Box?

"Innovation" is the holy grail for most organizations. Everyone wants it. Everyone talks about the need to "get out of the box" and do something different. But there's a huge gap between the rhetoric and the reality.

The reasons are many -- but the biggest reason is this: No one really knows what the so-called box really is.

And because we don't, we end up shadow boxing imaginary monsters -- coming up with untold processes, protocols, and pep talks that don't really get to the heart of the matter. Not a good idea.

So, dear aspiring innovator -- what do YOU think the box is?

Next week, in this space I will share my current understanding of the box, name all six sides -- and kick start the conversation of how you, your organization, and the rest of world can get out of it.

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A fun way to get started

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

November 26, 2010
Virtual Innovation Coaching

Aspiring innovators have a lot going for them -- big ideas, inspiration, and the willingness to work hard. What they usually don't have is time, meaningful feedback, and the knack for discovering elegant solutions on the fly.

Why? Because they tend to work alone.

Faced with the challenge of balancing right-brain thinking with the left-brain demands of monetizing the fruits of their labor, they are frequently stranded between two worlds -- the world of infinite possibility and the world of "getting the product out the door."

The result? Confusion, doubt, and brick walls...

Historically, aspiring innovators have had few options: 1) Struggle in obscurity; 2) Scramble for a collaborator; 3) Seek the council of (only occasionally available) friends, family, and colleagues.

With the extraordinary rise of the internet, however, a fourth option is now available -- a way for entrepreneurs, creative thinkers, and anyone with an inspired idea to get the support they need to increase their odds of success.

Think of this fourth option as a kind of "innovation insurance" -- a virtual network of skilled allies, advisors, and brainstorm partners with the time and expertise to help aspiring innovators get over the hump.

And so... I am happy to announce that Idea Champions has decided to launch this much-needed service by January 15th.

At this stage of the game, we're still tuning into the need. Which is why we're asking for three minutes of your time, now, to respond to our online poll . We want to know what you find compelling about our new venture.

If you want to be notified when The Power of Two launches in January, click here.

Until then, do your best to keep the flame alive. Honor your ideas. Make effort every day. And if you need a reminder, click here or here or here.

Our clients

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:19 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2010
True Blue Sky Thinking

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 strategist!)

Few of us, in the workplace, are ever encouraged to fantasize -- a behavior most commonly associated with children, slackers, and flakes.

And yet, fantasizing is exactly how many breakthrough ideas get their start -- the act of some off-the-grid maverick entertaining the seemingly impossible...

HERE'S A SIMPLE WAY TO FIND SOME BLUE SKY

1. Make a wish for the successful resolution of your challenge (i.e. "I wish I had more time").

2. Extend your wish by making a wild wish (i.e. "I wish I didn"t have to work my regular job").

3. Extend your wild wish by thinking of a fantasy solution -- a seemingly impossible way to get a result (i.e. "a fairy godmother shows up at midnight to do my work").

4. Distill your fantasy solution down to a core principle (i.e. "I get more help" or "I outsource my responsibilities").

5. Using this principle as a clue, generate at least five new ideas for the successful resolution of your challenge.

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Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel

Idea Champions
Free the Genie

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

August 12, 2010
WOW! First Review of Free the Genie

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Here is a wonderfully comprehensive review of Free the Genie (our new, online brainstorming tool), by Chuck Frey, of Innovation Tools -- one of the leading innovation portals on the web.

If you are looking for an engaging way to stir the creative juices, spark new ideas, and discover unique ways of approaching big challenges, this is your ticket.

And it only takes a few minutes...

To sign up for your free 10-day trial, click here. Or here. Or here.

Client testimonials about the producers of Free the Genie.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:59 AM | Comments (0)

August 11, 2010
35 Creative Thinking Techniques

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Those of us at Idea Champions have been designing and facilitating creative thinking sessions for a wide range of organizations since 1986.

We've worked with left-brained people, right-brained people, and air-brained people -- all of whom have been interested in "getting out of the box."

In the process of providing our service, one thing has continued to astound us: No one has any time, or more precisely -- thinks they have any time. And because they don't, the need to "cut to the chase" remains paramount.

Speed rules -- and along with it the desire for "tools and techniques."

Now, we have nothing against tools and techniques. They can be very helpful. Golf pros give them out all the time. But tools and techniques are never enough -- especially in the realm of creative thinking.

Can they be useful? Yes, they can -- in the same way that jumper cables can be useful if your car won't start. But first you need a car -- and after that, someplace to go! Without a car and a destination, jumper cables are just a meaningless prop.

If you are committed to birthing a BIG IDEA, first understand that the car is you and the engine that powers the car is your passion for bringing something new into the world.

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Only when that is in place, will tools and techniques make sense.

Some of the methods described in Awake at the Wheel will be right up your alley. Some will not. Some are so common-sensical you'll think you could have invented them. Some are so non-sensical you'll dismiss them as trivial.

Don't worry about loving them all. You won't. Just find the ones that interest you and give them a shot -- whatever it takes to get those wheels inside you turning once again.

Two different parts of you will be activated by these methods: the subconscious and the conscious.

The sub-conscious tools will increase your receptivity to new ideas, helping you access the part of you that already knows. Using the subconscious tools will feel a bit like walking into a dark room. At first there will seem to be nothing to see. But after a while your eyes will adjust and you'll begin making sense of what is there.

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The second set of tools is less about receptivity than proactivity.

This approach presumes it is possible to quicken creativity by purposefully shaking things up in various ways. Experimentation is an important part of this approach. Trial and error, too -- much in the same way that chemists mix and match elements in the hopes of synthesizing new discoveries.

Is there a perfect technique? No. Just like there's no perfect diet, place to live, or relationship. What works for you on Monday may not work for you on Sunday. What works for you in the morning may not work for you at night.

But that's what makes the world -- just like the wheel -- go round and round.

And that's why we offer you 35 different methods to choose from. Is there an organizing principle? Yes, there is. The tools fall into five categories:

1. INTEND: To have in mind as something to be done or brought about; to have a purpose or design.

2. ATTEND: To be present at; to take care of or wait upon; to listen and give heed to.

3. SUSPEND: To defer opinion or evaluation to a later occasion; to render temporarily void.

4. EXTEND: To stretch out; to place at full length; to enlarge the scope of or make more comprehensive.

5. CONNECT: To join or unite; to establish communication between; to associate, attach or place in relationship.

Buy the book here.
Read more about the book here.
Watch old Jews telling jokes here.
Get your Innovation Kit here
Discover Woodstock's most beautiful B&B here
Read about Mozart here
Check out one of my son's favorite online cartoons here.

Learn more about Spiro Agnew here
Take ten minutes to get a breakthrough idea here
Don't click anything on this line.
Play with our online Genie here
Read our entertaining FAQ here

Discover why most corporate innovation efforts fail here

Or call us at 845.679.1066 and learn more about how we can help you and your organization get out of the box, the lamp, AND the cave. "If not YOU, who? If not NOW, when?"

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:24 PM | Comments (1)

August 10, 2010
Getting Down to the Business of Creativity

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Here's a terrific article on creativity, based on the work of three Harvard researchers/professors.

According to Teresa Amabile's research, "inner work life" is one of the biggest determinants of creative output. In other words, a positive mood is a pre-condition for creativity in the workplace.

If you are attempting to establish a sustainable culture of innovation in your organization, you (and everyone else) would be well-served to do everything humanly possible to positively impact the mood (i.e. tone, feeling, atmosphere, vibe, spirit) of the environment in which you work.

And that begins, of course, with the individual.

When you treat people with respect, acknowledgment, and genuine positive reinforcement, you significantly increase the odds of creativity -- and by extension, innovation -- flourishing in your organization.

Common sense? For sure. But common sense is all too uncommon in most organizations these days. In our rush to produce, get an edge, and accomplish, we forget the most important thing -- and that is the quality of our interactions with others.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:35 AM | Comments (0)

July 21, 2010
Top 100 Amazon Reviewer Favorably Compares "Awake at the Wheel" to "Who Moved My Cheese?"

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Nice review of my book from Thomas Duff, Top 100 Amazon reviewer:

Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your Great Ideas Rolling (in an Uphill World) can, in my opinion, be compared to the classic "Who Moved My Cheese?".

Ditkoff does for creativity what Johnson and Blanchard did for living with change... It gives the reader a short, humorous story loaded with meaning and concepts that hit the reader right where they live.

Ditkoff explores the world of ideas and creativity though the story of Og. Og is a caveman who spends more time thinking than the average Neanderthal.

He stumbles upon the concept of a circle, and becomes obsessed with what it could mean to the group. Of course, most of his fellow cavemen are more concerned about maintaining the status quo... hunting, eating, staying warm.

Og takes a journey to talk with a wise one, and from that trip the wheel is born.

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But even then, others in his clan are more interested in shooting it down as something that will never work. But one person does figure out the practical application, and pretty soon everyone is "rolling along" with the greatest thing since dried mammoth...

I really did like this book.

Taking the concept of ideas and putting them in caveman terms freshens up what could be just another book on creativity.

At the end of the book are 35 "tools" you can use to spur your own idea machine, as well as how best to make sure these fleeting thoughts don't disappear like smoke from a campfire.

Like many companies have done with "Cheese", this should be a mass purchase, handed out toall employees, and then discussed in team meetings.

Those who are into this genre will love it, and the Neanderthals who are cynical will likely spend the 30 minutes or so it should take to read it.

And they might even come out of that experience as the new Og of your organization.

What others are saying about it.

Winner of Axiom Business Book Award:
(scroll to category #22)

Buy the book

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:11 PM | Comments (0)

July 03, 2010
INTENTION: The Root of Creativity

If creativity is the flower of a human life, then intention is the root.

Indeed, there are many bipeds among us who believe that without intention, there can be no creativity.

More than its second cousins -- hope, wish, dream, and desire -- intention is the ground from which creativity springs.

One of the main reasons why creativity is so flaccid in most people (and by extension, most organizations) is that there is very little intention -- and the intention that does exist is often a simulation of the real thing -- upwardly mobile fast trackers inheriting someone else's vision, strategy or idea, but not sufficiently in touch with their own reason for being to really break through...

And so, if you want to create something new and meaningful, you will need to get more deeply in touch with your intention.

The force. The mojo. What truly moves you.

Intention, of course, can take many forms: the intention to change, the intention to improve, the intention to manifest miracles.

Whatever form it takes, your effort will need to be more than mental. More than emotional, psychological, or astrological. It will need to be primal -- in the same way that the moon affects the tides.

Moon-howling intention.

Well then, what is moving you these days? What is in your bones? What is calling you from within?

(Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel)

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:19 AM | Comments (1)

February 21, 2010
The Rise of the Innovation Ninjas

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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)

September 02, 2009
We're #1 AND #2!

We are happy to announce that Online College Degree has chosen to feature two of Idea Champions' creative thinking tools as #1 and #2 on their list of 100 Excellent Online Tools to Feed Your Creativity.

There's lots of other useful tools on the list, as well. Check it out.

Another cool creative thinking tool on the Idea Champions site that you may not have seen yet is Free the Genie.

All of these are featured on IngenuityBank, our enterprise-wide, idea management software program which we have recently overhauled to make even easier to use. (Oh, by the way, that's me juggling and providing the introductory rap.)

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:44 AM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2009
The Single Sock Theory

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Dear Movers and Shakers:

We now interrupt this blog with an official announcement of the first annual WHAT HAPPENS TO THE SINGLE SOCKS? contest.

While we all have our differences, there is one thing we all have in common and that is the SINGLE SOCKS experience -- as in "Where the hell is my other sock?"

Let the theories begin!

Simply submit your favorite theories here and, who knows, you might end up the GRAND PRIZE WINNER: An Idea Champions Silver Innovation Kit (retails for $199) + five of my unmatched socks (which some sock conspiracists tell me are likely to match yours.) Sock it to me!

Photo

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:58 PM | Comments (12)

June 29, 2009
I'm Giving Away the Farm

Tired of
big fat
business books
that cost $26.95
and take
way too long
to say
what you already know?

Well then,
here's a much
simpler,
less expensive way
to spark innovation,
creativity,
and fire in the belly.
Online it is,
free and clear,
fun to read,
low fat,
and just a click away.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2009
Seeing Through the Eyes of a Child

jesseeye.jpg

Tonight, I came home from a meeting, and the image above was waiting for me in my inbox. Somehow, when I was gone, my 14-year old son figured out how to do this. (That's him). I will ask the wizard in the morning and let you know how he did it.

"The greatest invention in the world is the mind of a child." - Thomas Edison

"Adults are always asking little kids what they want to be when they grow up because they're looking for ideas." - Paula Poundstone

"All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." - Pablo Picasso

EXERCISE: Today, present your biggest problem to a child and ask him/her for three possible solutions.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:37 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2009
Creatvity Demystified

Want to know one of the little known secrets of creativity? Making new connections between seemingly unrelated elements.

There. That's it. Plain and simple.

Drive in banking? Nothing more than the combination of cars and banking? MTV? The novel connection between music and television. Roller blading? Ice skating + roller skating.

Now, of course, they are obvious, but there was a time before they existed when it took some out of the box thinkers to see what was really possible. And they did it by linking "A" and "B" to synthesize "C."

Is there a simple way to increase your ability to make these kinds of new connections? Yes there is. It's called the Idea Lottery.

Free the Genie
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:39 PM | Comments (0)

December 17, 2008
METAPHOR: A Bridge Over Deep Waters

All of the creative thinking techniques we teach at Idea Champions are based on the innate capacity of the human mind to make connections, find patterns, and imagine alternatives.

One of these techniques involves using metaphors to give us insight into what our challenge or opportunity really IS under the surface.

But the human capacity for metaphor-making is more than merely an ability. It's the foundation of thought itself. As psychologist and linguist Stephen Pinker states in his The Stuff of Thought, "Metaphor is so widespread in language that it's hard to find expressions for abstract ideas that are not metaphorical."

The word "metaphor" comes to us from the Greek and means to "transfer" or "carry over."

"Transfer or carry over what?" you may ask.

"An image," is the answer.

A metaphor is both an image that is carried over to help us understand a thought AND the bridge upon which it is carried over.

And what does this bridge of metaphor connect? It connects the right brain, which deals in images, to the left brain, which deals in rational thought.

Is that cool or what?

In a new Harvard Business Press book, Marketing Metaphoria: What Deep Metaphors Reveal about the Minds of Consumers, Gerald and Lindsay Zaltman, a father and son marketing team, reveal seven basic deep metaphors, -- "metaphors that structure what we think, hear, say, and do" that should help guide marketing efforts to connect with consumers.

These seven deep ("deep" because they are largely unconscious) and universal metaphors are:

1. Balance
2. Transformation
3. Journey
4. Container
5. Connection
6. Resource
7. Control

If your marketing campaign isn't offering your prospective customers at least one of these qualities, your prospective customers probably aren't connecting emotionally to your product or service. Which means they're probably not buying it. Egads!

Does your product or service help customers regain their balance? Can it transform something into something better? Does it provide them with the experience of a journey or give them a container? Does it help them connect with others, provide a necessary resource, or give greater control over something?

Bottom line: if you want to improve your marketing efforts, you could do a lot worse than invest a few bucks and a little time to study what the Zaltmans are saying.

Once you're clear about what you want to offer your customers on a deep metaphorical level, you can then craft your pitch, offering, or strategy in a more meaningful way.

That is, you can cross that bridge when you come to it.

Posted by Val Vadeboncoeur at 11:11 PM | Comments (3)

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)

October 28, 2008
Song and Dance and Innovation Man

I once attended a talk by Mike Vance, Walt Disney's "head of idea and people development," way back in the day.

One of the many interesting points that Vance made back then, in his rapid-fire Midwestern twang, was "Ask a child to sing, and they'll sing something. Ask a child to dance, and they'll dance something. Ask a child to draw, they'll draw something. Ask an adult these same questions and he'll say 'I don't sing. I don't dance. I don't draw.'"

But he did when he was a child!

So, what changed? What happened to that spontaneity, that creative free reign, that spirit of play, exploration, and adventure?

What changes, of course, is that, over the years, we adults are taught what's right and wrong, what's good and bad, what's proper and improper and we've internalized all that training and education into our own private internal "critic" who often stops us from being creative even before we start. That's that little voice that says "that isn't good enough."

Sigmund Freud once lamented "What a distressing contrast there is between the radiant intelligence of the child and the feeble mentality of the adult."

However, we know now that where there's life (and you ARE still breathing, aren't you?) there's always hope. For all of us.

What reminded me of Vance's talk was an online article I ran across today by musician/composer/sound engineer Brian Eno who has made some of my favorite musical recordings over the decades. In it, he encourages all of us to sing. He relates his own successful efforts to get together with friends to have fun singing "a capella," that is, without instrumental accompaniment...like choruses and doo wop groups do.

Besides the musical creativity and the fun involved in singing a capella with your friends, there are health and psychological benefits as well, plus a social learning component as you have to learn to blend your voice (tone, rhythm and breathing) with the other singers.

And, I'll go one further. I imagine that getting together regularly to sing with others (or play African hand drums with others, or go ballroom dancing, or picking up a brush and painting just for the sheer pleasure of it) helps us exercise the same creativity muscles that we exercised as a child before we forgot that we could sing, dance, draw and do all manner of enjoyable things.

Sounds like a good idea to me.

Posted by Val Vadeboncoeur at 02:25 AM | Comments (2)

October 17, 2008
Your Second Chance to Enter the First Annual Multiple Uses of a Ping Pong Ball Contest

TA DA! It's time to win free stuff!

All you need to do is read the following starter list and submit your own ideas. Idea Champions will award prizes in the following categories: 1) Most creative; 2) Funniest; 3) Biggest positive impact on the world; 4) Most off-the-wall; 5) The one we wish we'd thought of; 6) Least likely to become a major motion picture; 7) Best way to save the U.S. economy; 8) Best party game; 9) Best use in a category we haven't yet thought of.

DEADLINE? October 31

1. Table Tennis
2. Beer Pong
3. Lottery selection
4. Cat toy
5. Child's room mobile

6. Door stop (crushed and stuck under door)
7. Model of the universe (with balls as planets)
8. Way to keep people awake at meetings (toss one)
9. Raft (by tying many balls together)
10. A fishing bob

11. Bathtub toy
12. Clown nose
13. Finger puppets
14. Kermit eyeballs
15. Xmas tree ornament

16. Child's playpen (fill large container with balls)
17. Jewelry (earrings, necklace, bracelet)
18. Comfy chair (fill seat cushions with balls)
19. Acoustical tool (affix balls to walls to deflect sound)
20. Abacus

21. Juggling balls
22. Mouth juggling (blowing balls in the air)
23. Sex toy
24. Child's game (run a race while holding one on a spoon)
25. Surgical tool (use in operations to keep organs in place)

26. Life jacket (fill container with balls and cling to it)
27. Catch people jumping from burning buildings (fill container with balls and have them jump into it.)
28. Anti-snake weapon (snakes will mistake balls for eggs and eat them which will eventually cause death)
29. Marketing tool (guess the number of ping pong balls in our new Honda Accord and win a free car)
30. Testing a long pipe or hose for obstructions

31. Air gun bullets
32. Create controlled avalanches with the balls and study the filmed results)
33. Xmas tree light enhancers (insert each Xmas tree light into a ping pong ball)
34. Votive candle holders (when cut in half)
35. Cut in half and use as tiny drinking cups

36. Hat for a puppet or hamster (when cut in half)
37. Packing material
38. Level tester
39. Barometric pressure gauge (based on how high a ball bounces)
40. Aid to develop hand muscular flexibility

41. Mouth gag
42. Trumpet mute
43. Control Google Map interface using "Atlas Gloves" software and lighted ping pong balls a la the film Minority Report
44. Create a painting by using colored ping pong balls as pixels
45. Raise a ship or other submerged items

46. Fill with napalm and use via aerial drop to create a controlled burnout in order to control a fire
47. LED diffuser
48. Model of a strand of DNA
49. Musical instrument (digitally record the sounds of ping pong balls until you have enough different tones, then use these tones to play music via a ping pong ball sound keyboard
50. Test strength and direction of wind by tossing ball in air

What kind of prizes will you win? One of the following:

Prize... prize... prize... prize... prize... prize

Special thanks to the very creative Val Vadeboncouer for the starter list of 50 uses.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 02:19 PM | Comments (6)

August 06, 2008
CREATIVE THINKING TECHNIQUE: The Daily Muse

awake-book-cover.jpg

In the 21st century, it is no longer considered radical to believe that thought shapes the future. This is something that has been proven again and again in experiment after experiment. And it is precisely for this reason that the media has become such a powerful force in today's world. The media shapes thought.

When we read something in the newspaper, we believe it is true -- and our lives take shape around it.

Well, here is your chance to take back the power of the press. And even more than that, here's your chance to impress your thoughts on the future -- your future -- and by extension, the rest of our futures (so please be coming from the the right place before continuing with the following exercise).

THE DAILY MUSE

1. Fast forward to a time in the future when you want your BIG IDEA to be fully manifested.

2. Imagine you are a reporter from a prestigious newspaper, magazine, blog, or website.

3. Write the story of your success, complete with testimonials, data, and anything else you care to add that will give your article oomph.

4. Read it to a friend or co-worker. Then start jamming...

Excerpted from Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your Great Ideas Rolling (in an uphill world)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:17 AM | Comments (0)

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 25, 2008
POLL RESULTS: Where and When Do You Get Your Best Ideas?

Einstein used to get his best ideas while shaving. Mozart used to exercise before composing. The Scientific Method came to Rene Descartes in a dream.

One of our clients gets her best ideas when blow drying her hair.

Fascinated by the question of what catalyzes people's best ideas, Idea Champions polled 163 people and are sharing the results with you here (i.e. "Where and When Do You Get Your Best Ideas?")

Why bother reading it?

1. It will help you be more creative.
2. It will increase your ability to capture your best ideas.
3. It will give you insights about how to create a culture of innovation.
4. It's fascinating (i.e Out of 80 choices, the "workplace" ranked #35. "Daydreaming" was #6.)

If, after reading the poll, you think of other "best idea" catalysts, let us know. When we get 20 or more, we'll share them with Heart of Innovation readers here.

And if you're looking for help establishing a sustainable culture of innovation, click here... or here...or here. (Clicking your shoes three times ain't gonna cut it.)

Or, if you want to spring for $13.95, you can read Awake at the Wheel: Getting Your Great Ideas Rolling (in an uphill world).

(Much thanks to Tim Moore (scroll down to the 8th bio) for his deep thinking, coordination, analysis, and report writing on this project!)

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:53 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 18, 2008
24,000 Year Old Cave Man Invites You to a Book Signing in Woodstock

See that Neanderthal to your left? That's Og, the mythical inventor of the wheel and the hero of Mitch Ditkoff's new book which hits the book stores on May 1.

In honor of Og, I am inviting you to the book signing at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock, NY, Saturday, April 26th, 5:00 - 7:00 pm.

Here's what Og has to say about the book signing:

Morkel noophpa umphh! Kiaww noofti agu. Brrpp. Obama! Rok. Remu! Ditkoff sumphfta jabu.

Translation?

"Hey bipeds with Blackberries and cash flow problems! You don't even need to know how to read to enjoy a book signing! Free wine! Free cheese! The tribe reconvenes! And Mitch Ditkoff, who has recently developed full use of both opposable thumbs, will be signing books. Or eating crackers. Or talking too much.

Bring a friend. Bring two. Really, you don't have to buy a single book if you don't want to. Just come and be part of the fun.

And support the fabulous Golden Notebook!

If you want to listen to Mitch's two minute rap about the book, click here.

PS: If you can't make it to the book signing, so be it. You can still buy a copy here.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:58 PM | 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)

December 23, 2007
Millions and Billions: The Probability of Terrestrial Life

The late science popularizer Carl Sagan once urged his readers and viewers to contemplate the millions of galaxies in the universe and consider the probability of extraterrestrial life existing somewhere outside our own planet. Today we live in a revised era, increasingly aware of humanity's impact on mothership Earth. So to shed light on our local dilemma, an innovative artist has been building a body of work that asks us to contemplate a different kind of vastness - the vastness of industrially stimulated consumerism.

PlasticBottles Jordan.jpg

Chris Jordan is a photo-montagist who creates vast wall-size panels which from a distance seem to be no more than interesting textures. Upon closer inspection though, they turn out to be created from tens of thousands of a single kind of consumable object we use and throw away: cigarettes, plastic bags, beverage bottles, aluminum cans, Vicodan tablets, cell phones. He packs these objects so tightly together that they merge into unified pointillist fields.

In one three panel set, a giant portrait of Ben Franklin turns out to be composed of 125,000 $100 bills. This number, it turns out, represents how much the United States spends each HOUR on the Iraq war - $12.5 million. Similar short clips of "consuming time" characterize most of Jordan's work: five SECONDS of plastic bags used and discarded by US Consumers (60,000 ; detail image above); a DAY's worth of cell phones discarded by US consumers (426,000, detail image below).

Because of the short time samples Jordan's montages represent, his work can convey the speed and staggering scale of industrial consumption in a way no other visualization has until now. We can grasp intuitively that these beaches of discarded goods are expanding daily, or hourly, by similar spatial units. (Four football fields of plastic bottles every five minutes. More plastic floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean than zooplankton.)

Cellphones.jpg

Like grains of sand on a beach, the individual objects in Jordan's images disappear. You search for a "subject" but nothing appears in the foreground. All the objects fuse into one vast background, a disorienting blur of granular overwhelm.

Then it dawns on you: YOU'RE the subject; YOU'RE the foreground. One of those plastic beverage bottles is MY water bottle. One of those cell phones is YOUR cell phone. Each one of us, easing through a supermarket checkout line on any given day, answers the question "Paper or Plastic?" WE are the subject, the foreground.

Chris Jordan creates flat backgrounds we have to place ourselves "in front of." And this helps us intuitively comprehend our interconnectedness and our impact on our LOCAL universe. Unlike Carl Sagan's CETI vision, Jordan lets us step back and contemplate the probabilities for life - not in space but HERE, on this fragile and finite planet. He asks us to consider where the superhighway to "prosperity" as we've defined it ultimately leads.

Here's a short interview with the artist.

Posted by Tim Moore at 08:33 PM | Comments (0)

Millions and Billions: The Probability of Terrestrial Life

The late science popularizer Carl Sagan once urged his readers and viewers to contemplate the millions of galaxies in the universe and consider the probability of extraterrestrial life existing somewhere outside our own planet. Today we live in a revised era, increasingly aware of humanity's impact on mothership Earth. So to shed light on our local dilemma, an innovative artist has been building a body of work that asks us to contemplate a different kind of vastness - the vastness of industrially stimulated consumerism.

PlasticBottles Jordan.jpg

Chris Jordan is a photo-montagist who creates vast wall-size panels which from a distance seem to be no more than interesting textures. Upon closer inspection though, they turn out to be created from tens of thousands of a single kind of consumable object we use and throw away: cigarettes, plastic bags, beverage bottles, aluminum cans, Vicodan tablets, cell phones. He packs these objects so tightly together that they merge into unified pointillist fields.

In one three panel set, a giant portrait of Ben Franklin turns out to be composed of 125,000 $100 bills. This number, it turns out, represents how much the United States spends each HOUR on the Iraq war - $12.5 million. Similar short clips of "consuming time" characterize most of Jordan's work: five SECONDS of plastic bags used and discarded by US Consumers (60,000 ; detail image above); a DAY's worth of cell phones discarded by US consumers (426,000, detail image below).

Because of the short time samples Jordan's montages represent, his work can convey the speed and staggering scale of industrial consumption in a way no other visualization has until now. We can grasp intuitively that these beaches of discarded goods are expanding daily, or hourly, by similar spatial units. (Four football fields of plastic bottles every five minutes. More plastic floating in the middle of the Pacific Ocean than zooplankton.)

Cellphones.jpg

Like grains of sand on a beach, the individual objects in Jordan's images disappear. You search for a "subject" but nothing appears in the foreground. All the objects fuse into one vast background, a disorienting blur of granular overwhelm.

Then it dawns on you: YOU'RE the subject; YOU'RE the foreground. One of those plastic beverage bottles is MY water bottle. One of those cell phones is YOUR cell phone. Each one of us, easing through a supermarket checkout line on any given day, answers the question "Paper or Plastic?" WE are the subject, the foreground.

Chris Jordan creates flat backgrounds we have to place ourselves "in front of." And this helps us intuitively comprehend our interconnectedness and our impact on our LOCAL universe. Unlike Carl Sagan's CETI vision, Jordan lets us step back and contemplate the probabilities for life - not in space but HERE, on this fragile and finite planet. He asks us to consider where the superhighway to "prosperity" as we've defined it ultimately leads.

Here's a short interview with the artist.

Posted by Tim Moore at 08:33 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!
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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
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