July 29, 2012
What Are You Really Thirsting For?

A little known fact about me (Mitch Ditkoff) is that, in addition to being the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, I am also a poet. In fact, my graduate school education many years ago, at Brown University, was not an MBA program -- but an MFA in poetry. If you want to see what I looked like back then, click the link below. Ready?

MD long hair.jpg

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

July 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
Click here if you want more info

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:38 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2012

Idea Champions, founded in 1986, is committed to unleashing the innate brilliance of people everywhere.

We are catalysts of creativity -- especially the creativity that has been compromised by corporate cultures that have not yet understood how to tap into the natural gifts of their workforce.

Our end game? Sustainable innovation -- helping our clients go beyond business as usual and turn their top-of-the-line ideas into bottom line realities.

But don't just take our word for it. Here's how our clients describe our impact.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:24 AM | Comments (0)

July 20, 2012
Like This Blog? You'll Love This Book


I am happy to announce that I have finally gotten off my ifs, ands, or butt and begun writing my next book -- Wisdom at Work. Below are three excerpts. I have also stepped up my efforts to locate an agent and/or publisher. If you are that person or know that person, please contact me. Thank you!

It All Began With Balls
The Martial Arts of the Mind
Big Blues From the Viagra People

My first book.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:45 PM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2012
Rethinking The Role of a Manager

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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?"

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

* "What support do you need from me?"

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. 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.

How can you make more time to listen to the ideas of your direct reports and teammates?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:14 AM | Comments (0)

July 15, 2012
Big Innovation in the Prison System


Here's an extraordinary fact: There are more people living in US jails than live in the entire state of New Mexico.

Based on the latest data, the combined inmate population of correctional facilities in the United States is currently about 2.35 million.

The cost to the US Government? $74 billion dollars. That's $30,600 per prisoner. Those are staggering numbers. But even more staggering are the recidivism rates. 60% of all prisoners released from jail eventually return.

Clearly, the prison system is broken -- not just in this country, but in the world. Attempts at rehabilitation -- and there have been many -- have simply not worked. Until recently.

The Prem Rawat Foundation's (TPRF) Peace Education Program, now being piloted in Texas' Dominguez State Prison, is getting extraordinary results. Here is the story (be sure to watch the video).


More about the program in Spanish.
More about the Peace Education Program
Inmate expressions
Letters from Prison officials
Recent PEP news
Words of Peace Global


Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 01:16 PM | Comments (1)

July 13, 2012
What a Wonderful World!

Time for a break from the following concerns: cash flow, next quarter results, your benefits package, boss, weight, innovation process, or summer vacation plans. Here's a fabulous two-minute BBC video narrated by David Attenborough. NOTE: The business of life isn't necessarily a life of business...

Here's how we can help your organization become wonderful.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2012
The Value of Val


If your small business or non-profit is looking for a highly skilled brainstorm facilitator, creative thinking trainer, or custom workshop leader, Val Vadeboncoeur is your man.

Val, a long time friend and collaborator of mine, has just launched Business Light, an innovation consultancy geared for organizations with less-than-deep pockets.

If your organization is looking for a big breakthrough on a small budget, give Val a call. A man of great integrity with a great sense of humor, Val is 100% committed to serving companies who want to make a difference in the world.

Recent article by Val

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:15 PM | Comments (0)

July 08, 2012
Treat Your Clients Like God!

At least once a week I am approached by a struggling entrepreneur and asked how I market my services. More often than not, I blurt out any number of MBA-like platitudes.

But when I really stop and think about it, my answer morphs into something much deeper: "I treat my clients like God."

Yup. That's my marketing plan. Plain and simple. I treat my clients like God.

After the proverbial blank stare, the cash-strapped entrepreneur before me relaxes and smiles. Deep down in their entrepreneurial bones, what I'm saying makes sense.

Treating your clients like God is the way to go -- not as some kind of clever way to get a competitive edge, but because that is what life is all about: Seeing the divine in everyone. Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt. And ultimately, doing great work born of a deep-seated gratitude for the opportunity to serve.

Idea Champions
What we do

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:55 AM | Comments (2)

July 06, 2012
Weather Report from the Future?

Thanks to Scott Cronin for the heads up.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:55 AM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2012
Introducing Interdependence Day!

Declare Your Interdependence.jpg

One day after
Independence Day,
its time to introduce
a new holiday:
Interdependence Day.
Yes, it's true,
we are all
in this together.
You cannot
do this alone,
no matter how skillful
or experienced
you may be.
Innovation is a team sport.
declare your

Want to perk up your game?

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2012
The Brilliance of Eliminating Left Turns

ED NOTE: Big thank you to Val Vadeboncoeur for this insightful report from the World Innovation Forum.

I caught Andrew Winston's excellent presentation at the 2012 World Innovation Forum last week in NYC in which he focused on how companies can use environmental sustainability as a driver of innovation.

This "Green to Gold" movement has been spurring innovation and boosting profits across a wide range of industries in recent years simply by trying to decrease waste and environmental impact.

Along the way, Andrew, who is the author of Green Recovery (and with Daniel Esty, the book Green to Gold) got into one of my favorite subjects. He offered a series of corporate innovation examples of what he called "head-slappers" and what I call counter-intuitive thinking.

One perfect example of counter-intuitive thinking is what Maersk Shipping did in their efforts to decrease their environmental footprint.

Maersk (a Dutch company) is the world's biggest container shipping line. They asked themselves an odd and challenging question: "Does a shipping company always need to go fast?"

By pursuing that seemingly absurd question, they realized that if they decreased the speed of their ocean-going vessels, they could save up to 40% of their fuel costs, and by merely scheduling and planning better, their ships still arrived on time when their clients expected them to. D'oh!

A little closer to home, Con-Way Trucking of New Jersey had a similar AHA!

By simply reducing the maximum speed of their trucks from 65 MPH to 62 MPH, they now save $10 million a year, and in this economy, that's the difference between making a profit or not.

UPS (and now FedEx as well) had another kind of head slapper insight.

They realized that in big cities like New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, their truck drivers used up a LOT of gas, wasted a lot of time, and got into a lot of accidents when their trucks had to make left turns and got stuck, all too often, waiting at red lights.

So, they asked themselves the seemingly bizarre question: "Do our trucks really have to make left turns?"

Their conclusion? They didn't!

By re-designing their drivers' routes in busy city downtowns and by re-calibrating their UPS devices to avoid left turns, they save incredible amounts of time and fuel (not to mention having fewer traffic accidents.)

UPS now saves three million gallons of gas and 28 million miles each year by only making right turns!

Similarly, the folks at Scott Paper asked themselves: "Why do we need cardboard tubes to package our toilet paper products?"

What they realized? They didn't.

They now have a line of "tube-free" toilet paper which also saves lots of money AND the environment.

So... the question I (and Andrew) have for you is this: "How can YOUR company use environmental sustainability as a catalyst for innovation?"

And, even more to the point, "What powerful and challenging trigger questions can you ask yourself that might provoke a head slap moment in a flash of counter-intuitive thinking?

Because, sometimes, it's the seemingly ridiculous question that leads to the biggest breakthrough and innovation.

PS: A big thank you to George Levy and the other fine folks at HSM Global for inviting Idea Champions to be a guest blogger at the World Innovation Forum -- now three years running.

Ask the right questions
Why you need to ask why

Big problem or right problem?
15 great quotes on the subject
Who is Idea Champions?

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 05:27 AM | Comments (0)

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.

Click here for the simplest, most direct way, to learn more about Idea Champions' semi-fearless leader, Mitch Ditkoff. Info on his keynotes, workshops, conferences, and more.
Storytelling for the Revolution
Storytelling for the Revolution is Mitch Ditkoff's newly published book about the power of personal storytelling to elevate the conversation on planet Earth. Provocative. Evocative. And fun. YOU have stories to tell. This book will help you tell them.
Storytelling at Work
"The world is not made of atoms," wrote the poet, Muriel Rukeyser. "It's made of stories." Learn how to discover, honor, and unpack the stories of yours that show up "on the job" in Mitch Ditkoff's award-winning 2015 book, Storytelling at Work.
Top 5 Speaker
Mitch Ditkoff, the Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions, has recently been voted a top 5 speaker in the field of innovation and creativity by Speakers Platform, a leading speaker's bureau.
Authorized Reseller Logo – GoLeanSixSigma.com
Workshops & Trainings
Highly engaging learning experiences that increase each participant's ability to become a creative force for positive change
Brainstorm Facilitation
High impact certification training that teaches committed change agents how to lead groundbreaking ideation sessions
Cultivating Innovation
Your "best and brightest" are the future leaders of your company, but unless they know how to foster a culture of innovation, their impact will be limited. A one-day workshop with us is all they need to begin this journey.
Our Blog Cabin
Our Heart of Innovation blog is a daily destination for movers and shakers everywhere — gleefully produced by our President, Mitch Ditkoff, voted "best innovation blogger in the world" two years running.
Team Innovation
Innovation is a team sport. Brilliant ideas go nowhere unless your people are aligned, collaborative, and team-oriented. That doesn't happen automatically, however. It takes intention, clarity, selflessness, and a new way of operating.
Awake at the Wheel, Book about big ideas If you're looking for a powerful way to jump start innovation and get your creative juices flowing, Awake at the Wheel is for you. Written by Mitch Ditkoff, Co-Founder and President of Idea Champions.
Face the Music Blues Band The world's first interactive business blues band. A great way to help your workforce go beyond complaint.

"In tune with corporate America." — CNN