February 21, 2013
Collaborate to Innovate!

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During the past 25 years of consulting with some of the most forward thinking organizations in the world, I've noticed a curious trend. My clients' efforts to innovate, no matter how sincere or well-funded, usually undervalue one of the key drivers of innovation -- and that is the ability of their workforce to successfully collaborate with each other.

In their singular rush to accomplish the extraordinary, they have forgotten that innovation is a team sport.

While the ideas that spark innovation may originate in the fertile imagination of a few creative thinkers, the act of translating those ideas into products, services, and breakthrough ways of doing business requires a set of interpersonal skills that has become all too rare in today's corporate environment.

The reasons for this can be distilled down to an outdated mindset that continues to subvert even the best designed "innovation process" -- a mindset that promotes competition over collaboration.

One need look no further than the average corporate landscape for proof: silos, turf wars, and territoriality rule the day.

Time and again, aspiring innovators, project teams, change agents, and internal sponsors run into time-wasting roadblocks that can be traced to the same root cause -- the inability of a diverse group of people, working for the same company, to navigate the highly charged process of working together instead of against each other.

Sound familiar? What can you do, this week, to radically increase the odds of your team or department becoming more collaborative?

Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:10 PM | Comments (2)

One Referral = Mucho Dinero for You

In my ongoing saga to do the least amount of marketing and sales as humanly possible with the most amount of ROE (Return on Effort), I am hereby launching Idea Champions' new and improved "Client Referral" campaign for your cash flow consideration.

It's exactly what it sounds like.

If you refer a company to us that becomes our client, you get a 10% commission on the first year's revenues from that client.

Interested? Shoot an email to info@ideachampions.com and I'll fill you in on the details.

What we do

What our clients say about us
Our team
Our website

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2013
Avoiding Reality at All Costs

The Heart of Innovation is thrilled to publish the following inspired rant by one of our favorite clients, Doug Stuke, Associate Professor at Post University's Malcolm Baldrige School of Business, Learning Head at Aetna, and all around cool guy. Doug's post is the launch of a new series of guest posts by Idea Champion's clients -- our attempt to provide our readers with unique viewpoints, insights, and a healthy dose of in-the-trenches-wisdom.

"Reality" is way over-rated.

Frankly, I am pretty sick of it most days, with its in-your-face, glowing white noise electric fueled buzz, tweets and dinging OMG LOLs.

Like my amped up, power tool-obsessed neighbors (we call them "777" -- the neighbors of the beast), it's loud, annoying and really cramping my style. Yes, we are all inter-connected, but even more, we are creatures in love with our cages -- living within our own little boundaries that define our world views and limit our possibilities.

Ironically, we have never been better informed as a species, able to access unprecedented levels of information that hold the promise to empower and expand.

In one week, the New York Times contains more information than a person had access to in a lifetime in the 18th century. And yet, escaping reality has become an addiction.

According to Jane McGonigal, Director of the Institute for the Future Game R&D and author of Reality is Broken, our species invests three billion hours weekly playing video games.

Astoundingly, the average young person racks up 10,000 hours of gaming by the age of 21 -- or 24 hours less than they spend in a classroom for all of middle and high school if they have perfect attendance.

Kids these days!

That's one way to avoid reality. Here are three other ways I prefer:

Expand Your Mind:
No, this doesn't require redefining the meaning of drug testing in the footsteps of Hunter "I-hate-to-advocate-drugs-alcohol-violence-or-insanity-to-anyone-but-they've-always-worked-for-me" S. Thompson.

It does, however, require plugging in, not dropping out.

Last month, for example, my son, who lives on the opposite coast, e-mailed me saying that he had just enrolled in a Berkley School of Music on-line songwriting course.

The spooky thing? I had also enrolled in the same course two weeks earlier.

Independently, we had both come across Coursera.org -- a social entrepreneurship company that partners with top universities in the world to offer their best courses taught by their top professors online for anyone -- for free.

I began my first course Think Again: How to Reason and Argue in mid-November with 170,000 fellow classmates from around the planet!

Rebel Within
One quintessential element of avoiding reality lies in our ability to imagine possibilities that lie outside of our (or our organization's) reality tube and then innovating a way to get there.

With the rise of fast food and pre-packaged food in the 1960's, coupled with millions of mom's leaving the kitchen for the workforce, there was a steep decline in baking product sales. To overcome this decline, one forward thinking company -- Arm & Hammer -- innovated itself into a whole new product space without changing a single aspect of its product other than the consumer mental model.

Henry Ford put it another way, "If I had asked them what they had wanted, they would have said a faster horse."

To reinvent oneself and one's organization means always being the outsider looking in, never quite settling into conventional thinking about what is real and the limits that come with it.

When we were infants, our minds were like rain forests -- a virgin ecosystem free of boundaries and rational limits. We gained experiences and created "footsteps" in the forest via synaptic connections that allowed us to survive and make sense of the world. Over time and repetition these footsteps become trails and then roads and then super highways.

The resulting "mental GPS" allows you to read this blog, sip coffee, check the time, adjust the temperature. and drive your car all at the same time (I think there are laws against this now, but being a rebel has its own rewards).

The downside is that refining a whole world of options into an efficient few means that many, many other choices are automatically discarded.

When I feel as if I am facing the ONLY option, I now resist the safety and consider doing the exact opposite or nothing at all.

It is in the combination of extreme choices where our innovative freedom lies and everything remains possible.

Idea Champions
What our clients say about us
The Innovation Accelerator

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:05 AM | Comments (1)

February 19, 2013
High Concept on the Highway

Every once in a while I hear of a cool Kickstarter project that I want to shout from the rooftops. This is one of them, the brainchild of Woodstock artist and renaissance man, Norm Magnuson. Please take a look and help this history making project get off the ground.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 11:06 PM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2013
What Our Clients Say About Us

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 12:46 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2013
NEW FROM IDEA CHAMPIONS: The Innovation Accelerator

I am happy to announce the launch of groundbreaking two-day workshop from Idea Champions: The Innovation Accelerator.

The Innovation Accelerator is a highly engaging, hands on business incubator for creative thinkers, change agents, project teams and departments committed to achieving extraordinary results via innovation -- generating revenue, increasing profits, reducing costs, improving processes, and originating products and services that will pay for the workshop many times over.

It's all about the dynamic process of turning ideas into money.

The Innovation Accelerator is a unique mix of strategic think tank, creativity training, idea greenhouse, and business incubator that makes it easy for participants to accelerate the process of surfacing new ideas and turning them into products, services, and breakthrough ways of doing business.

In the workshop, participants generate and develop a continuum of new ideas -- from incremental to breakthrough -- that increases their odds of making rapid progress on a variety of promising, new business opportunities.

At the same time, participants sharpen their innovation skills and learn a variety of creative thinking tools that can be immediately applied on the job with their direct reports, teams, or senior leaders.

Action oriented, practical, and inspiring, The Innovation Accelerator provides the perfect balance of divergent and convergent thinking -- enabling participants to not only get out of the box and tap into new realms of possibility, but craft meaningful, post-workshop game plans that close the gap between theory and practice.

Bottom line, Idea Champions' Innovation Accelerator yields high ROI -- Return on Ideas -- with payback year after year.

1. DAY ONE MORNING: Creativity Thinking Training
Participants establish a culture of innovation, reframe their most pressing challenges, identify bothersome obstacles to innovation, go beyond their biggest limiting assumptions, learn and apply three creative thinking techniques, generate a wide variety of actionable ideas, and stretch the limits of their own creativity and willingness to be a force for change.

2. DAY ONE AFTENOON: Strategic Think Tank
Individuals, groups, and teams learn and practice a set of insight-sparking processes and tools to scan their spheres of influence and identify robust innovation opportunities.

Innovation Accelerator participants then select the best of their ideas to improve work processes and develop new product and service concepts within their declared areas of interest, i.e. operations, finance, sales, marketing, customer service, HR, teamwork, R&D, and leadership.

3. DAY TWO MORNING: Idea Incubator
Participants, in small groups, dive deeper into the creative thinking process to further polish the gem of ideas and opportunities identified on Day #1.

Equipped with new tools of the creative trade and having entered more deeply into the mindset of an innovator, participants continue making quantum leaps of thought and action.

4. DAY TWO AFTERNOON: Innovation Launcher
Here's where the rubber meets the road -- the convergent part of the workshop in which participants make the effort to clarify two ways to significantly increase the odds of turning their hot ideas into measureable results:

1. Establish a culture of innovation within their spheres of influence.

2. Craft intelligent "idea implementation plans" that take into account their organization's stickiest obstacles to innovation.

Simply put, The Innovation Accelerator helps savvy, time-crunched people challenge old assumptions, conceive new possibilities, originate powerful ideas, collaborate, network, and jump start the process of helping their organization foster a dynamic, authentic, humane, sustainable culture of innovation.

-- Aspiring innovators, project teams, departments
-- Cross-functional teams
-- High potential employees
-- Business leaders of the future
-- Forward thinking managers
-- Innovation champions
-- Change agents


-- How to identify and transform limiting assumptions
-- How to redefine and reframe business challenges
-- Best innovation practices of leading organizations
-- How to jump start a culture of innovation
-- How to diffuse risk-averse, nay-saying behavior
-- How to double the impact of your brainstorming sessions
-- Tools and techniques for thinking out of the box
-- How to leverage your strengths as an in-house innovator

-- A deck of 55 innovation-sparking cards (Free the Genie)
-- The Free the Genie Leader's Guide
-- An annual Free the Genie (online app) license
-- A set of juggling balls
-- Four creative thinking guidebooks
-- Awake at the Wheel (our award winning book on the creative process)
-- Three innovation whitepapers


"Idea Champions offers pragmatic tools and insights that enable innovation. Their approach is engaging, encouraging and creates an impetus for participants to apply the learning immediately."
- Michael Serino, Senior Director, Merck

"Idea Champions' highly engaging approach, combining creative energy and business practicality, is a real winner. Their process and practical tools helps people experience innovation in the moment, and more importantly, enables them to apply the learning back home with their own teams." - Mike Canning, Managing Director, Duke Corporate Education

"Idea Champions has been a partner with the Chubb Business School for four years and has helped us drive the skillset and mindset of innovation throughout the organization. This partnership has resulted in an approach that focuses not only on the skill of creative thinking, but on the application of that learning. Several ideas from Chubb Business School have been pitched to our Venture Fund Team and received funding for development and implementation. Definitely solid ROI!" - Mary Ann Heenehan, Corporate Groups Development Manager, Chubb Insurance

"Idea Champions continues to be a terrific partner as we proceed on our innovation journey. They are highly knowledgeable about developing an innovative culture, know what to do and, more importantly, know what not to do. They are also wonderful facilitators of group training -- both entertaining and educational. - Darcy Smith, VP Subsidiary HR, Highmark

"Idea Champions is creative in their approach, experienced, willing to share their expertise readily, easy to work with, and delivers exactly what they promise." - Peter Clist, Head of Management Institute, Allianz

"No organization, especially those in Health Care, can expect to thrive without drawing on the collective talent and ideas of their workforce. Idea Champions helped us discover and apply those talents and ideas in a highly productive and practical system." - Don Parker, President, AtlantiCare Health Care Systems

"You are sowers of a wonderfully powerful seed that now has begun to germinate and revitalize our organization." - Candace Thompson, VP, First National Bank of Chicago

"Idea Champions is the firm I recommend for anything to do with innovation." - Melody Mahoney, Center for Leadership and Organizational Excellence, GE Capital

Contact us
Idea Champions website

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:45 PM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2013
What Matters Now

I haven't read Gary Hamel's new book yet, but will. Gary is, in my estimation, one of the most lucid, authentic, refreshing voices of sanity I've heard in the often weird world of business. Give a listen.

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

Who Are We?

Idea Champions is a consulting and training company dedicated to awakening and nurturing the spirit of innovation. We help individuals, teams and entire organizations tap into their innate ability to create, develop and implement ideas that make a difference.

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

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