April 27, 2023
What Does It Really Take to Learn Anything from Somebody Else?

2 Heads Leaf.jpg

Since 1987, I have been providing consulting and training services to a wide variety of forward thinking organizations who have recognized their need to raise the bar for creative thinking, innovation, and teamwork. An optimist, by nature, I have always assumed that the people attending my sessions had an innate ability to benefit from whatever it was I was teaching, conveying, or imparting.

And while this optimistic point of view continues to be my default position, I have also understood that there are obstacles that often get in the way of people receiving the maximum value of what I (or any teacher, instructor, or facilitator) has to offer.

It is, shall we say, an occupational hazard.

Some of these learning obstacles are internal (i.e. participant mindset) and some are external (funky organizational culture). But no matter where these obstacles originate from, each of them can be decreased or eliminated with the right kind of effort.


Ready? Here you go. Ten ways to increase your odds of getting the most possible value from whatever workshop, training, seminar, or class is coming up for you:

1. Find Your Intrinsic Motivation: If you want to learn something new, you will. If you don't want to learn something new, you won't. That's about as simple as it gets. Intrinsic motivation is all about your authentic, deeply felt, self-generated aspiration. Your mojo. Your willingness. The "inner reward" you experience for doing anything at all -- not because of carrots and sticks being dangled before you, but because of your inherent thirst to learn or experience something new.

If you are the person responsible for the success of your organization's Professional Development efforts, ask yourself one simple question: "How can I awaken the intrinsic motivation of our workforce?" If you are an "individual contributor" who has been invited, requested, or told to attend an upcoming Professional Development session, ask yourself this: "How can I find the motivation within myself to embrace this learning opportunity with as much passion as possible?"

2. Trust the Teacher Anyone who wants to learn something new will eventually need to trust the person who's doing the teaching. If not, it doesn't matter if it's Einstein, Jesus, or the Prophet Mohammed standing before you. Trust is essential to learning, as it is to any relationship. As an experiment, try assuming the best in your workshop leader, trainer, or meeting facilitator. Give them a chance to do their thing. And if you should find yourself in an untrusting state of mind, pause of a moment and ask yourself what you need to do (or say or ask) in order to trust the teacher enough to be their student for a while.

breakbricks2.jpg 3. Practice/Apply What You Learn: Most trainings, workshops, or classes, are a kind of introduction to the topic -- a way to get immersed, for a while, in that particular domain. You learn about the topic, but don't immediately develop mastery. For that to happen, you will need to practice and apply what you learn. If you've ever seen a karate master break a stack of bricks with his hand, there's a very good chance he didn't quite do it the first time he tried. Practice makes perfect.

4. Be Patient:
In an age, where a Google search can fetch you esoteric information in 1.4 seconds, all of us have become accustomed to instantaneous results. That might be fine for learning what the capital of Latvia is, but not so fine when it comes to mastering the art of giving feedback, facilitating successful meetings, or becoming an effective team leader. Learning takes time. Developing new skills takes time. Making positive changes takes time. Patience, my friend. Patience!

5. Ask Questions: "The important thing," said Albert Einstein, "is not to stop questioning." Bingo! If you have entered into some kind of Professional Development effort, one of the best ways to get the most value from it is to ask questions. And this process begins with you asking yourself questions so you can identify the value of what it is you want to learn. Then ask your teacher/instructor -- before class, during class, or after class. If you are not getting the value you came for, the ball's in your court. If you don't understand something, ask. If you're not getting the value of what you came for, ask the teacher to deliver the information, tools, or techniques in a way that works better for you. And if you choose not to ask, then ask yourself why you're not asking.

Einstein queestioning3.jpg

6. Become Aware of Your Self-Interferences: As you begin to engage in a new learning effort, pause for a moment and see if you can identify the "stuff" that, historically, has gotten in your way of learning anything new -- your self-interferences or what Tim Gallwey, Founder of The Inner Game, refers to as "Self-One." HINT: If you are a human being, it's probably one of the following: self-talk, self-doubt, skepticism, arrogance, limiting assumptions, lack of follow through, fear of failure, laziness, or impatience. If it's none of those, it's always possible that you simply don't see the value (for you) of the class, workshop, or training you've been ask to attend.

7. Acknowledge Your Progress: The proverbial cup may look half empty to you at times, but it's equally true that it is also half-full. Acknowledging and appreciating the progress you are making in your learning adventure will go a long ways towards keeping you in a positive frame of mind and looking forward to what's coming next. NOTE: The word "success" comes from the same root as the word "succeeding" (taking one step after another.) "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step," said Lao Tzu. Indeed! See if you can notice and appreciate each step along the way. You are making progress. You are! Here's a simple technique you can try towards that end. Works like a charm and takes less than five minutes.


8. Remember the Stories (and share them with others): It is highly likely that the facilitators of future workshops, trainings, or classes you will attend are going to make their point, from time to time, by telling stories. And that's because stories are one of the best ways to transmit knowledge and wisdom. If you truly want to imbibe the teachings that will be shared with you, remember the stories. And, better yet, share those stories with others. The more you share them, the more the wisdom embedded in those stories will reveal itself to you.

9. Come to Class with an Uncluttered Mind: If you are a teacher, engineer, sales person, manager, software programmer, team leader, nurse, carpenter, or VP of something or other, there's a good chance you have a lot on your mind. Even your To Do list has To Do lists.
If you want to get maximum value from whatever Professional Development offering is on the horizon for you, it is your responsibility to come to the session with an uncluttered mind. Be empty. Be ready to receive. Be open to what's coming your way. Here's what the Zen tradition has to say about this phenomenon.

10. See #3.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: What can you do, in the next week, to ensure that you get the most value out of whatever Professional Development efforts are coming your way?

Photo #1: Michael Porro, Unsplash
Photo #2: Krzysztof Niewolny, Unsplash
90 quotes on education and learning
Idea Champions

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 07:50 AM | Comments (1)

April 21, 2023
Today is the Launch of "Unspoken Word: Love, Longing & Letting Go"

Launch Day.jpeg

Dear Friends:

If you have been reading The Heart of Innovation for a while, there is a very good chance you will enjoy my just-published book of poetry,"Unspoken Word: Love, Longing & Letting Go."

Today is the day it launches on Amazon.

If you are thinking about buying it (or even if you're not), today is the day to buy it. Why? Because the more people who buy the book on the same day, the greater the chance the book will rank high on Amazon's NEW RELEASES list. And the higher it ranks, the more visibility the book will get. And since my vision is that millions of people read this book, visibility is a good thing.

PS: If you read the book and enjoy it, please consider writing an Amazon review -- one more way to help me get the word out there. Gracias!

Buy on Amazon
What ChatGBT says about my poetry
The website

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:29 PM | Comments (0)

April 07, 2023
The Awesome Power of Immersion


"If I had an hour to solve a problem," explained Albert Einstein, "I'd spend the first 55 minutes thinking about the problem, and the last five solving it."

Translation? One of the secrets to having a big breakthrough is immersion -- "the state of being deeply engaged, involved, or absorbed."

Immersion is the ocean in which our fabulous insights, ideas, and illuminations are swimming. That's why Yogis seek out caves, embryos gestate, and writers go on retreat.

And that's why my business partner, Steven McHugh, and I rented a townhouse in Boulder, Colorado for 30 days and 30 nights when it was time for us to start up Idea Champions. We knew we had a great idea for a business, but we also knew that ideas were a dime a dozen and that unless we really immersed we'd end up with nothing much more than a charming story to tell at cocktail parties -- the idea for a business, but not the business itself.

Armed with little more than a flip chart, a few marking pens, and a burning desire to create something new, we unplugged from all our other commitments and jumped in with both feet.

immersion head.jpg

We talked. We walked. We walked our talk. We noodled. We conjured. We brainstormed, blue-skied, dialogued, role played, invented, read, sang, stretched, drank coffee, wine, the crisp Colorado air, and whatever else it took to free ourselves from the gravity of what we already knew. If this was Rocky 1, our townhouse was the Gym, Adrienne nowhere in sight.

And every night before we went to bed, blissed out of our trees, we'd remind each other to remember our dreams and speak them aloud the first thing in the morning.

CLUES. We were looking for clues, hints, perfumed handkerchiefs dropped by our muse while we slept and anything else that bubbled to the surface of the imaginal stew we found ourselves now swimming in.

Crackpots? No. More like crockpots, simmering in our own creative juices, unimpaired by the almost infinite amount of distractions we had grown accustomed to calling our life.

Immersed. We were completely immersed -- two eggs submerged in the boiling water of creation, heat turned up, lid on, timer off.

Our walls? The walls of our abode? Covered with paper, sketches, scribbles, post-its, quotes, pictures, lists, charts, diagrams, questions, and take out menus -- the barely decipherable hieroglyphics of our journey into who knows where.

The floors? Our mothers would have had a heart attack, littered as they were with anything we didn't have a place for. Rube Goldberg meets Fellini. Yin meets Yang meets Jung -- the flora and fauna of two aspiring entrepreneurs on fire with possibility.


But our immersion went far beyond the four walls of our abode. It was a state of mind, not a geographical location. It didn't really matter where we were. Walking by the creek or sitting in a bar was all the same to us, ruled as we were by our shared fascination, random silken threads of conversation with complete strangers, and the increasingly apparent sense that we were on to something big.

And then, on the morning of the 19th day, very much at ease in our townhouse abode, there was a knock on the door -- a loud and insistent knock, a knock both of us found rather odd since nobody knew where we lived -- or so we thought.

"It's open," Steven shouted from across the room. "Go ahead and let yourself in."

And there, at the threshold, stood a woman neither of us knew, a woman boldly announcing that, for the past three days, she'd been hearing about "these two creativity guys" and she just had to meet us, her business now on the cusp of either breaking through or breaking down.

I don't remember a single thing of we said, but whatever it was hit the nail on the head.

The next day, there was another knock on the door. Apparently, someone else had heard about our whereabouts. This guy had a business, too, or was trying to have a business. He spoke. We listened. He spoke some more. We listened some more, occasionally asking a question or two and sharing some insight. He too, got what he needed.

On the third day, Jesus did not rise from the grave, but, yes, there was another knock on the door -- just enough proof to the logical part of our minds that the previous two visits were not random events, but part of some kind of emerging pattern -- what fans of Rupert Sheldrake might refer to as manifestations of the morphogenetic field, or what less metaphysical folks might describe as our very own "field of dreams."

Steven and I had done nothing at all to draw these people to us -- no ads in the paper, no posters on poles, no calls, no emails, no flyers, no social marketing campaigns. The only thing we'd done was immerse -- dig deeply into our own highly charged process of creating something new.

But this "nothing at all" wasn't nothing at all. It was something -- something grand and glorious. Something extraordinarily attractive.

Hands of Light.jpg

Is a mother hen sitting on her egg doing nothing at all? Is she slacking? Is her seeming disappearance from the poultry marketplace a sign of irresponsibility?

To the casual observer, maybe that's what it looks like, but nothing could be further from the truth. Sitting is exactly what the mother hen needs to do in order to bring new life into the world. Stillness, not action, is her path.

Did Steven and I accomplish what we set out to do during our 30 days of immersion? Yes, we did. In spades. Beyond the inspiration, collaboration, and good feelings we experienced, we emerged with the design of our first product -- a creative thinking training we ended up licensing to AT&T just two years later for a truck load of money.

Was our immersion time all fun and games? No way. Chaos and confusion were our housemates, but the rent they paid sparked a ton of learning, creativity, discovery, and a new found willingness to make friends with the unknown -- what Henry Miller was referring to when he defined confusion as "simply a word we've invented for an order that is not yet understood."

In today's business world, immersion is a very rare commodity. ADD rules the day. Time is sliced and diced. We don't have time. Time has us. We tweet, we delete, we tap our feet, but all too often nothing much beyond the status quo ever really happens. Downtime has become an anathema -- the province of "B list" players. Busy-ness and business have become synonymous.

The assumption? The more we do and the faster we do it, the more success we'll have. Boil an egg? Ha! We microwave it -- even if it tastes like shit. Dive in? No way. We hydroplane.

But it doesn't have to be that way. It really doesn't.

Slowing down and going deep trumps speeding up and going crazy. Immersion trumps diversion. It's possible. Yes, it is. I have proof. And so do YOU, if only you would pause long enough to remember those extraordinary times when you unplugged, tuned in, and dove into your own process of creating something new and wonderful.


What can you do, this week, month, or quarter, to unplug from the daily grind and give yourself the luxury of immersion? Where will you go? When? And who will you invite to accompany you, if anyone?

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

Excerpted from Storytelling at Work

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:58 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.
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