April 21, 2024
On Being a Team Leader With Very Little Time

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There are three things I've learned about Team Leaders in the past 37 years of working with these organizations.

1. They want their teams to become more high performing
2. The time they have to play their role is limited
3. They have choices about which team building efforts to make

Towards that end (assuming you have three minutes), take a look at the many choices you have to increase the long-term effectiveness and well-being your team. Then pick at least ONE to focus on this week.


-- Listen more deeply to each team member's needs and perspectives
-- Notice when team members are doing something well
-- Give more positive feedback soon after your notice a success
-- Notice "room for improvement" moments, then give feedback

-- Improve your team meetings
-- Begin team meetings by acknowledging forward progress
-- Establish team agreements
-- Help each person understand their roles and responsibilities

-- Clarify your team's work processes
-- Have more casual, one-on-one conversations
-- Secure more support from Senior Leadership
-- Empower team members to solve their own problems

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Go beyond the team leader overload syndrome
On being an effective team leader
Communicate your responsibilities to your team
Illustration: gapingvoid

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 19, 2024
TEAM LEADERS: Communicate Your Responsibilities to Your Team!


If you are a Team Leader, one of the first things you will need to do is let your team know the full scope of your roles and responsibilities.

You may think they know, but it's very likely that they don't -- at least not at the level of specificity that a high performing team requires.

And if team members don't understand what you actually DO -- and WHY you do it -- chances are good that they will resist, rebel, or reject your efforts to play your role.

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1. HOW TO PROCEED: As soon as possible, meet with your team and explain the scope of your role. If you happen to be a new team leader (and your team is doubtful of your skills, leadership ability, or authority),let them know, who, specifically, in your organization, has empowered you to BE the Team Leader and that you take your responsibility very seriously.

Be sure to mention that one of your main roles is to be a helpful resource for team members -- to be there for them to help ensure that they enjoy their job, learn, grow, collaborate, and accomplish their ambitious performance goals for the year.

NOTE: Some members of your team probably perceive you as the person who is going to judge, evaluate, correct, criticize, intimidate, and hassle them. Paranoia alert! This is old school thinking. Or more like pre-school thinking.

A savvy team leader will quickly dispel this bogus notion. The faster you can let your team know that the essence of your role is be of of major support to them, the better.

2. BE SPECIFIC ABOUT YOUR ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES: The term "Team Leader" will mean different things to different people. Unless you explain precisely what your role is (and what it's not), you will be at the mercy of your team members' wide range of concepts, assumptions, and projections.

The best way to minimize this kind of background noise is to clearly and confidently describe, one by one, your Team Leader roles and responsibilities.

Towards that end, take a look at the list of your possible roles and responsibilities below. Note the ones that accurately describe your job and add whatever items may be missing.

-- Help your team articulate and fulfill its mission statement
-- Listen non-judgmentally
-- Share your expectations for the year
-- Establish and uphold standards of excellence
-- Facilitate the process of establishing team agreements

-- Work with team members to set performance goals
-- Observe and evaluate performance on-the-job
-- Give useful, humane, and timely feedback
-- Coach and mentor
-- Clarify team members' roles and responsibilities

-- Hold people accountable for results
-- Identify, clarify, and communicate team processes
-- Facilitate team meetings
-- Secure resources for the team
-- Ensure that team members create their Learning Plans for the year

-- Promote the teams' successes to Senior Leadership
-- Establish a simple, inspiring ideation process
-- Conduct performance reviews
-- Acknowledge individual and team progress
-- Address team challenges, conflicts, and breakdowns
-- Do everything possible to ensure the team's well-being


Idea Champions

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

April 15, 2024
What Problem Does "Free the Genie for Teams" Actually Solve?

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Some team leaders, when they first hear about Free the Genie, assume it is a "nice to have" service -- intriguing and unique -- but not necessarily essential. Nothing could be further from the truth. In reality, Free the Genie is an antidote for a wide range of challenges most forward-thinking teams regularly encounter.

1. Difficulty getting to the root causes of problems in order to frame the kind of powerful questions that lead to game-changing ideas, initiatives, and measurable results.

2. Lack of team alignment re: identifying core issues that require the application of collective brainpower.

3. No process in place to unlock and unleash the creativity of team members.

4. Inability to facilitate productive brainstorming sessions that lead to actionable ideas and quantifiable results.

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5. Group Think: Conforming to peer pressure and the opinions of the majority.

6. Over-reliance on the Team Leader: ceding individual responsibility by assuming that the highest-ranking member of the team is going to work miracles.

7. Inability to capture, organize, and evaluate the output of team brainstorming sessions.

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Introducing Free the Genie
Metaphors Be With You
How Teams Can Successfully Brainstorm Online
Frequently asked questions about Free the Genie
A sampling of testimonials from our corporate clients

Illustrations: gapingvoid.com

CONTACT: genie@ideachampions.com

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Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 09:22 AM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2024
FREE THE GENIE for TEAMS FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions


1. How many online sessions are included in a Free the Genie engagement? Two.

2. How long is each session? 75-90 minutes.

3. How many members of our team can participate? Four.

4. Our team is bigger than four people. Can we still use Free the Genie? Yes, but only four people can participate at one time. Why only four? Because we want to increase the odds of people actively participating in the creative thinking process. When more than four people participate, there is a tendency for some people just to observe.

5. Do the participants have to be an intact team, or part of an intact team, or can any four people in our organization participate? Participants do not need to be an intact team. They can be an ad hoc group from your organization who have been invited to explore a new challenge, goal, or opportunity. The basic criteria for inclusion in a Free the Genie session is people's commitment to the topic being explored and their availability to follow up.

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6. What type of work teams are ideal for Free the Genie? Any work team that has a compelling goal, challenge or opportunity and the commitment to explore it in creative ways.

7. If one of our team members cannot participate in the second session, can he/she/they be replaced by another team member?
Yes, as long as the replacement team member has read the Insight & Ideation Report from session #1 and has a clear understanding of what has preceded session #2.

8. Is there a price difference for having two, three, or four participants? No.

9. How much time is there between the first FTG session and the second? Is this flexible? Yes, this is flexible. We recommend a 2-4 week interval between Free the Genie sessions. This provides enough time for your team to process the output from their first session. It also increases focus, motivation, and positive momentum.

10. Do our members have to be in the same room, or can they be in different locations? Participants do not need to be in the same room. They can be anywhere.

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11. Can our members participate via their mobile phones?
No. Free the Genie requires a laptop or desktop computer. It is not designed for mobile at this time.

12. What pre-session work will be required by the team members? Each team member will be required to respond to our "Frame Your Real Question?" self-inquiry page prior to the first session. If your Team Leader finds value in our "Culture of Innovation" survey, each team member will also be required to respond to this survey. Total time for pre-work: 15-30 minutes.

13. What kinds of "How can we?" questions suit this process the best? Suitable questions meet the following criteria:

-- Inspires participants
-- Describes a compelling team goal, challenge or opportunity
-- Relates to a project that participants have some control over
-- Represents only one topic, not several
-- Includes a "by when" date

Highly technical challenges that require deep analysis, research and debate are not suitable.

14. Our business is highly technical. Will your app and facilitator be able to handle highly technical problems?
We have worked with many companies engaged in highly technical pursuits. That being said, highly technical problems are not suitable for a Free the Genie session.

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15. What else is required of our organization before a session?
-- Clarity about the Free the Genie process
-- Sign our Letter of Engagement
-- 50% deposit
-- Select and invite the appropriate people to participate
-- Identify of a Point Person to liaison with Idea Champions
-- Each member of your team responds to our pre-work

16. What will be required from our members or organization between sessions? Read the Insight & Ideation Report (summary of output from session #1).

17. Is there any kind of follow-up? Yes. Follow up includes:
-- Review two Insight & Ideation Reports
-- Two Reality Check Debrief calls (for the Team Leader)
-- Coaching and consultation with your team's Point Person
-- Project champions do their due diligence

18. How many total work hours will we be spending on Free the Genie as an organization if four of our people participate?

The total works hours required for each FTG participant is 3.5 hours (two 90-minute FTG brainstorming sessions and 30 minutes of pre-work). There is additional time requirements for the Team Leader, Point Person, and Project Champion.

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19. What can we expect from Free the Genie as an outcome?
-- A variety of compelling insights and ideas for further development
-- Commitment to at least one game-changing idea
-- A comprehensive summary of the output from each FTG session
-- Increased team alignment, commitment, and morale
-- Improvement of your team's culture of innovation
-- An increase in your team's ability to brainstorm successfully
-- Meaningful follow up to the ideas generated in both sessions
-- Clarification of roles and responsibilities re: idea development
-- Team commitment to meaningful follow-up
-- Increased motivation and ability to think out of the box

20. Is there a volume discount on Free the Genie sessions? Maybe. Let's talk.

21. Can we speak to other clients of yours who have done this process? Yes

Introducing Free the Genie
How teams can successfully brainstorm online
Metaphors be with you
What people are saying about Free the Genie
Testimonials from our corporate clients

Fabulous illustrations above: gapingvoid.com

CONTACT: genie@ideachampions.com


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

April 11, 2024
A Sampling of Testimonials from Idea Champions Clients

Since 1987, Idea Champions has been designing and facilitating a wide range of brainstorming sessions, creative thinking trainings, and innovation workshops for more than 130 organizations in 11 different countries. During that time, we have worked with just about every industry on planet earth and every kind of mindset. What follows is a sampling of testimonials from our satisfied clients.

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"Through your brainstorm facilitation, we gained more than 100 original ideas of high quality. The best of these will guide AT&T's development for years to come." - Robert Rubin, CCS Product Development, AT&T

"As a result of Idea Champions' efforts we have implemented more than 250 value-added Big Idea projects." - Joe Belinsky, Professional Development Manager, Goodyear Rubber and Tire

"Several of the ideas we came up with in the Idea Champions session are being developed into concrete projects that are looking like very profitable opportunities." - Rudy Villa, VP, GE/RCA Licensing

"Extremely engaging and enlightening brainstorming sessions." - Karen Lazan, Marketing Director, Pfizer

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"The brainstorming session you facilitated helped us generate lots of great ideas to activate our positioning around the world." - Charlotte Oades, Director, Brand Marketing, The Coca Cola Company

"Idea Champions' virtual Ideation Jump Start session has been a cost effective and efficient tool that gets our teams right into the thick of idea generation and collaboration." - Jon Bidwell, Director of Innovation, Chubb Insurance

"Superb! Everyone was impressed with your ability to spark and harness the collective ingenuity of our group." - Craig Harden, Global Risk Manager, Scotia Capital

"I want to note how impressed we all were with Idea Champions' insight and understanding of our business and creative needs, as well as the varied and constructive techniques you used to take us through the creative process." - Gabrielle Del Sesto, VP, MTV Networks

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"Several ideas generated in the Chubb Business School sessions facilitated by Idea Champions 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 helped us generate powerful new ideas and engage with such energy that six months later their impact still hasn't worn off." - Candida G. Brush, Chair: Entrepreneurship Division, Babson College

"The Idea Champions team brings a creative, energetic and fun approach to idea generation. The tools and techniques they have brought to Atlanticare are enabling us to build a true culture of innovation." - Terri Schieder, VP, Clinical Development and Integration, Atlanticare

"Your techniques and style left our people with a better understanding and working knowledge of the most valuable tool we all possess - the creative mind." - Tom Gowan, VP Communications, Emmis Broadcasting

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

"Idea Champions helped us harness our naturally innovative spirit and significantly improve the way we execute our ideation process." - Jody Johnson, Chief People Officer, MBooth & Associates

"We were looking for a miracle and then we found Idea Champions." - Paulette Esposito, Manager, Training and Development, Champion International

"I continue to find that the takeaways from a single day with Idea Champions have proved to be much more valuable to me than some of the more extensive consulting inputs I have received from large brand name consultants my company interacts with." - Harry Kiskaddon, Vice President, Alcoa

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"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

"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' 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 helped us unlock an even greater level of thinking for our clients across the board. Now it is more innovative, more strategic and reached more efficiently." - Andrew Rossi, Creative Director, MBooth & Associates

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"The Idea Champions process not only worked, it exceeded our every expectation. Our CEO has already received over 100 emails from employees thanking her for the process." - Melinda McLaughlin, Senior Vice President, A&E Television Networks

"Idea Champions brings an infectious enthusiasm that will win over even the most cynical person in your organization!" - Kevin Reilly, President, NBC Universal

"As a result of your efforts, I now have the most highly motivated, self-driven, creative and fun team this division has seen in recent history." - Karen Buczek, Marketing Manager, General Mills

Idea Champions has the unique quality to combine zany out-of-box thinking with a pragmatic approach that appealed to every participant. Even those who relish the status quo couldn't help but relax, laugh, and lean into their untapped creativity." - Maureen Toshner, Director, Organizational Development & Learning, Charter Manufacturing


"Talk about out of the box thinking, it was out of this world!" - Eric Birnbaum, Sr. Packaging Engineer, Kraft Foods

"Idea Champions' ability to teach my colleagues and me how to facilitate brainstorming sessions changed the future of our business. We went from being viewed by our clients as their agency to being respected as essential teammates that help them arrive at big ideas." - Mandy Kalajian, Vice President, Mirrorball

"Spending a day with Idea Champions completely changed the way I think about brainstorming. They provided the insights and tools to conduct far more productive meetings, and reframed what it really means to "think creatively." - Mike Petite, Art Director, MWW

"The Idea Champions session was custom-built to fit the specific needs of our company. The outputs were realistic, tangible solutions that can be implemented immediately." - Jennie Liang, Senior Brand Planner, MWW

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"The Idea Champions training gave us the tools to better unleash the full potential of our employees and clients. And we had fun while doing it!" - Natalie Giordano, Director, Purple Strategies

"My coworkers and I spent eight hours with Idea Champions. The learnings from that session instantly changed the way we run our ideation sessions -- both internally and externally with our clients. The techniques and processes we learned were beyond enlightening and have already garnered exponential returns." - Steve Papageorge, Creative Director, Mirrorball

"Idea Champions brainstorm facilitation training was, by far, the most fun, useful, productive, and engaging training I've ever attended." - M.K. Blue State Digital, Account Executive

"After the Idea Champions brainstorm facilitation training I felt energized, empowered, ready to lead a brainstorm session, and infuse my work with more creativity. Idea Champions are magicians and they passed some of that magic on to us." - T.W. Blue State Digital, Marketing Manager

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CONTACT: genie@ideachampions.com

Introducing Free the Genie
Metaphors Be With You
How teams can brainstorm online
What's included in a Free the Genie for Teams engagement

Fabulous illustrations: gapingvoid

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2024
What's Included in a Free the Genie for Teams Engagement


Free the Genie for Teams is a simple, online, collaborative process that enables teams to unleash their collective genius and generate breakthrough ideas in service to a compelling goal, challenge or opportunity.

The service we provide is the distillation of what we've learned, since 1987, designing and facilitating more 1,500 creative thinking sessions for 130 organizations in 11 countries.

Bottom line, we know how to open the floodgates of creativity. It is not a magic pill, but it does work magic and it does so in a very intentional and organized way.

What follows is a menu of the services and products included in a Free the Genie engagement.

1. Culture of Innovation survey: A chance for each participant to assess its team's culture of innovation -- what enables it and what gets in the way. Yes, your team has the potential to generate all kinds of game-changing ideas and insights, but the origination and execution of this good stuff is inextricably connected to your team's mood, mindset and ways of operating.


2. Identification of the Most Powerful Opportunity to Brainstorm: If you ask members of your team to define the "real issue" that needs to be addressed, you will get a wide variety of responses. Everyone perceives "things" differently.

This is why all Free the Genie engagements begin with team members responding to our online What's the Real Question? page -- a chance for them to pause, reflect and define the challenge they most want to explore together. We then review their input, look for recurring patterns and themes, and present them to you with our recommendation of the best "How can we?" question for your team to brainstorm.

3. Customization of Your Free the Genie session: Based on the results of our Culture of Innovation survey and the final articulation of your team's "How can we?" question, your Free the Genie facilitator will customize your team's brainstorming process accordingly. One size does not fit all. Each Free the Genie engagement is customized to meet the specific needs, mood and mindset of our clients.

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4. Two 90-minute online brainstorming sessions: The heart and soul of a Free the Genie engagement is the experience of your team generating and developing bold new ideas and insights. Towards this end, FTG session #1 focuses on fostering a culture of innovation and generating a wide range of powerful new ideas. Session #2 focuses on idea development, feedback, alignment, and evaluation.

5. Two Insight & Ideation Reports: One of the reasons why most brainstorming sessions fail is because the output of those sessions is rarely summarized and evaluated. Lots of spaghetti is thrown against the wall, but the meal is rarely forthcoming. This is why, within 48 hours of each Free the Genie session, we deliver a summary of your team's output -- a report that also includes our own recommendations for how your team can proceed in the most compelling way. Each member of your team will receive this report and be expected to review and evaluate the output.

6. Two Reality Check Debrief calls: A lot happens in a Free the Genie session. Bold new ideas are generated. Exciting possibilities are identified. Varying opinions and perspectives are expressed, which is precisely why we debrief each session with you -- a chance for you to reflect on the experience and further pave the way forward for whatever comes next.

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7. Subscription to Free the Genie online: One of the cool things about a Free the Genie session is that participants experience just how powerful our creative thinking prompts and techniques are. They also see how simple it can be to get out the box with the right kind of nudge. Team members who want to continue the creative thinking process will be invited to register, at no charge, for a Free the Genie subscription so they can use our online tool whenever they want.

8. Decks of Free the Genie cards: Within 48 hours after FTG session #2 we mail each participating member of your team a deck of our Free the Genie cards -- 55 creative thinking prompts that open minds and closes the gap between idea and execution.

9. Teamwork Cards: Free the Genie sessions not only open the floodgates of possibility, they also shed light on team dynamics that need to be improved. How to address these issues is often a challenge for teams. Which is why, at your request, we will email each team member a deck of our Teamwork Cards -- a simple way to raise the bar for team collaboration.

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10. Access to our Creative Thinking Vault: Since 1987, we have published (online) more than 2,500 articles, tools, techniques, and videos on the creative process. Two years in a row, the Founder of Idea Champions was voted the "Best Innovation Blogger in the World." To increase the odds of your team getting the support it needs to continue innovating, we have selected 100 of our favorite posts and make them available to you. One click will get you there.

11. One-on-one Free the Genie Session: It is very likely that you and/or a few members of your team, inspired by their Free the Genie experience, will want a private session with us -- a chance to dive deeper into a work-related project of their own. Towards that end, we include one individual FTG session for the team member of your choice. No extra charge.

12. A 20% discount on our Free the Genie certification training: Yes, we can train selected members of your team to facilitate Free the Genie sessions. It would be our pleasure. To increase the odds of this happening, we are happy to offer a 20% discount.

More about Free the Genie
How teams can brainstorm online
Metaphors Be With You
What people are saying about Free the Genie

Your Free the Genie facilitators
Mitch Ditkoff
Val Vadeboncoeur
Stevie Ray McHugh

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

25 Reasons Why Brainstorming Sessions Fail in Your Company


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

Recognize any of them in your organization?

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

6. Addiction to the status quo
7. Lack of clear ground rules
8. Insufficient trust in the facilitator
9. No transition from "business as usual"
10. Lack of robust participation

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

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

21. Imbalance of divergent and convergent thinking
22. No tools or techniques to spark creativity
23. Inadequate idea capture methods
24. Premature evaluation
25. No meaningful follow through

Free the Genie sessions eliminate all of the above

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

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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