Author Archives: Mitch Ditkoff

How the Ivy League is Killing Innovation

Here’s a wonderful article, just published in Bloomberg Business Week that raises a very curious paradox — why academics are teaching innovation. Authors G. Michael Maddock and Raphael Louis Viton state their case clearly, cleanly, and with just enough of an edge to draw blood. “Process-driven cultures love process-driven experts. Organizations, just like people, do what makes them feel strong, and nothing makes mature, process-driven companies feel stronger than having a template for doing anything (even if having a completely buttoned-down-ain’t-no-exceptions-allowed template for innovation seems oxymoronic on its face). Need innovation? Simply call in a PhD with a bow tie and trademarked process and watch your innovation portfolio grow. Right? Nope.” If you are a professor and find Maddock and Viton’s article objectionable, speak up! Let them know what you think — and why. Maybe you’re the one who’s found a way to teach innovation in a novel, cut-to-the-chase, non-academic … Continue reading

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10 Great Brainstorming Facilitator Personas

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 … Continue reading

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It All Began with Balls

Most companies begin on a shoe-string — under-funded, under the gun, and under the radar. The company I co-founded in 1986, Idea Champions, was no exception. When my business partner and I began, we had almost nothing — just an idea, some chutzpah, and a deep desire to succeed. While we both were likable, smart, and skillful schmoozers, we had zippo in the way of a marketing plan. Racking what was left of our over-caffeinated brains, it soon became abundantly clear that we needed some kind of showcase, some kind of “window to the world” — a place to strut our entrepreneurial stuff and get in front of the people who were the likely buyers of our service… Back in those days, this meant one thing — renting a booth at the ASTD convention — the annual meet market in the training and development field. The thought of this made … Continue reading

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6 Sides of the So-Called Box

Unless you’ve been in a coma for the past 20 years, I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “get out of the box.” It’s everywhere. Whole industries have sprung up around it, including mine. No one can deny that getting out of the box is a good thing to do. Seems like a no-brainer, eh? Kind of like helping little old ladies cross the street. Or tearing down the Berlin Wall. But before you start planning your heroic escape, answer me this: What the heck is the box, anyway? What is this so-called thing that keeps us so contained, confined, caged, trapped, claustrophobic, and otherwise unable to succeed? Let’s start with the basics. A box has six sides, including the top and the bottom. If we can understand what these six sides are, we’ll know what we’re dealing with — and this knowledge will improve our chances of getting out. … Continue reading

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20 Ways to Get Feedback on Your New Idea

You’ve got a great idea. I know you do. But I also know it’s just sitting there. In your head. Like a lump. Why? Because you haven’t pitched it to anyone. Everyone — even your best friends — all seem so busy, right? And even if they’re not busy, you… um….er… uh… don’t really know how to kick-start the conversation to get them to help you develop your idea. The hardest part is starting. And so, here’s a way to start — actually, 20 ways to start — 20 phrases you can use to increase the odds of someone paying attention to your new idea and giving you the feedback you need to develop it. Go ahead. Get your idea out there today. Invite someone you know to give you feedback. You can do this… 20 IDEA FEEDBACK STARTERS I wonder if you have a few minutes to give me … Continue reading

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 5 Ways to Ignite a Culture of Innovation

Trying to create a culture of innovation is a daunting task for even the most committed organization. Cultures take decades to form. Changing them is not an overnight phenomenon, no matter how many outside consultants you’ve gotten on the case. You might as well try to end world hunger or wipe out Aids overnight. It’s gonna take a while. But if you and your colleagues are game, culture change is possible. The question, of course, is where to begin? Starting is always the hardest part. And, in the absence of clarity about where to start, procrastination creeps in — and nothing changes. OK. Enough preamble. Here are five ways to get started. Pick one or all five — and don’t forget to enjoy the process. 1. Name the Beast If you want to change something, you will need to begin by understanding the current reality of that which you attempting … Continue reading

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Don't Let Puppetmaster Control Ideation

One Frequently Ignored Secret of Facilitating Brainstorm Sessions by Mitch Ditkoff Here’s one of the dirty little secrets of corporate brainstorm sessions: When they are led by upper management, department heads, or project leaders, they usually get manipulated. Because honchos and honchettes are heavily invested in the topic being brainstormed, it is common for them to bend the collective genius of the group to their own particular point of view. Not a good idea. Participants — out of respect for the expertise (or position or parking space) of the facilitator — will invariably moderate their input. And while this can sometimes lead to good results, the results are usually disappointing. That’s why brainstorm facilitators need to remain neutral. Not neutral like vague. No. Neutral like free of any pre-determined concept or outcome. An empty window, not an empty suit. A facilitator’s role is to facilitate (from the Latin word meaning … Continue reading

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