Author Archives: Mitch Ditkoff

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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The Dynamics of Brainstorm Facilitation

A well-facilitated brainstorming session is like a symphony — or, at the very least, a really good performance of any kind of music. Embedded in its DNA are dynamics (i.e. “variation and contrast in force and intensity”) — the skillful modulation of elements that fully engages a person’s attention. The opposite? Muzak. Next time you listen to a piece of music, be aware of dynamics — the various ways in which the composition holds your interest (i.e. rhythm, pauses, crescendos, harmonies, solos, and multiple variations of soft and loud). As a brainstorm facilitator, you need to do everything in your power to keep the session as dynamic as possible so participants remain fully engaged — poised and ready to respond. If the session is boring (or takes a “dip” after a brief period of engagement), your chances of succeeding decline exponentially. Towards this end, think of yourself as a “conductor” … Continue reading

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Building an Idea Factory

One of the reasons why most BIG IDEAS go nowhere is because the idea originators do not have a team of collaborators on board to help develop and execute their ideas. In the absence of collaborators, the idea originators either try to do everything themselves (not a good idea) or spend so much time trying to enroll people on the fly that the idea loses momentum and eventually evaporates. Simply put, it’s easy to conceive. It’s harder to deliver the baby. But what if each of us who comes up with a potentially game-changing idea already had a team of collaborators in place — people who were poised and ready to respond with enthusiasm, skill, and clarity? This is not a new idea. There are examples in many other domains: Swat Teams, Firefighters, and Emergency Rooms, just to name a few. These are people who are there when you need … Continue reading

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