New Lantern

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Welcome to the New Lantern blog. Our goal is to shine light on leading innovators and creative artists, and how your business can learn and profit from them. Companies large, medium, and small can benefit from employees who think more creatively. New Lantern may be just the source of inspiration your company needs to spark more innovative products, services, and processes.


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Monthly Archive for June, 2009

It’s Time to Embrace Teleworking (Part 1)

Posted by on June 27, 2009 at 9:42 pm

This past Thursday, Cisco released the results of a survey of 2,000 company employees that showcases the increasing benefits of teleworking. As part of its study, Cisco also said that it had generated $277 million in annual savings by allowing its employees to work from home.

The average Cisco employee now telecommutes 2 days per week. Cisco’s survey found that 75 percent of its employees surveyed said that the timeliness of their work improved when they work from home; and 69 percent of those surveyed said their productivity was higher.

The origins of teleworking, or telecommuting, date back to the early 1970s, when both terms were first introduced. Telecommuting in the early days typically meant setting up a satellite office, usually near the suburbs where the majority of employees lived. These remote offices housed expensive computer mainframe and dedicated word processing equipment, in addition to other telecommunications devices (PBX systems and fax machines).

The personal computer and faster dial-up connections helped give rise to telecommuting from home starting in the 1990s. Nevertheless, the actual percentage of employees who regularly telecommuted remained quite low, even in recent years (e.g., single digits). But this is about to change in a big way. Forrester Research predicts that by 2016 one-third of employees will spend at least part of their week working from home or other remote location.

Today, the low cost of personal computing combined with inexpensive and fast broadband options, and better and more secure remote software technologies (e.g., VPNs or virtual private networks), are breathing new life into the teleworking option. And so has the economic crisis. With companies under pressure to cut costs, many appear more willing to give teleworking a try. According to the Telework Coalition (TelCoa), companies can save $20,000 per employee on average through teleworking, including savings from office space and equipment, greater productivity, and less employee turnover.

These reasons alone should be compelling enough for your company to take a fresh look at teleworking. But frankly I think there’s a more compelling reason. Cisco’s study also found that 91 percent of its 2,000 employees believed that “telecommuting is somewhat or very important to their overall satisfaction.” Eighty percent said they have an “improved quality of life” due to telecommuting. And 67 percent of respondents said that their “overall work quality improved when telecommuting.”

In short, employees are happier with their jobs when they are telecommuting. And happiness breeds improved performance and greater productivity. What other changes can you make within your company today that can yield these kind of results, while also saving the company money – and greening the environment? Nothing. Nada.

Of course, not every employee and/or position is a good candidate for telecommuting. But depending on your type of business, a sizeable portion probably would be for some level of telework. We will delve more deeply into the merits of teleworking in Part 2 of this blog in next week’s post.

Boosting Corporate Morale During Troubled Times

Posted by on June 20, 2009 at 7:39 pm

A friend of mine who is a senior executive for a Fortune 100 company was recently telling me about her company’s serious morale problems among its employees. This company had already gone through one round of layoffs, and had just announced that another round was coming soon. According to her, these actions and the threat of additional downsizing had literally sapped the life out of employee morale throughout the company.

Unfortunately, this phenomenon is not limited to one company and is playing itself out across corporate America. With a national unemployment rate nearing 10 percent, and unemployment well into the double digits in many parts of the country, no wonder so many employees are feeling anxious about their futures.

And this anxiety comes at a cost. Employee performance and productivity suffers. A risk-averse mentality sets in. Meanwhile, creativity and innovation all but dry up.

So what can a company do to fend off low morale and anxious employees during these troubled times?

First, you can openly acknowledge the stress that employees are under, and appreciate that the stress they are feeling at work is even greater at home. Resist attempts for a quick fix such as a social “morale event,” which may be effective during ordinary times – but these times are far from ordinary. Such efforts could be seen as ill-timed and a wasteful use of funds in light of laid-off colleagues.

Next, focus on the individual. Meet with each employee; admit the stressful nature of the environment, but encourage them to step up and use this opportunity to persevere and shine. Seek their opinions and engage them on how to make the company stronger. Single out the highest performers and look for ways to cost-effectively reward them with leadership training, a title promotion, expanded responsibilities, and/or a stock grant.

Even in tough economic times, companies can and should find ways to reward and challenge their most promising employees. These are the ones who can help set the example for others to follow during a stressful period.

Finally, it will be up to the company’s leadership team to set the positive tone for the organization. Executives and managers who are confident in the company’s future and the potential of its employees, are in the best position to lead the organization to success.

When you’re 10 points down, and there’s only two minutes left on the clock, it comes down to a motivated coach, a dedicated and talented team, a winning game plan, and a bit of creative spirit to achieve the desire goal.

Innovation Starts with Creative Employees

Posted by on June 13, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Fast Company's 100 Most Creative People in Business- June 2009
I suggest you read this month’s (June 2009) Fast Company magazine, specifically its cover story on “The 100 Most Creative People in Business.” Creativity, of course, is in the eye of the beholder and sitting down to pick a mere 100 from the tens of thousands who could be considered is a highly subjective exercise. Nevertheless, I applaud Fast Company for drawing our attention to some of the globe’s most creative individuals and the enormous impact they have on innovation and business.

Fast Company’s 100 includes creative thinkers and doers from a wide array of fields, such as medicine, technology, fashion, philanthropy, government and academia. Their list includes some household names (e.g., Melinda Gates), and appropriately, many who are not-so-familiar. Professions comprise technologists, designers, artists, creative directors, CEOs, inventors — and even the Chairman of the FDIC, Sheila Bair.

“Sheila Bair’s combination of foresight, consistency, effective use of resources, and sensible ideas to secure the banking system looks pretty creative—and significant—to us,” says Fast Company. More traditional members of the 100 include people like Lee Clow, Global Director of Media Arts at TBWA\Worldwide, who has been the creative brains behind some of the most memorable and provocative ad campaigns for Apple, Adidas, Nike and Sony – and who coined the campaign “Think Different.”

Others on the list include Neri Oxman, a Presidential Fellow at the MIT Media Lab, who is creating new nano-materials for construction. That may not sound too sexy, but her work helps lead to cutting-edge innovations in manufacturing processes – and that’s her photo on the June cover of Fast Company (above). According to the article, Oxman helps blur the boundaries between architecture, product design, and art.

The point is this: business innovation starts with employees who think more creatively. Make sure your company is doing everything it can to identify, nurture, and develop the creativity that already exists within the employees. Establish your own most creative top 10, 50 or 100 list in your organization.

Most important, demonstrate to your employees that your company puts a premium on creativity and the role it can play toward more innovative products, services or processes. Now that’s a sexy proposition that should have some appeal for your shareholders.

Profiting from a Successful Non-Profit

Posted by on June 5, 2009 at 9:10 pm

Nat Geo logo

The National Geographic Society, founded in 1888 in Washington, DC, is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world. It represents one of the most enduring and recognizable brands on the planet – whose mission ironically is “to inspire people to care about their planet,” according to its current president, John Fahey, Jr.

National Geographic’s motto is “to increase and diffuse geographic knowledge while promoting conservation of the world’s cultural, historical, and natural resources.” According to the Society, its entire range of media properties reach 360 million people around the globe monthly. But it is its flagship yellow-covered magazine that has for decades served as the most identifiable with the organization, with a monthly circulation today of nine million copies.

Large stacks of National Geographic magazines grace my home library, as they do in millions of other homes, businesses, and libraries across the globe. The spines of my magazines are neatly aligned, displaying the month and year – with some copies dating back to the 1960s.

What is it about this soft-back publication that makes it so beloved and difficult to part with? The Society was founded on the principle that it would capture the interest of readers by capturing magnificent images of nature and far-away geographies in stunning detail. In fact, it was one of the Society’s founding members, Alexander Graham Bell and his son, Grosvenor (who later became the first full-time editor of the magazine), who first recognized the marketing power of telling a story through photographs.

It is worth noting that such an innovative magazine and organization is associated with one of the world’s greatest innovators, Alexander Graham Bell – who was awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone in 1876.

During its 121-year history, the National Geographic Society has continued to find ways to successfully tell its story against a constantly changing cultural and technological backdrop. Just as it leveraged television and video throughout the 1960s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, it is today leveraging high-definition television and its Nat Geo HD channel to engage new generations of enthusiasts.

Any for-profit enterprise today could learn more than a thing or two from this highly successful non-profit organization. An iconic status is not given away; it is earned. In order to survive and thrive, it is imperative that you remain nimble, and continue to innovate as technologies and customers’ lifestyles change around you. Yet, at the same time you must remain true to your core values and mission if you want your business and brand to endure.