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 July, 2009

Ideas Worth Spreading

Posted by on July 28, 2009 at 9:49 pm

TED is a nonprofit organization started in 1984, which first set out to focus on technology, entertainment, and design. It has since expanded to other areas including art, science, education, and business.

TED’s tagline is “Ideas Worth Spreading.” Through several global conferences and other various programs, TED seeks to bring together some of the world’s leading innovators to share ideas and stimulate new thinking. Its annual gathering in Long Beach, CA – the TED Conference— boasts over 1000 attendees, who hear from 50 speakers in 18-minute blocks of time over a four-day period.

Its sister international conference, TEDGlobal, also now occurs annually, and just wrapped up in Oxford UK. One of the speakers at TEDGlobal 2009 included British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Other speakers included leading artists, designers, technologists, scientists, inventors and economists. The theme for TEDGlobal 2009 was “The Substance of Things Not Seen,” which focused on “the hidden forces shaping our future.”

TED provides $100,000 prizes each year to three finalists whose work truly exemplifies innovation and far-reaching impact in its areas of focus. This year, TED also started a Fellows program which picks 50 Fellows from a wide array of disciplines who attend either the TED conference or the TEDGlobal conference. The goal of the Fellows program is to “bring together world-changers and trailblazers, who have shown unusual accomplishment.”

The 2010 TED conferences are already sold out. So your chances of ever attending one of their conferences are slim at best. But that’s not the point. The point is that you can and should create your own innovation program within your organization. You should seek to expose your employees to leading innovators and thinkers. You should encourage and celebrate idea generation and exchange. You should motivate creativity and inventiveness through rewards and incentive-based programs.

Most important, you should find ways to identify and cultivate the talent that exists within your employees, and single out those who clearly show promise. Otherwise, this talent and all its potential will go untapped, and your company and its bottom line will miss an opportunity to benefit. Worse yet, if you don’t give this potential talent the appropriate attention, you risk losing it to competitors.

New Lantern can help your company establish its own innovation program – one that will make you and your shareholders proud. Now that’s an idea worth spreading.

Remembering My Former Boss, Walter Cronkite

Posted by on July 21, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Walter Cronkite
I am a very fortunate person. From 1993 to 1997, I was the business manager for Cronkite, Ward & Company – Walter Cronkite’s television production company. It wasn’t my first job, but it was early enough in my career to help shape who I’ve become as a professional. Most important, it gave me the opportunity to spend time with the “most trusted man in America.”

After stepping down as the anchor at CBS Evening News in 1981, Mr. Cronkite continued to appear as a special correspondent for CBS, PBS, and CNN. He also appeared frequently as a special guest or host for numerous television shows, such as the Kennedy Center Honors. In 1993, he partnered with Jonathan Ward to start his production company – Cronkite, Ward & Company, which produced more than 40 award-winning documentary hours for PBS and the Discovery Channel.

Cronkite-Ward had offices in both New York and Washington, DC. I worked in the DC office located in Dupont Circle. Although Mr. Cronkite spent most of his time in New York, I would talk with him frequently by phone and see him on his regular trips to DC, and my occasional trips to New York.

The highlight for me each year was attending the company Christmas party that Mr. Cronkite would host at his brownstone in Manhattan. His home was full of the most marvelous memorabilia from his decades as a reporter, which took him to every corner of the planet to interview world leaders and witnesses to history. His eyes would literally sparkle as he would tell you about each photo or keepsake.

With Mr. Cronkite, he was everything that you saw on camera, and more. He had the curiosity of a 12-year old. He was a great listener and gave you every bit of his attention when speaking with you. He generously gave you his time. And he was in every sense a gentleman.

In the few days since his death, there has been much written and said about the impact that Walter Cronkite has had on America and the world. Television news veteran and fellow CBS colleague, Bob Schieffer, said during a Sunday interview that “with Walter, it was always about the news; it wasn’t about Walter Cronkite.”

That really says a lot about the man I had the honor of knowing. We all could learn from his example. Success and trust are earned, and derived from the focus and attention you give to the task at hand, not from how much you attempt to shine light back onto yourself.

I still see that sparkle, and I still hear his voice.

Shoot for the Moon

Posted by on July 17, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Moon photo by Monroe

Monday marks the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing on July 20, 1969, when astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon’s surface. Upon doing so, Armstrong then uttered those immortal words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

That day in history represents one of the world’s most famous examples of successful human achievement as a consequence of setting a seemingly unachievable goal. It was on May 25, 1961 when President John F. Kennedy spoke before a joint session of Congress and laid down a challenge to the country and the U.S. space program: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Forty years ago was indeed a mighty proud moment for our country — frankly one of the proudest moments of a decade that otherwise had been stained by a long war and the assassinations of two Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pride comes from accomplishment, teamwork, and reaching a worthy goal in the face of adversity. Great corporate leaders and managers provide a vision, a common set of meaningful objectives, and a credible game plan on how to get there.

And it is in the most challenging times that organizations should call on employees to share in the risk and reward of trying to achieve an important goal that may appear just out of reach. It may very well lead to new heights for your company and the pride that comes from real accomplishment.

Your Company May Need Different Type of Stimulus

Posted by on July 10, 2009 at 7:47 pm

There’s a debate brewing in Washington over whether or not the country needs another shot of economic stimulus beyond the $787 billion stimulus package that was enacted in February of this year.

Although I will resist the temptation to share my opinion on this particular topic, I will offer up an educated opinion on a different type of stimulus package. Many companies would benefit greatly if they enacted their own “creativity stimulus package” during these trying economic times.

Companies that have enjoyed some level of past success often become complacent, and tend to bask longer than they should in yesterday’s sun. Meanwhile, younger and hungrier competitors gain ground on the market leaders with some good old-fashioned tenacity, creativity, and fearless ingenuity.

This phenomenon is only exacerbated during a bad economy, when many mature companies may feel the need to “lay up” and play it safe rather than “go for the pin.” But this reaction may be exactly the beginning of the end for some businesses.

Corporate executives and managers should borrow a page from the economic stimulus playbook, and use this opportunity to stimulate its workforce with a shot of adrenaline in the creativity department.

Challenge employees to take legitimate risks. Incite innovation with some creative leadership development or an inspiring corporate training event. Introduce your employees to top innovators and inventors from a variety of fields. And by all means, spotlight and reward creativity and innovation at all levels of the organization.

In doing so, you might just stimulate your company back into the game and onto the leaderboard.

It’s Time to Embrace Teleworking (Part 2)

Posted by on July 3, 2009 at 7:07 pm

It’s 7:55am on a Thursday morning, and you are making your usual drive to work. As the crow flies, it’s about 11 miles from your home to your workplace — but today the crow is certainly not flying. You’ve already spent 35 minutes in your car, and you’re only about half-way there. This means that today’s commute will be at least an hour long – one way.

So you sit, and wait for the thousands of vehicles in front of you to move so you can move. Just when you pick up a little speed, you come up behind a double-parked delivery van. And you wait again, watching the red-light cycle three times before you inch your way up to it. Then your mind wanders to what you can expect for your evening commute – probably something very similar to what you’re experiencing this morning.

Sound familiar? If this is not a common routine for you, it is surely much too common for hundreds of thousands of commuters in scores of cities across this country. Whether it’s by car, train, or bus, Americans are spending way too much time commuting to and from their workplaces. Think of it this way: an employee who spends a total of 90 minutes a day commuting to and from work, will spend about 360 hours a year commuting. That translates into 45 eight-hour days of commuting time!

Not only is this wasted time for the employee and the employer, these types of commuting experiences serve to eat away at an employee’s psyche. So once an employee finally gets to work, he or she could frankly not be in a less productive state of mind.

This is why companies and organizations should truly get serious about teleworking. Granted, it’s not for every company, and it’s not for every employee. But if you have an employee who spends much of his or her time working on the phone and/or on the computer, then this is a good candidate for telecommuting.

In its recent telework study (cited in last week’s blog post), Cisco found that 40 percent of its employees are already located in a different city from their direct managers. So in a sense, these employees are already teleworking (relative to their managers).

There’s no time like the present to more fully embrace telework policies that your company may already have in place – and where you don’t, start a new and robust program.

Innovation starts with happy and inspired employees, and employees who can get to their “creative place” – whether that be a physical place or a state of mind. A telework program alone will not ensure a company’s success, nor solve all its ills. But it can go a long way in getting more from your employees, giving more back to the shareholders, and helping out the environment along the way.