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 September, 2009

Innovation in an Instant

Posted by on September 29, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Starbucks' new instant "VIA Ready Brew" coffee

When I stopped into my local Starbucks this morning to get my usual tall cup of Joe, I found a store buzzing with a new entrant in its coffee line-up – instant coffee.

I must admit I was skeptical. Instant coffee? After all these years of treating my taste buds to the full-throated flavor of my Starbucks favorite blends such as Verona, Estima, and Sumatra, how can I take instant coffee seriously? The last innovation I witnessed in instant coffee was the “freeze-dried” branding of Taster’s Choice in the 1970s, which was a must-have for every college dorm room. Today, that same freeze-dried brew tastes a little too freezer-burned to me, with all due respect to Nescafe.

Yet, my coffee snobbery this morning quickly gave way to curiosity (and the notion of something free), and so I tried Starbucks’ new “VIA Ready Brew” (aka, instant coffee), which they were handing out in Dixie-like cups. And to my surprise, I liked it. Now, I will admit that it’s not quite in the league of my favorite fresh-ground brew I’m accustomed to, but it’s remarkably good considering it is, well, instant.

Give Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz credit, it’s a pretty gutsy move. This is the same guy who swam against the tide years ago, and proceeded to build a corporate empire one cup at a time — when most everyone else at the time was saying, “you can’t get rich selling coffee.”

Today Starbucks has more than 5,000 stores in over 40 countries. Sure, it had to close a few stores over the last year and dial back some prices in light of the bad economic times. But its stock is up 75% in the last 6 months. I like that math.

So stay tuned. Will Starbucks’ gamble on instant coffee pay off? Wall Street didn’t seem too impressed given SBUX closed down over one percent today, despite its big instant coffee roll-out.

But I don’t count Starbucks out, and for this reason. Its success to date is not simply the result of great coffee and market savvy. It also has something to do with how management runs the company and how they treat their employees (or “partners” as they are called). Starbucks routinely gets some of the highest marks in corporate America in terms of employee satisfaction, and “best places to work.”

As Howard Schultz puts it, “We realize our people are the cornerstone of our success, and we know that their ideas, commitment and connection to our customers are truly the essential elements in the Starbucks Experience.”

Happy and satisfied employees lead to greater productivity and greater innovations. And companies that get this important point, and live by it, will generally prosper.

In fact, prosperity has been known to have a very distinctive aroma. It smells like a great cup of instant coffee.

‘Thanking the Academy’ for Process Innovation

Posted by on September 21, 2009 at 7:08 pm

Jessica Clarke-Nash

Cinematography is “the art or technique of motion-picture photography,” according to our friends at Dictionary.com.

Today’s cinematographers, or directors of photography, are harnessing technology like never before to master this art form. They are responsible for every technical aspect of a film’s images, including: composition, lighting, lens choice, exposure, filtration, and film selection. Advancements in digital photography, computer technology, and photo-editing software in recent years are dramatically changing the way films are made.

As viewers, we readily see much of this technology at work in the greatly enhanced image quality of today’s motion-pictures – whether on a high-definition screen at the theater or in your own home. Yet, we are not privy to technological changes that are taking place behind the scenes, which are resulting in not just a better product, but a more timely and cost-effective one.

When you combine these new technology tools, with bright, young cinematographic professionals who know how to leverage these tools, you find a motion-picture industry that is literally reinventing itself one image at a time.

Take for example, Jessica Clarke-Nash, from Sydney, Australia – a Preview Stills Assistant, who represents the next generation of cinematographers. At the ripe old age of 24, Jessica already has over 70 feature films, television shows, commercials and videos under her camera belt.

As a preview assistant, Jessica is responsible for taking thousands of high-quality digital still photos during the course of making a full-length feature film alongside the motion-picture camera. Throughout the day of a shoot, Jessica downloads her stills into sophisticated photo-editing software such as Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2, makes needed adjustments, and readies them for the cinematographer’s review within minutes.

The cinematographer in turn, based on this immediate feedback, can adjust the technical elements of his or her motion-picture photography in real-time. Jessica’s photos provide instant input on light, exposure, coloration, and texture that the video playback in the field cannot provide. Equally important, these daily adjustments made by the cinematographer serve to cut the traditional two months of lab time needed at the end of a film’s shoot to merely a few days.

I met up with Jessica yesterday, who was traveling through Washington DC. She described her work on the set of the Hugh Jackman blockbuster, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which was released earlier this year. Jessica answered my most important question: Yes, Hugh Jackman is amazingly handsome right down to his smallest pixel. She should know given she spent several months working only a lens-length away from Jackman during the filming of Wolverine.

Creativity and innovative thinking not only lead to better products, they can also lead to smarter and more cost-effective processes, which can pay valuable dividends for your company. Take a long, hard look at how you do business – frame-by-frame. Make sure your company is leveraging the latest technologies, and incentivize your employees to help you in this cause.

It may give rise to results that are truly worthy of an Academy Award.

America’s Best Idea

Posted by on September 13, 2009 at 9:53 pm

grand-teton-national-park-photo-by-alberto-cueto

PBS will air “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” its highly anticipated six-episode series starting on September 27.

Once again, renowned filmmaker Ken Burns has teamed with PBS to tell a compelling American story wrapped in powerful images. The “Best Idea” story is about the “people from every conceivable background – rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists, and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved.”

Written and co-directed by award-winning author Dayton Duncan, “Best Idea” is the product of six years of filming in some of “nature’s most spectacular locales,” including Yellowstone, Acadia, the Grand Canyon, the Everglades and Yosemite.

I was fortunate enough to see a special preview of the series in a private viewing at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York last month. It is a stunning piece, capturing the full majesty of our country’s most sacred natural treasures. Yet, the lasting impression of the series will be as much about the vision and leadership of the people behind the creation of the parks system, as it is about the dramatic images themselves.

Historian and novelist, Wallace Stegner (1909-1993) called the National Parks “the best idea we ever had.” Today there are 391 units that make up the U.S. National Park system, including 58 officially designated National Parks, and over 300 other monuments and historical sites. Out of 50 states, only one does not have at least one park unit – Delaware.

America has changed immensely since the first National Park at Yellowstone was established in 1872. However, the fact that America has been able to leave unchanged some of its most valuable attributes is unquestionably one of its greatest achievements.

Preserving the very elements that make a place unique and special does indeed take leadership and vision. And finding the right balance between what to preserve and what to change in a dynamic and competitive world presents the biggest challenge. But in the end, you will increase your chances for success if you seek to save and protect what is the most precious.

This could very well lead to your company’s “best idea.”

A Labor Day Message from New Lantern

Posted by on September 7, 2009 at 1:14 pm

Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882 as a day set aside to commemorate the “social and economic achievement of the American worker,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Labor Day has since come to represent the end of summer, the beginning of football season, and one of the last opportunities to get in those picnics, barbecues, and backyard family gatherings before the chill of autumn sets in across many parts of the country.

This year, Labor Day for your company should serve as a reminder to re-invest in your employees. Your employees are your company’s single most valuable asset. You already invest heavily in your employees through wages and benefits, but are you truly getting a solid return on that investment? Most likely you are not, and you have no one to blame but yourself.

Treat your employees like a valuable resource, and you will in turn reap the benefits. Nurture their talents, encourage risk-taking, and incent creativity and innovation.

In the article “Where Headhunters Fear to Tread,” this week’s Business Week examines factors that are contributing to an erosion in management talent at some of the country’s top companies. The article notes that “red-flag cultures are those that suffer from bureaucracy, narrow skill-building, risk aversion, or boy’s club aggression.”

Developing talent within your organization does not happen overnight. It takes persistence, a sustained dose of right-brain stimulus, and a senior management team who is willing to provide a culture where talent and creativity can take root and thrive.

Let New Lantern help your company mine and grow the talents of your employees through creative leadership training, performance-based compensation and incentive programs, and other inventive business innovation methods.

The pay-off for your company could be the next hot product or service offering – which would indeed be cause to celebrate the fruits of your company’s labor.