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 May, 2010

The Freedom to Succeed and to Fail

Posted by on May 31, 2010 at 11:06 am

Today we all should take a moment to remember the tens of thousands of military men and women who died fighting for our country.

Memorial Day comes only once a year, but the freedoms we enjoy as a result of the ultimate sacrifice of others are with us every day.

Our country was founded on the principles of freedom as affirmed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provides for five freedoms: religion, speech, press, to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government.

America is also home to the world’s best free enterprise system, which continues to serve as a beacon to those who want to take an idea and a dream and start a business. Our history books are replete with stories of individuals from every walk of life, from every corner of this country and the globe, who started businesses in the U.S. and took them to soaring heights and sometimes back again.

It is our freedom to both succeed and to fail in business that has long been the hallmark of our country’s strength and its economic might. And as long as we are able to preserve these important principles, we will continue to be a great and prosperous nation.

So a tip of the hat to those who made all this possible — our fallen soldiers, and to the families and friends they left behind.

Can-Do Innovation

Posted by on May 26, 2010 at 9:10 pm

DuPont announced yesterday the winners of its 22nd DuPont Awards for Packaging and Innovation. Granted, the DuPont Awards do not yet have quite the cachet of the Academy Awards or the Pulitzer Prize, but they do represent the pinnacle of extraordinary achievement in “packaging materials, technology and service innovations.”

This year, Alcoa Inc. and Exal Corporation took home one of the top “Diamond Winner” awards for their new aluminum bottle, which offers a lighter, stronger, cheaper, 100 percent recyclable container, referred to as the “”Coil-to-Can” or “C2C” bottle. The new, high-tech bottle uses Alcoa’s bottlestock sheet and Exal’s C2C manufacturing technology.

Exal launched the C2C aluminum bottle in 2008, which is now used by companies like Coca-Cola, ESKA Still and Sparking Water of Canada, and Anheuser-Busch.

Ok, so what’s the big deal you might be asking? A lot in my book. The DuPont Awards illustrate a point that I have made on a number of occasions in earlier blogs on this website. Innovation is not only about the iPad, or the latest flat-screen technology, or a Mars rover. It’s potentially about everything your company is doing.

Innovation can and should occur across every nook and cranny of your business — from better and more advanced products, to enhancements in services for customers and clients, to improvements in internal processes, and to the very packages that contain your company’s products.

In short, if your company’s executives and managers are not actively pursuing innovations in all these areas – and strongly incenting your employees to do so – you may not only be missing out on possible revenue and market share, you may end up missing the boat altogether.

So this coming weekend, when you find yourself sipping your favorite beverage from one of those newfangled, super-cold aluminum cans, think about how your company can be more creative across the board.

I can assure you that a new can-do approach to innovation will put your company on a path to bringing home your own awards.

A Beautiful Relationship at the Corcoran

Posted by on May 18, 2010 at 9:10 pm

The Corcoran College of Art + Design is Washington’s only four-year accredited institution for education in the arts.

Situated only a block away from The White House in its renowned turn-of-the-century Beaux-Arts building, the Corcoran Gallery of Art has long been an integral part of our nation’s capital. When it was founded in 1869, the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, occupied the White House.

When the Gallery first opened its doors in 1874, “art students immediately flocked to the museum to observe, sketch, and paint copies of the collections famous works,” according to the Corcoran’s website.

The Gallery’s founder, William Wilson Corcoran, made sure that art education was central to the work of Gallery and donated additional funding that was ultimately used to open the Corcoran School of Art in 1890, two years after his death. The school has been known by its current name since 1999.

Today, more than 600 students at the Corcoran College of Art + Design pursue a wide range of Associate, Bachelor, and Master degree programs in the visual arts. The College also offers part-time credit and non-credit classes for adults and teens through its Continuing Education department. I know this first-hand. I’ve taken several drawing classes at the Corcoran in the past, and am currently enrolled in a ceramic tile-making class.

My class meets once a week for a three-hour session on Wednesday nights. Sure, it makes for a long day, but it is worth it. I’m learning a new craft. I’m using new mental and creative muscles. And I’m getting a hands-on appreciation for the timeless art of tile-making, which has changed little over the last several hundred years.

Most important, with each tedious step of the tile-making process, I am re-affirming what I already knew: there are no short-cuts to success in the creative arts. You learn by doing and do by learning.

The same can be said for success in business. Executives and managers must constantly challenge their employees through creative training programs that excite new thinking. In turn, employees must be willing to use new muscles, and put them to work through practice and application.

Marrying business and education — like marrying art and education – will make for a beautiful relationship and lead to many happy returns.

Building Something Worthwhile

Posted by on May 11, 2010 at 10:56 pm

If you’re like me, once every few years you hear a song on the radio that makes you stop in your tracks and just listen. I recently had one of those moments.

A couple of weekends ago, my husband and I were out running errands when the “The House That Built Me” by Miranda Lambert came on the car radio. I must admit that I’m a relatively recent convert to country music. I don’t like all country music, but I do tend to like the newer country songs, and their sweet, melodic sounds and the real stories that they tell.

After the first few lines of the “The House,” we were pulled in. I turned up the radio and we just sat quietly in the car as it played. And then when it was over we searched several other country stations to see if we could hear it again.

It’s a simple song that tells a powerful story. The song is about a woman who is in search of herself. So she decides to go back to the house she grew up in and ask the current owners if she could just walk around the house and take it all in “one last time.” She goes on to say that she had hoped that her coming back “to touch this place” in some way would help heal some of the “brokenness” in her life.

She pleads with the owners, “If I could just come in, I swear I’ll leave. Won’t take nothing but a memory, from the house that built me.”

The lyrics took me back to my time as a kid and the house where I grew up. I could see my back yard, the trees I climbed, our kitchen, and my beautiful mom at 30 years old making lunch for my sister and me.

Born in Lindale, TX in 1983, Miranda Lambert is not yet 30 herself. “The House That Built Me” was released in March of this year on Lambert’s Revolution album, which won Best Album of the Year at last month’s Academy of Country Music Awards, where she also won Top Female Vocalist of the Year. “The House That Built Me” was co-written by Tom Douglas and Allen Shamblin.

The most successful artists and innovators listen more to their hearts than to their heads. The most successful companies and the executives who run them usually listen to both.

An employee who is motivated and passionate by what she does and the company she works for will always outperform an employee who is simply going through the motions.

Use your company to build something special and enduring, and you’ll in turn help build employees who will want to stay with your company — or at least want to return some day.

A Super Natural Artist

Posted by on May 4, 2010 at 8:20 pm

The Ladew Topiary Gardens of Monkton, Maryland boast the title of “the most outstanding topiary garden in America” as named by the Garden Club of America. I now see why. This past Saturday, I toured the Ladew Gardens as part of its second annual garden festival, and came away a very big fan.

Any fine collection of art starts with a passionate collector and a talented artist. Harvey S. Ladew (1887-1976) was both. He loved flowers and topiaries, and he put his love to work in the 22 acres of gardens he created from a 250-acre farm he bought in Maryland in 1929. Ladew discovered the art of topiaries (trimming and training shrubs or trees into unnatural ornamental shapes) during his many travels to Europe with his parents, and later as a young adult and Army officer during World War I.

A self-taught gardener, Ladew created two long cross axes on his Maryland property, which provide for spectacular vistas in each direction. Off of the axes are 15 garden “rooms,” each devoted to a single color, plant, or theme. Ladew is considered “one of the first Americans to create garden rooms on this side of the Atlantic,” according to the garden’s brochure. Many of the garden rooms feature elaborate topiaries of animals in sculpted settings.

One of the most impressive areas of Ladew Gardens is the “Great Bowl.” Several dozen swan topiaries swim atop a sea of large, billowy yew shrubs that border a two-acre circular lawn, which gently slopes toward a round pool in the center.

Harvey Ladew was influenced by the work of landscape and topiary artists from England and Italy. How many botantical artists and gardeners have been influenced by Harvey Ladew over the last 70-80 years? Hundreds I am sure, who in turn have most likely influenced thousands more.

The ingredients for creativity and innovation are fairly simple, yet get surprisingly little attention from corporate executives and managers. Provide your employees with the opportunity to nurture their passion and talents, expose them to other successful creators and innovators, and serve up a culture that welcomes and incents creativity and risk-taking.

Spend time and energy on these fundamental elements for innovation, and you’ll soon find your company will be on its way to some supernatural performance.