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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, 2010

A Cool Idea

Posted by on June 29, 2010 at 7:53 pm

I unfortunately had to spend most of the month in Washington, DC suffering through the hottest June on record. Washington has had 18 days over 90 degrees this month with lots of humidity to boot, resulting in heat indices well over 100 degrees. And the few days of the month I was in New York, it wasn’t much better.

While the global warming theory appears to have lost some of its steam of late, if June 2010 in DC is any indication, then the planet is in for a heap of trouble. Where’s Al Gore when you need him? (Answer: He’s preoccupied with his divorce and other tabloid rumors.)

Maybe there’s a silver lining with all this heat.

As long as it’s this hot, many of us will choose to stay indoors – in the cool of our office buildings — and not on the golf course, the tennis court, or at the baseball game. And as long as we’re in our offices, we might as well spend part of that time thinking about how our respective businesses can be more productive and innovative during the second half of the year.

So use this time wisely. Pull together your management team, challenge them to take a fresh look at the next six months, and come up with a game plan that could move the dial in each business and function across your organization.

Better yet, treat your team to an inspiring offsite meeting or innovation workshop, in a nice air-conditioned space, where thought-provoking speakers and thought-enhancing surroundings might spur more creative thinking.

That sounds like a pretty cool idea to me.

Underground Art

Posted by on June 21, 2010 at 8:22 pm

The New York City subway system is one of the oldest in the world. The first underground line from City Hall to the Bronx opened in 1904.

Today, the New York City subway is one of the largest and most complex systems of its kind, operating over 842 track miles, and serving the four boroughs of Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx. It operates 24 hours a day, serves 468 stations on 26 interconnected lines, and averages 5 million passengers each weekday.

Not impressed yet? Try this one. New York’s subway system carries more passengers each year than all the other mass transit rail systems in the U.S. combined.

Now for the downsides. A New York subway is far from the cleanest. It’s definitely not the sleekest. Its hard plastic seats are clearly not the most comfortable. And the smells that sometimes waft from the nooks and crannies of the subway stations are not the most pleasant.

But there’s something special to me about New York City’s subway. It has a bit of charm thanks to the mosaic tile art that you’ll find in each station. Some of the art dates back to 1904. The artwork is unique to each station and centers around the station’s name. Sometimes you’re treated to other little splashes of tile art like the pink hat I am “wearing” in the photo above.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s Arts for Transit program oversees the subway art, which also includes sculptures, murals, and live musicians.

Some of my non-New York City friends turn their noses up at the thought of taking the subway in any city, especially in New York. They think it’s beneath them. Well, it is, literally of course.

What they are missing out on is what I and millions of other New York City subway passengers know. It’s the quickest way to get around the city. It’s the cheapest way to travel. And it’s the most green way to travel when you compare it to all of the above-ground options.

But it also provides an opportunity to experience art on a whole new level — that is, the art of the underground.

Heeding the Call on Energy Security

Posted by on June 15, 2010 at 7:21 pm

A small group of corporate heavy-hitters has come together to sound the alarm for increased spending and focus on energy research and innovation in the U.S. (New York Times, June 10, 2010).

Seven of the country’s most respected business leaders have formed the American Energy Innovation Council, including luminaries such as General Electric CEO, Jeff Immelt, and Microsoft Chairman, Bill Gates. Their message: the U.S. Government needs to “triple investments in clean-energy technologies to boost the nation’s economic competitiveness and protect the environment.”

We’ve heard similar calls for action on clean-energy investment in recent years from a variety of voices from business and academia. What makes last week’s announcement unique, however, is the coming together of major corporate leaders from disparate sectors around a common “business plan.” And the fact that it was announced against the backdrop of our nation’s worst oil spill in history adds further to the uniqueness of the moment.

The plan calls for a tripling in clean-tech funding in nuclear fission, solar, wind and fossil fuels. It also proposes the formation of an independent energy strategy board, which would develop an energy plan and oversee large-scale demonstration projects as part of the “New Energy Challenge Program.”

The Council recommends a $20 billion commitment over 10 years for the Challenge Program, which would “unleash significant private sector resources as projects are developed.” Additionally, it suggests that the Federal Government create Centers of Excellence to “foster multidisciplinary collaboration amongst scientists, universities, federal laboratories, and other public and private institutions.”

In addition to Immelt and Gates, the Council also includes: Chad Holliday, Chairman of Bank of America (and former CEO of DuPont); Ursula Burns, Chairman and CEO of Xerox; Norm Augustine, Chairman of Lockheed Martin; Tim Solso, Chairman and CEO of Cummins Inc.; and John Doerr, a leading energy venture capitalist and partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers.

The group clearly faces some stout headwinds in making the case to Congress and the Obama Administration to spend more federal money on energy research at a time of unprecedented budget deficits. Yet, we know that the barking dog is usually the one who gets fed first. And when you have seven notable best-in-breed barkers, it’s hard not to at least give the group and their plan a serious look.

At a time when the public is less inclined to believe our corporate leaders, I am ready to take these leaders at their word. They know the path to energy security will be long, and as Jeff Immelt puts it, “the world is not going to wait for the United States to lead. This is about innovation; this is about competition; this is about energy security.”

I hope someone listens and heeds the call.

Rethinking Science

Posted by on June 6, 2010 at 9:03 pm

Today wrapped up the third annual World Science Festival in New York City, June 2-6, which called on attendees to “Rethink Science.”

I visited today’s events in the historic Washington Square Park to find hundreds of kids and adults actively participating in the “World Science Festival’s Youth and Family Street Fair.”

Despite the 90-degree temperatures, kids of all ages swarmed today’s numerous exhibits, live events, and demonstrations in the park that showcased the magic of science. Of course, the park’s fountain was also a main attraction as it helped to cool down both children and adults, who seemed to be having a wonderful June Sunday afternoon.

Over the four-day period, the festival showcased “40 unique programs in scientific disciplines ranging from astronomy, physics and genetics to neuroscience, robotics and mathematics.” Efforts were made to also “integrate traditional arts disciplines – dance, theatre, music and the visual arts – to underscore that science is everywhere.”

Kudos to the Festival’s organizers for dreaming up and executing on this worthy event. It’s too bad that this sort of focus on the importance of science does not occur every week of the year, and in every city and town across our country.

Frankly, it’s the lack of interest of our future generations in science that threatens to knock the United States off its innovation pedestal. And frankly, we cannot lay the blame at our children’s feet. It’s adults who help influence what is important in a child’s life. If we don’t place a high level of importance on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) — and pursuing careers in these fields — then we can’t expect our kids to follow suit.

American businesses of every stripe and color benefit from home-grown scientific discovery and innovation. As such, I call on business leaders from every corner of the country to work with schools and community officials to find ways to turn up the volume on the wonders of science, and excite kids to become a scientist or engineer.

Then who knows, maybe 10 years from now, the most popular show on our television, computer, or tablet screens will be “America’s Got Scientific Talent” or “Innovating with the Stars.”

You don’t think so? Well, at least I can dream.