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, 2010

SCADs of Talent

Posted by on July 26, 2010 at 4:40 pm

July 29th marks the start of the 8th season for Bravo’s Emmy-award winning television program “Project Runway.”

One of the designer contestants who will appear on the show this season will be April Johnston, a 2010 graduate of SCAD’s School of Fashion. At 21, Johnston will be the youngest of the 17 contestants.

SCAD is the Savannah College of Art and Design, which is headquartered in Savannah, Georgia, with campuses also in Atlanta, Hong Kong, and Lacoste, France.

I profiled SCAD in a blog posting in February 2009. As one of the top art and design schools on the globe, I am a big fan and supporter of SCAD’s.

If past “Project Runway” shows are any guide, April Johnston will undoubtedly face stiff competition, as well as stiff critiques from the show’s honcho and former super model, Heidi Klum. Fashion industry luminaries Tim Gunn, Michael Kors, and Nina Garcia round out the panel of judges.

What Johnston will have going for her is the world-class education and training she received at SCAD. That, along with some natural talent, will hopefully serve her well throughout the competition.

The Dean of Fashion at SCAD, Michael Fink, handicaps Johnston’s chances this way, “If her provocative and powerful senior collection is any indication, we’re confident she’ll create some exciting and intriguing clothes.”

We will soon see whether or not that’s the case.

Your employees hold the keys to your company’s success and how well you measure up to the competition. But you’ll need to create a corporate culture that will nurture employee talent, and stimulate creativity and innovation.

New Lantern has the type of “provocative and powerful” services that could tap into the scads of talent that already exists within your employees. This, in turn, could put you on the path to your own award-winning season.

Fighting Tweet Fire with Tweet Fire

Posted by on July 20, 2010 at 9:10 pm

The current edition of the Harvard Business Review (July-August 2010) includes an article by Josh Bernoff and Ted Schadler of Forrester Research, entitled “Empowered.” In it, the authors talk about the need for corporations to “unleash their employees to fight back” using the same social media tools that angry customers are increasingly using against corporations.

Today’s latest social media tools, like Twitter and Facebook, have given the individual customer unprecedented power to take his or her grievance to the masses. One of my favorite such incidents in the last year involved musician Dave Carroll, who took on United Airlines for rejecting his damage claim after baggage handlers broke his guitar. In response, he wrote a humorous ditty called “United Breaks Guitars,” and posted a video of him performing the song on YouTube — which has received nearly nine million views to date.

United’s brand took a beating, and it is not alone. As Bernoff and Schadler point out, these types of single-customer social media firestorms are popping up all over the place, and corporate executives are scrambling to figure out how to effectively respond.

Granted, I am not suggesting that customers, who have a legitimate complaint against a business entity, lay down their new social media guns. On the contrary. I applaud the creative use of technology by a customer to hold a company’s feet to the fire — when a genuine wrong has occurred. But what I also applaud, and encourage, are companies which are beginning to embrace these same technology tools to tell their side of the story.

In a number of my past blog postings, I have called on executives and managers to empower employees to think more creatively, and incentivize them to take risks and to challenge corporate routine. And empowering employees to leverage the same social media tools at work as they use at home opens up a whole new front in cost-effective corporate communications, while better utilizing employee talent.

Of course, this type of empowerment is not without risk as the authors of “Empowered” note. It requires a clear set of internal ground rules that govern both management and employees. But if properly designed and executed, the benefits of engaging employees in leveraging social media will far outweigh the costs of not doing so.

When Less Than Perfect is Just Right

Posted by on July 13, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I’m in the process of building a house in McLean, Virginia, and have spent countless hours in the past six months trying to find a good stucco and plaster subcontractor.

We have a very capable architect and equally capable builder, but our struggle has been to find a stucco applicator who uses old-style lime-based stucco and technique similar to that used for centuries in areas like New Orleans, Savannah, Middleburg (Virginia), and throughout much of Europe. Ironically, I would’ve had no trouble rounding up such a subcontractor if I were building my house 75 years ago.

Today, the home building market puts a premium on cost, ease and quickness of application, and a seemingly perfect finish. Guaranteed not to crack for 10 years! But what will it look like in 15 years, in 25 years? Would it simply need a touch up, or a tear down?

Unfortunately, architects and home builders are merely responding to what customers are asking for — or frankly, not asking for.

So maybe I’m the odd woman out on this, but I prefer a look and finish that appears hand-crafted, not perfect. I long for a time when subcontractors were referred to as artisans, not applicators. Sure you will pay more initially, but the immeasurable pleasure derived from hand-applied fit and finish is worth it for the decades I plan on enjoying it.

Some of the finest Persian rug weavers in the world intentionally included a small imperfection in their handmade carpets. It’s as if to say, “yes, I am handmade, one-of-a-kind, and I wasn’t made on a factory assembly line.”

Call me old-fashion, but I think we could all learn something from the old Persian rug weaver’s mentality, whether it’s a house we build or a company we build.

Treat your employees as one-of-a-kind. Treat them as artisans. Cultivate their creativity and incent them to try new approaches. Celebrate their successes, and dwell less on their failures. Otherwise you serve to discourage the needed risk-taking that could make your company great.

In short, spend less time worrying about making it perfect, and more time on making it right and in a way that will last a lifetime.

Born on the Fifth of July

Posted by on July 5, 2010 at 9:36 pm

No, this is not a blog about a sequel to the 1989 movie starring Tom Cruise, “Born on the Fourth of July.” It’s about Sir Paul Smith, famed British fashion designer who was born on July 5, 1946.

Known for his bright color stripes and self-described “classic with a twist” creations, Paul Smith fell into fashion design literally by accident. After dropping out of school at the age of 15 in Nottingham England, Smith’s father escorted him into a nearby clothing warehouse and offered him up as an errand boy. Young Smith’s interest at the time was not in fashion, but in cycle racing.

It was Smith’s cycling to and from the warehouse on deliveries that kept up his interest in the job, until he had a serious accident two years later. During his six-month recuperation in the hospital Smith decided that fashion design may be more his speed than cycling. And the fashion world has never been the same.

Although Paul Smith’s reputation was built primarily as a designer of menswear, today he has 12 different fashion lines, including women’s wear, shoes, pens, watches, and furniture. His collections are wholesaled in 35 countries, with 15 shops in England including his flagship store in Notting Hill.

According to London’s Design Museum, Smith is regarded as Britain’s most consistently successful fashion designer, which is not lost on the Japanese. His products are sold in 200 stores throughout Japan alone – where his label outsells every other European designer.

In 2000, Smith was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II, in recognition of his iconic success over three decades.

Sir Paul Smith continues to remain very active in his company, serving as both chairman and designer. He is also a regular blog contributor at

Many have studied Smith and the source of his success. Some point to his focus and accomplishment as both a designer and a business man. “The reason I’ve been successful is because I’ve just got on and packed boxes and I know that VAT means Value Added Tax not vodka and tonic,” Paul Smith has written. “I’ve sold on the shop floor, I’ve typed invoices.”

There is a lesson here for every aspiring entrepreneur or corporate manager. Creativity, smart design, and business savvy make for a powerful combination for success.

Happy Birthday Sir Paul!