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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, 2010

Waiting for Superman and Superwoman

Posted by on September 25, 2010 at 6:17 pm

“When you see a great teacher, you are seeing a work of art,” says leading educator and social activist Geoffrey Canada, President and CEO of Harlem Children’s Zone.

Canada’s comment is captured in the just-released documentary, “Waiting for Superman,” which opened last night in theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The documentary aims to serve as a wake-up call to the nation that our education system is failing, and every aspect of our daily lives will suffer if we do not move aggressively to heed the call.

“Waiting for Superman” was directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed the Academy Awarding-winning documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which focused on the global climate change issue.

Guggenheim’s latest film paints a grim picture of the state of education in America. Among 30 developed countries, the United States now ranks 25th in math and 21st in science.

If early indications hold, the film may indeed serve to spark a national debate on education not seen since the 1983 report, “A Nation at Risk,” was released, which also warned of the lasting consequences of failing schools. That report cited dramatic drops in math and science SAT scores by American students over a 20-year period — slippage greater by comparison to students in other advanced countries.

“A Nation at Risk” proceeded to touch off education reforms at the local, state, and federal levels. Twenty-seven years later, it’s apparent that earlier reforms fell far short.

“Waiting for Superman” follows the lives of five children and their families, who are each trying desperately to get their child into a better school. The futures of Daisy, Anthony, Bianca, Emily and Francisco hang in the balance as they hold out hope that their number will be called in lotteries for one of the few slots to charter schools in their respective cities.

In explaining the name of film in an MSNBC interview, Guggenheim notes that the “education system is nearly broken,” and that thousands of people, like these five families, are “waiting for someone to save the schools, and it hasn’t happened.”

Reformers like Geoffrey Canada in Harlem do exist, but they are fighting a fierce headwind of status quo, particularly from teachers’ unions. One of the most vilified reformers is Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of DC’s Public Schools. Rhee has fired several hundred teachers within the last year, who she says were not meeting the grade in the classroom.

“Waiting for Superman” points out that one in 57 doctors each year lose their license for bad performance; one in 97 attorneys lose their law license; while only one in 2,500 teachers lose their credentials.

There is no one superman or superwoman, but there are those who are trying to find a new path in education, and we should all work with them. Administrators, teachers, parents, corporate America, and the public need to roll up our collective sleeves and get to work – challenging the current system and seeking to find new ways to teach and excite children.

Our country, our economy, and our future depend on it.

Conventional Wisdom

Posted by on September 17, 2010 at 11:18 pm

On this day in 1787, a small group of delegates met in Philadelphia on the last day of their Convention to sign the Constitution of the United States. For nearly four months leading up to this date, the 55 men deliberated over the contents of what is regarded as one of the most important documents ever written.

George Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention, which comprised other “Founding Fathers” such as James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, and Alexander Hamilton. Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania chaired the Constitution’s drafting committee, which also included Madison, Hamilton, William Samuel Johnson of Connecticut, and Rufus King of Massachusetts.

The document and the process were not without their detractors. Rhode Island refused to send delegates. A number of delegates refused to sign the final document including George Mason and Edmund Randolph of Virginia, and Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts. Mason felt strongly that the Constitution include a “Bill of Rights,” which was not part of the original document that was submitted to the states for ratification. The Bill of Rights, which contained the first ten amendments to the Constitution, was later introduced in 1789 and ratified in 1791.

The Constitution prescribes how the federal government is to be organized, outlines the role and powers of each of the three branches, and defines the government’s relationship with states and its citizens.

It starts with a simple yet eloquent Preamble: “We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

I marvel at the wisdom of the framers of the Constitution. It was not a perfect document; on the contrary. In its very creation, the Constitution contemplated a process by which it could be amended, and it has been 27 times.

Foresight, experience, perspective, and flexibility are key ingredients to any major endeavor. In order to accomplish great things, you need to develop a sound game plan with the input of other key stakeholders. You’ll also need to build in a process by which the plan can be modified if and when the need arises.

Your plan most likely will not need to support a nation, nor endure more than two centuries. But it will require your best thinking, and need to stand the test of time and the strain of events that will inevitably come your way.

Good For Your Neighborhood

Posted by on September 9, 2010 at 12:32 am

I recently saw a segment on NBC’s “America This Week” in Washington, DC that featured an innovative California-based recycling company called Bottlehood.

Bottlehood turns what is ordinarily one-use glassware like wine, beer and liquor bottles into recyclable glass products. At least 80 percent of bottles from restaurants typically end up in landfills. That’s a lot of wasted glass.

Bottlehood got its start by partnering with local restaurants throughout California. The idea was to take restaurants’ used bottles and clean them, cut them, polish them, and turn them into useful products that are sold back into the neighborhood in the form of drinking glasses, vases, and light fixtures.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Good news travels fast. Bottlehood has already expanded into Colorado and is drawing national attention. Despite this growth, its business model continues to stress the importance of “neighborhood” in every community that it enters. Local one-use glass bottles are turned into sustainable glass products for the benefit of the community.

Innovation can occur anywhere. Your next innovative idea might be right under your nose or at the tip of your tongue — literally. What also may appear to be a “green” idea to some, may prove to produce a lot of “greenbacks” to those who get there first.

That’s not only good for you and your company, but good for the neighborhood.

Stack ’em, Pack ’em, and Rack ’em

Posted by on September 1, 2010 at 7:21 pm

In watching the weather reports today, which show three to four hurricanes lined up in the Atlantic heading toward the eastern coast of the United States, I am reminded of one of the more memorable lines in American cinema.

In the 1990 “Die Hard 2: Die Harder,” the actor and former U.S. Senator, Fred Thompson, plays the Chief of Air Operations at Washington Dulles Airport and utters the great metaphorical line, “stack ‘em, pack ‘em, and rack ‘em.” With this line, he gives the order to his air traffic control staff to keep all incoming aircraft in a holding pattern until hijackers are no longer controlling the airport. The intent is to buy time until Bruce Willis (John McClane) can save the day.

So when I saw the colorful, eye-popping flight path this week on our television screens of the incoming hurricanes and tropical storms — Earl, Fiona, and Gaston, I thought of Fred Thompson’s 20-year-old line and the image of the jetliners lined up over the dark skies of Dulles Airport.

Whether it’s turbulence as a result of Mother Nature or man-made disasters, companies are best served by executives and managers who are able to keep their cool and focus in response to both seen and unforeseen events. These necessary attributes can only come through experience, effective training, and a corporate culture that values and cultivates them.

When crisis strikes, do not bet the company on managers knowing what to do. Spend time and resource to make sure they have the tools and know-how at the ready.

Have a safe and restful upcoming Labor Day weekend.