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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 November, 2010

Thanks + Giving

Posted by on November 25, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Americans have been celebrating the idea of Thanksgiving since 1621, when Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians came together for an autumn harvest feast. It was 242 years later that President Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day to be held every November.

Today, Thanksgiving represents a time when family and friends can come together around a dining room table to share a big meal, and give thanks for all that they have.

Thanksgiving is also a wonderful time to give to those in need. There is no better way to say “thanks” than to voluntarily share a small part of your bounty or harvest with organizations that support worthy causes. This not only applies to individual giving, but corporate giving as well.

I know company budgets are still tight, and recovery for some is not quite yet within reach. But giving can and should still occur, at whatever level possible and in whatever form. For example, a company can sponsor an annual employee volunteer day, allowing employees to donate a day’s worth of time (paid by the company) to a local charitable organization.

Employees could help deliver turkeys or holiday baskets, work at a soup kitchen, help build a house, or simply help a neighbor or stranger across town who may need it.

A corporate culture that embraces a giving spirit, can’t help but get more in return — such as a greater sense of purpose, more dedicated employees, and the genuine feeling of doing good.

So use this upcoming holiday season to celebrate what you have, but also to find ways to show thanks and to give back.

Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks

Posted by on November 17, 2010 at 11:15 pm

Chevrolet celebrated its 99th birthday earlier this month. Yesterday it celebrated winning Motor Trend’s coveted “Car of the Year Award” for its widely acclaimed new electric car — the “Volt.” The company’s founder and namesake, Louis Chevrolet (1878-1941) would be proud.

Chevrolet was acquired by General Motors in 1917, and to this day continues to be GM’s highest selling brand. With the accolades pouring in over the Volt, GM has even more reason to be smiling these days. The company’s stock resumes selling this week on the New York Stock Exchange after GM’s near-death experience in the last two years living through bankruptcy and government bailouts.

The road ahead for GM will still be rocky, but it has at least delivered on its electric car promise that it made only a few years ago. Compared to an electric-only car, the Volt has an electric motor that can go 40 miles on a single charge, but can then kick on a gasoline engine to get you to your destination while also helping to recharge your battery.

The four-door Volt will retail for around $40,000, not including a $7,500 federal tax credit. GM has stated its intention to begin selling the Volt by year’s end in seven U.S. markets, including Washington DC, California, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Texas. Chevrolet dealers in these cities are already reporting very strong demand and long waiting lists. Plans are to sell the car nationwide 12-18 months later.

I’m hoping the Volt will live up to its hype. GM clearly needs its flagship green car to be a success if it hopes to continue down the path of survival. And frankly America needs a successful home-grown electric vehicle offering to compete with Nissan’s new electric “Leaf,” and popular electric hybrids from Toyota and Honda.

Equally important is the lesson for other old-line businesses which are struggling to compete with younger companies from around the globe. While age can many times be a liability for a company, it can also prove beneficial in weathering unexpected storms. But it will require older companies to stay nimble through innovative executive and manager training, exposure to creative thinkers and doers, and a corporate culture that embraces risk-taking.

With the appropriate focus in these areas, your old dog may soon be doing tricks you never thought possible.

Get a Head Start on Your New Year’s Resolutions

Posted by on November 10, 2010 at 8:56 pm

It may seem odd to be talking about New Year’s resolutions now, but humor me for a moment.

First, we’re only a stone’s throw away from the end of 2010 with only seven weeks left on the calendar.

Second, I would venture to guess that the last two years have been tough on your business, unless of course you’ve been doing business on a different planet. Cut-backs, lay-offs, salary freezes. Stop me if none of this sounds familiar.

Third, with unemployment stuck at nearly 10 percent, a U.S. Government and most state governments in the red at record levels, and trade deficits larger than ever before — the near- and mid-term forecasts are still looking pretty cloudy.

As a result, an emphasis today on early planning, wise asset management, and creative thinking will serve as critical elements for your company’s eventual comeback.

Your employees are your single most important asset. If you are not currently laser-focused on how to nurture and grow this asset, then you may be missing a once in a generation opportunity. Note that I’m not talking about growing the number of employees; I’m talking about the professional growth of each employee.

Within your current employee base resides the next great product or service idea, or process innovation. Small investments today in an employee’s professional growth via an innovative workshop, seminar, or event could provide just the needed creative spark.

By doing so, you not only stand to reap the benefits of your investment, but you also send an important signal to your most promising employees that they are worth the company’s investment, even during lean times – especially during lean times. This one act could also mean the difference in their staying, or moving on, when the economic climate does start to improve.

In sum, there’s no time like the present to get a head start on your company’s New Year’s resolution list, and in doing so, move ahead of your competitors.

The Need for Campaign Innovation

Posted by on November 1, 2010 at 9:12 pm

I usually devote my attention on this blog to business innovation, and how corporations should promote and nurture creativity in the workplace to improve products, services, and processes.

On this election eve, I would like to ask tomorrow’s newly elected federal officials, and those returning to office to make it a priority to improve our campaign process over the next two years.

It’s clear that many Americans are angry about the economy. That’s understandable. But if they’re like me, they are also angry at the sad state of our political campaign process and how the most innovative country on the planet chooses to elect its political leaders.

First, there are the never ending attack ads. This year, they have somehow found a way to reach a new low. Then, there are the round-the-clock campaign calls to my home phone, many times made by a computer that I can’t even tell to not call me again. And then there’s the offensive amount of money that candidates and other groups are spending this year to trash each other.

We make it a point teach children how to behave and the need to be civil to one another, and yet we subject them to months of bad behavior by adults running for public office. No wonder kids grow up not wanting to enter public service. And it’s no wonder why kids show less and less respect for each other and for adults. Politicians blame video games and television. It’s hard not to place at least some of the blame on the politicians themselves.

I love this country, and I’ll put our Constitution and our system of government up against any other in the world. But there must be a better way for a civilized nation to be more civil when it comes to how we elect our leaders.

So tomorrow, when I cast my vote, I’ll be asking our public officials to put their heads together and seek to improve our broken political campaign system.

That’s innovation I could vote for. But I’m not holding my breath. I’m already dreading 2012.