New Lantern

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New Lantern blog

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 January, 2011

Fearless Ingenuity

Posted by on January 28, 2011 at 10:57 pm

Have you ever had a good idea for your company, but felt if you raised it to your management, they might scoff at the idea – or worse, tell you to mind your own business? Fear is one of the biggest obstacles to innovation in any company. Fear of ridicule. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of being told that your idea is stupid.

Too many companies unfortunately promote an environment that embraces this fear. It starts with managers who fear that their direct reports might actually outshine them with a creative or ingenious idea. These fearful managers exist at the lowest levels of the company, at the highest levels of the company, and every level in between.

There are also structural factors that promote innovation-killing fear in a company. “We’re the Office of Corporate Strategy.” “We’re the Office of Innovation.” “We’re the Office of the CEO.” Or, “We’re the number one product group for the company.” “You stick to your day job, and let us worry about the company’s new ideas or innovation strategy.” Sound familiar?

These are also the same companies which many times find themselves slipping from first, to second, to way back in the pack, while younger, hungrier, and more fearless companies eat their lunch.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Start by leveraging the laws of statistics. Challenge every single person in your organization to stretch his or her thinking. Promote a culture that holds to this axiom: no idea is a bad idea. Of course, you’ll need to point out that only a few ideas will be worthy of pursuing. Yet, your odds of finding a pearl are increased as you open up a larger number of oyster shells.

Try it. You have nothing to fear, but fear itself.

100 Slivers of Light

Posted by on January 20, 2011 at 10:36 pm

Today’s blog posting marks our 100th here at New Lantern. Each week for the last two years, we have attempted to shine light on all things innovative and creative, so that your company might benefit.

We’ve profiled a wide range of creative thinkers, business leaders, artists, designers and entrepreneurs. We’ve drawn lessons from some of the world’s most notable innovators, while spotlighting the lesser known or yet-to-be-known, from whom your company can learn.

Our objective is simple: helping your company or organization effectively mine and leverage the talents of your existing workforce. We seek to apply creative right-brain stimuli to a left-brain business and analytical world, which can lead to more innovative products, services, and processes.

This marriage of the creative and analytical is nothing new, yet it is unfortunately underutilized in today’s business sector. During the 15th through 17th centuries, the Medici family of Florence helped usher in a “creative explosion” by bringing together successful people from a wide ranging disciplines such as: sculptors, scientists, poets, philosophers, painters, and architects.

Let us help your company use creativity as the spark to unlock the talents of your employees and managers.

We think you’ll find that a little bit of light – or sliver, if you will – can go a long way toward achieving your company’s objectives in 2011.

Tapping into Hidden Talent

Posted by on January 13, 2011 at 9:36 pm

Although I must hold the name of the company confidential, let me relay a true story about a recent innovation contest at a Fortune 100 company.

One department at this company decided to challenge its employees to submit “innovation memos,” to put forward creative ideas to generate or improve services and processes. To help incentivize memo submissions, it was announced that a cash reward of $10,000 would be given to the top four memo authors.

Nearly 80 memos were submitted, and even though only four authors walked away as winners, dozens of great ideas were generated, many of them actionable — and most of which had no relationship to an employee’s day job.

The notion of seeking new ideas from employees is not headline news. Companies tend to seek new and creative ideas from those teams who are already responsible for product design or improvements. What makes the above case a bit unique is that the department that generated all these new ideas was the legal department – generally regarded in any company as a cost center, and definitely not an innovation-generating center.

Any employee in any company has the potential to offer up that company’s next best idea. Yet, most companies fail to do the one simple thing that could unleash this untapped resource – ask.

Most companies ask employees to do one set of tasks associated with a given position for which they are compensated. Companies usually don’t bother to ask an employee to put forward ideas that may not be part of his or her job description. Therefore, employees have no incentive to “waste” time offering up creative ideas that will have no perceived impact on their direct compensation.

In short, your company currently may be asking and compensating an employee to pan for gold, while other valuable minerals, like silver or even platinum, are slipping past.

Don’t let these unmined opportunities pass your company by. Make it a point to ask each employee to participate in an idea-generating activity – no matter where that employee may work in the company. And throw in some real incentives via cash and/or other rewards or recognitions to make it worth an employee’s while.

Granted, you may need a couple of iterations of this program to find the right level and mix of incentives to yield the results you are hoping for. But trust me on this one, it will be worth the effort.

Keep it Simple in 2011

Posted by on January 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Over the holidays, a magazine cover caught my eye while I was browsing in a local bookstore. Its title, “Real Simple: 799 New Use for Old Things,” published by Time Inc.

Granted, I’ve seen these types of books or articles in the past, but something about this one at this moment in time struck a particular chord. Of course, the vibrant colors and appealing design of the cover (as shown above) helped get my attention.

Today, every aspect of our lives is controlled or influenced by some sort of complicated device. Many of us now read our books or newspapers on a slate-type screen. We have 900 channels on our cable or satellite boxes, and access to thousands of movies and shows “on demand,” not to mention the hundreds of thousands via the Internet.

Our home security systems rival that of small town banking institutions. And our cars talk to us and react to our own voice commands. A refrigerator can now tell me when my milk is expired, and may soon be reporting me to the anti-bacteria police.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-technology. But I am becoming increasingly pro-simple. Of course, some will argue that many of the technologies I cite above, and scores of others, provide conveniences that we could not have dreamed of 20 or 30 years ago. I guess that may be true, but at what cost to simplicity?

Some days, I long for the glow of a simple incandescent light or the simple latch of a screen door for a bit of added security. My friends love to tease me when I give them a ride in my 1997 base-model Jeep Cherokee, and they look around for the “window button“ to “roll down” the window. I happily point to the hand crank on the door and say, “you actually have to roll it down yourself.”

So on the eve of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where some of the world’s top companies will be showing off their magical new gadgets that will surely serve to dazzle, I’m thinking about how I can make things more simple in 2011.

Your company may want to put simplicity on its list of things to do in 2011 as well. Are there internal processes that you can reexamine, and actually make simpler – and more cost effective? Are there services that you provide to customers that could be retooled or streamlined to lead to simpler, not more complicated outcomes? Are there products that could be simplified and made more user-friendly?

Or, are there products or services that you currently offer, or maybe shelved a while back, that could actually be put to other good and simple uses?

These are all fair questions that any of us should be asking ourselves this coming year.

I’m betting simple will sell in 2011.

What’s that I hear? It’s the sound of an old, reliable manual cash register going “cha-ching.”