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 October, 2011

Some Old Dogs Take Top Innovation Awards

Posted by on October 30, 2011 at 9:18 pm

In October, the Wall Street Journal announced the winners of its 2011 Innovation Awards.

Compared to previous years, winners this year included big company names such as IBM, Novartis, Intel, and Abbott Labs. Start-up companies have traditionally dominated the stage for the innovation awards, but not this year.

A team of Wall Street Journal editors and reporters chose this year’s winners from among 605 applications from companies, organizations, and individuals in 31 countries. A total of 35 winners and runners-up were chosen in 16 categories.

Novartis won in the Health-Care IT category for a project that tracks medical supplies in Africa. IBM took home a bronze award for its supercomputer system, Watson, which defeated two grand champions this year on Jeopardy!

It’s refreshing to see award-winning innovation coming out of large, mature companies. It shows that old dogs can learn new tricks that can serve to excite employees, customers, and shareholders.

Whether your company is large or small, you should look for ways this coming year to unleash an innovative spirit among your employees focused on a critical objective, such as a new or improved product or service.

You’ll find that the journey to get there will pay dividends for your company even if you don’t bring home the gold, silver or bronze.

To Tweet or Not to Tweet

Posted by on October 23, 2011 at 8:48 pm

To tweet, or not to tweet, that is the question. Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the #slings and #arrows of outrageous fortune…

Speaking of fortune, most every Fortune 500 company in America has jumped into the social media fray over the past year, whether it’s a Facebook page, a Twitter feed, or both.

Facebook and Twitter have undoubtedly given companies new ways to get the message out beyond the traditional press release, corporate website, or a corporate blog for that matter. The challenge, of course, is not saying something — but actually saying something meaningful.

Whether it’s a short Facebook status update or a very short 140-character-limited Twitter post, knowing what to say and how to leverage this new medium has corporate executives scrambling to find value.

Corporate leaders are also wrestling with the individual vs. business nature of social media. Twitter by design is the short muttering of an individual, even when it’s in the name of an organization.

Since its inception, individuals have flocked to the Twitter platform to chronicle important events such as: “Just had a great bowl of chili,” or “Sitting on tarmac at JFK already hating person in 24B sitting next to me.” Not quite the makings of Pulitzer prize-winning material.

Then comes along a CEO or the SVP for Communication or a Business unit head, and a new Twitter account set up to drive corporate messaging, and it quickly goes from the personal mundane to corporate tripe.

Yet, with all its warts, I still think this new medium has something to offer and should be taken seriously.

Throughout our nation’s history, business enterprises have sought to leverage each new wave of communication innovation, including the printing press, radio, television, and the Internet. And at each juncture, trial and error has eventually given way to a valuable return on investment.

For example, as recently as ten years ago, many traditional brick and mortar stores struggled to find value in an online presence. And today, many of them are leveraging the Internet not simply as a supplement to their bottom lines, but as a huge driver for their bottom lines and highly cost-effective way to reach target customers, e.g.,

Ten years from today, the same will be said for the micro-blogs. Already, Twitter and Facebook have literally helped change the geopolitical landscape in countries such as Egypt, where these new forms of communication have played a leading role in spreading ideas, actions, and change.

I’m betting these technologies will also soon lead to innovative business practices and the next generation of successful enterprises and corporate leaders, who will find smart ways to leverage their potential.

That will be something worth tweeting about.

Lucy’s Winning Formula

Posted by on October 15, 2011 at 5:34 pm

The I Love Lucy television show first aired on this day in 1951. It starred then-Hollywood legend Lucille Ball, whose zany and fresh comedic antics helped turn the sitcom into the most watched television show of its era.

Ball’s trademark blazing red hair and slapstick humor was an unlikely pairing with her co-star, Desi Arnaz. Arnaz, who played Lucy’s husband Ricky Ricardo, was also her real-life husband during the run of the show. Arnaz was a dark-haired Cuban American singer and bandleader, whose memorable heavy accent and exclamations on the show continue to resonate to this day.

CBS executives at the time questioned whether the U.S. television audience would accept the idea of an All-American redhead married to a Cuban. Those fears quickly turned to celebration as I Love Lucy went on to become one of the most popular television sitcoms of all time. Sixty years after its debut, reruns of I Love Lucy are still viewed by more than 40 million Americans each year.

On the show, Lucy and Ricky were joined by co-stars Vivian Vance and William Frawley, who played Ethel and Fred Mertz. Vance and Frawley were perfectly cast as the Ricardos’ neighbors, landlord, and best friends. To this day, I still laugh thinking about the scene of Lucy and Ethel working in the chocolate factory on the production line.

Lucille Ball not only broke new ground as a leading female character of a television sitcom, she also served as the first woman to head a television production company, Desilu, which she and Arnaz formed. As a very active studio head at Desilu, Ball “pioneered a number of methods still in use in television production today such as filming before a live studio audience with a number of cameras, and distinct sets adjacent to each other.”

Whether it’s a television studio, and large corporation, or a small or medium size business, chief executives need to be willing to move outside of their safe zone in order to innovate and try new approaches. Success in business comes from bold leadership, a strong team, and promoting a culture that embraces an inventive spirit.

That’s a winning formula I know your shareholders will love.

Remembering America’s Chief Innovator

Posted by on October 8, 2011 at 6:54 pm

It’s hard to add to what has already been said from so many corners of the globe about the enormous contributions of Steven Paul Jobs to the fields of technology, movies, music, telecommunications, and design itself. But I do feel compelled to say something about Mr. Jobs. We just lost our country’s Chief Innovator.

Steve Jobs was a once-in-a-generation visionary who demonstrated a unique blend of design, business, and marketing savvy. He took a quirky, irrelevant computer company named after a fruit, which he co-founded in the 1970s, and turned it into a global business powerhouse boasting the largest market cap of any other company on the planet  – equaled only by Exxon Mobil.

The last decade, in particular, has been truly impressive as Jobs led Apple as it redefined the music industry via the iPod, wireless communication via the iPhone, and more recently, the computer itself via the iPad.

Jobs didn’t always get it right. In 1985, after being fired by Apple, he started the NeXT computer company. NeXT folded in 1996 after shipping only 50,000 units, but its high performance personal computers impressed many, including Apple, which re-hired Jobs in 1997.

Most important, Jobs learned from his mistakes and he wasn’t afraid to make them. At every turn in his career, he ignored traditional business school dogma, and chose to take a different path – always guided by what he felt the consumer wanted.

Jobs concluded that consumers would be willing to pay more for a product if it was well-designed and simple to use.  He was right, and Apple and its shareholders have benefited handsomely.

Business schools will be studying the “Jobs Effect” and his hyper-successful business methods for years to come, and rightfully so.

At some point, there will be another Steve Jobs. He or she will also achieve success by eschewing the safe path. And most likely, he or she too will succeed as a result of a keen focus on innovation, smart design, and creative business approaches.