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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 April, 2012

Reinforcing a Good Idea

Posted by on April 22, 2012 at 8:36 pm

The Concrete Reinforcing Steel Institute (CRSI) announced its 2012 design award winners last week based on aesthetics, innovation, engineering achievement, functional excellence and economy of construction.

CRSI has been recognizing excellence in reinforced concrete structure design through its award program for almost 40 years. This year’s winners were chosen across three categories: multi-family residential, commercial, and education facility. Winners in each category, respectively, included Cary Kopczynski & Company of Bellevue, WA; DeSimone Consulting Engineers of New York, NY; and Atlantic Engineering Services of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, PA.

Robert Risser, CEO and President of CRSI, noted that “the winning projects showcase the innovative design possibilities and qualities of using reinforced concrete and the exceptional collaborative management required during the construction of these outstanding structures.”

According to CRSI’s website, its Design Awards program is open to architects, engineers, contractors and fabricators. The entrants may be individuals or teams, and eligible structures must be located in the United States, Canada or Mexico.

The CRSI awards help reinforce the point that beauty is, in fact, more than skin deep. Many times, it’s what you don’t see that distinguishes an ordinary structure – or an ordinary company — from an extraordinary one.

It pays to take the time to regularly recognize and honor those responsible for extraordinary performance, no matter what the field and no matter how obvious or non-obvious their contributions.

The Design of Everyday Things

Posted by on April 15, 2012 at 8:39 pm

One of the business innovation workshops I conducted in New York City featured cognitive scientist Donald Norman as a guest speaker. Norman is a leading expert in “user-centered design” and author of The Design of Everyday Things. The workshop was attended by 40 mid- and top-level managers from numerous divisions of a Fortune 200 company.

The goal of this off-site innovation meeting was to provoke some of the company’s most promising professionals to look at things a little differently – in fact, we wanted them to look at everything differently.

Every day of our lives, we are bombarded by tens of thousands of visual and operational stimuli. The door handle we use to open the closet, the street sign we see to make the correct turn, the faucet we use to turn on the water in the restroom, the ink pen we use to sign a letter — and on and on.

Given the sheer volume of this stimuli, it’s no wonder that we give little thought to 99% of what we see, touch, and feel every day. But maybe your brain is paying more attention than you think.

Whether on an individual stimulus basis or in a cumulative way, your brain responds more positively to objects that are pleasing to the eye – even everyday objects. Whether it’s a company logo, a product, an online service, or a routine internal process or form, a user’s reaction to all of these things is real, no matter how subtle.

Your product division may want a customer or potential customer to enjoy the use and visual attributes of a given product. Your sales department may want a customer to have a positive user experience with an online tool or service. And your human resource department may want employees to respond favorably to this year’s new health benefit based on smart and attractive design elements.

Innovation is not only reserved for the once-a-year or once-in-a-lifetime breakthroughs. Innovation can and should occur every day across every part of your company – from the most obvious anchor product of the company to the most subtle and routine business process.

It’s the cumulative effect of these innovations and the associated attention to detail and design that will separate good companies from the best companies.

Companies should make it a point to encourage employees to seek out every opportunity to improve a product, service, or process – and should seek to arm them with the tools, training and incentives to do so.

In the end, making everyday things and how they are designed and used a priority within your company may very well lead to extraordinary things.

The Power of Competition

Posted by on April 7, 2012 at 6:46 pm

Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, died on this day 65 years ago in Dearborn, Michigan.

Ford is credited for revolutionizing factory production with his assembly-line methods. Most importantly, he helped change how people lived and where they lived by developing the Model T, the world’s first affordable, mass-produced car.

Ford first produced the Model T in 1908, which sold for $850, according to And by the time the last Model T came off the assembly line in 1927, over 15 million had been sold. However, like many corporate trailblazers, Ford’s market dominance began to wane in the 1920s when it fell behind General Motors, which was responding more quickly to consumer demand with newer models.

To this day, Ford still trails GM in automobiles sold annually, but only by a narrow margin. Ford’s star has risen particularly in recent years under the leadership of former Boeing executive, Alan Mulally, who has helped make Ford profitable despite the country’s near economic meltdown. In late 2008 and early 2009, GM took bailout money from the U.S. Government; Ford notably did not.

The Ford and GM 100-year rivalry is longer than any in U.S. corporate history and will surely continue. There is no better fuel for innovation than competition, and no industry better illustrates this cause and effect than the automotive industry.

Thanks to GM’s and Ford’s long-term rivalry – and the competitive threats from Japanese and German car brands over the last three decades – consumers have a lot to be thankful for.

One wonders what Henry Ford would think today if he were behind the wheel of one of Ford’s latest models, such as a Ford Fusion Hybrid (gas and electric), in which he could control much of the dashboard with voice commands.

I bet he’d like the company that still bears his name.