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Archive for Tag 'culture'

Corporate Culture 2.0

Posted by on April 21, 2013 at 8:26 pm

Is your corporate culture what it should be? If you are like most companies the answer is probably “no.”

A corporate culture reflects an organization’s character, its values and the vision of its management. The culture serves as an unseen GPS for employees, customers, and partners – signaling who you are as a company and how you do business.

Too many companies place a glossy mission or values statement on their website, but don’t work to build a corporate culture that truly lives up to the words.

Senior management cannot impose a desired corporate culture on an organization. It must be earned and built brick-by-brick. Management must create a culture that treats employees as the company’s single best asset. Employees need to know that performance will be measured and appropriately rewarded. Conversely, they need to know that under performance has its consequences. And employees need to know that the same performance yardstick will be used fairly throughout the entire organization.

A culture that places loyalty to management over performance is a company abusing the shareholders’ trust. Likewise, a culture that tolerates — or worse yet – rewards an attitude that says, “all I need to do is keep my head down, go along with the flow, and not cause any waves,” is doomed to failure.

Jump-start your corporate culture starting today. Let employees know that their talents and value to the company matter. Provide a vision and a clearly defined set of goals for which all employees will share responsibility in achieving. Let employees know that risk-taking, an entrepreneurial spirit, and challenging the status quo are strongly encouraged. And make it clear that a strong sense of ethics is an integral part of your company’s DNA.

If you are able to do the above, your corporate culture will change for the better, your future will be brighter, and shareholders will happily reap the benefits.

Whistle While You Work

Posted by on June 3, 2012 at 9:32 pm

Universal Pictures’ Snow White & the Huntsman opened this weekend and quickly shot to number one in box office sales in response to a big marketing campaign and an attractive cast including Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart.

Despite the early success of this action-fantasy movie and its much darker twist on an old tale, I frankly prefer the upbeat time-tested Snow White original.

For example, I like the important and simple life-lesson that the original seven dwarfs gave us with their advice to “whistle while you work.”

Ok, maybe if you actually whistle out loud at work, you may bear the wrath of your colleagues. However, figuratively speaking, the idea of being happy while you work will only serve to increase your productivity.

Managers should take note as well. It is up to them and the senior management team to provide for a workplace and culture that fosters happy employees. Managers should be willing to use every tool in the tool box to accomplish this feat, including flex time, awards and recognition, morale events, more creative work environments, etc.

There’s no better source for ideas on how to spur a more content workplace than to solicit suggestions from the employees themselves. It doesn’t mean you have to respond to every suggestion. What is important is that you genuinely listen to your employees in terms of what can make them more happy – and thus more productive.

By doing so, you’ll find that it will pay far more in long-term dividends than it will cost.

And that’s a nice tune that you can whistle to.

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.

An Early Arrival

Posted by on March 14, 2012 at 9:25 pm

There’s only one thing better than the early arrival of an airline flight to lift the spirits, and that’s the early arrival of spring. And nothing says “spring” to me like the fresh blooms of the Forsythia shrub.

Its small, yellow starbursts of flowers are among the first signs of color in mid-March in many parts of the United States. Given our mild winter, this year’s Forsythia blooms arrived at least a week earlier than usual, much to my delight.

Forsythia is both the genus and the common name for this spring-flowering shrub. There are 11 species of Forsythia, which are also native to Asia and Europe. It is named after the Scottish botanist, William Forsyth.

For the remaining 50 weeks of the year, Forsythia shrubs are frankly unremarkable and tend to blend into the neighborhoods and parks where they commonly are found. Yet, come March, when the temperature and conditions are just right, this genus of shrub magically transforms itself overnight.

Plants like the Forsythia serve an important purpose. They indicate that a change for the better is at hand. They lift the mood and spirit. And they remind us that every plant or person has a valuable role to play if put in the right conditions, nurtured appropriately, and situated for the greatest benefit.

Look for the exceptional in what may otherwise appear unexceptional. Actively cultivate Forsythias and a wide variety of other flora within your organization. By doing so, you can turn a run-of-the-mill roadside nursery into a sustainable and highly productive garden.

Best in Show

Posted by on February 16, 2012 at 8:54 pm

I like animals, animals of all shapes, sizes and varieties. In fact, my husband jokes with me that I like animals more than I like humans. Of course, it depends on the human.

Earlier this week, a four-year old Pekingnese named “Malachy” was awarded this year’s “Best in Show” at the 2012 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show held in Madison Square Garden in New York.

As much as I like animals, including dogs, I must say that it’s hard for me to get that excited about the beauty-challenged Pekingnese as the top winner of the prestigious dog show. With all due respect to Malachy, he has the face of a vampire bat, with Linda Evans hair.

Others questioned this week whether the Pekingnese is worthy of the famed dog award, since Malachy beat out more seemingly popular dog breeds such as the Irish setter, the Dalmation, the German shepherd, and the Doberman pinscher.

This is not the first time that the mighty Pekingnese has taken home the top award. In fact, Malachy is the fourth such Pekingnese to win “Best in Show” since 1960.

Pekingnese and other canine enthusiasts are quick to point out that the long-lasting breed is worthy indeed, and has been associated with royalty for centuries. The origins of the breed date back to the 8th Century in China. Pekingnese are commonly referred to as the “Lion Dog” due to its long, fluffy mane of hair. Sounds like the work of a good publicist, if you ask me.

With that said, I respect Malachy and his accomplishment. Malachy may not “look” like a winner, but he’s proven that he has what it takes to compete against those perceived to be better apt to succeed.

And isn’t this an important lesson for all of us?

“Don’t judge a book by its cover” is an oft-used axiom, which many of us seldom take to heart – but maybe we should. How many times do we assume that the colleague who looks the part will be the first to succeed?

The role of a good manager – and the organization broadly — is to provide for a work environment where everyone feels they have a shot at succeeding, not just the popular “show dogs.” This type of inclusive, nurturing culture will result in greater teamwork, higher productivity, and more sustained success for the company and the shareholder, every time.

So find ways to excite and draw out every employee to do his or her best. And you’ll soon find that your next “best in show” just might surprise you.

The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Posted by on March 30, 2011 at 8:59 pm

According to the National Park Service, yesterday marked the “Peak Bloom Date” for several thousand Yoshino Cherry trees, which line the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC.

The 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival commemorates the 99th anniversary of the gift of cherry blossom trees from the country of Japan. Each year, over one million tourists flock to the nation’s capital during the last week of March and the first week of April to get a glimpse of the puffy pink blossoms of these spectacular trees.

In 1912, Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo gave 3,000 cherry trees to the city of Washington, DC. “The gift and annual celebration honor the lasting friendship between the United States and Japan and the continued close relationship between the two countries,” as noted on the Festival’s website.

The United States returned the favor in 1915 with a gift of dogwood trees to the people of Japan. In 1965, two decades after the end of World War II, Lady Bird Johnson accepted 3,800 more cherry trees from Japan. Then in 1981, the “cycle of giving came full circle” when the U.S. gave cuttings from its trees to Japan to replace trees that had been destroyed during a flood.

Given the recent devastation from the earthquake and tsunami in northern Japan, maybe more cherry tree cuttings from Washington will once again be sent to the Japanese people.

Ichiro Fujisaki, the Japanese Ambassador to the U.S., spoke emotionally about the dire conditions in his country during the March 22nd Points of Light Institute tribute at the Kennedy Center, which honored former President George H. W. Bush. “We are grateful…Japan must and will come back. It means so much to us that you are standing with us. . .We will never, never forget it. ”

Competition between two companies, like that between two countries, can sometimes be fierce. But it doesn’t mean that decency and civility should be set aside.

Look for opportunities to do the right thing when your competitors are least expecting it. You may find that the favor of offering a “cherry branch” may someday be returned when you’ll need it the most.