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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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Archive for Tag 'innovation'

Innovation Starts in August

Posted by on August 7, 2016 at 12:42 pm

August has traditionally served as the most popular month for vacations in Corporate America and throughout many parts of the world. August to most employees means time away from the office, more time spent with family, time spent at the beach or on a lake or quietly at home.

On one hand, this makes August one of the least productive months of the year in terms of business output. On the other, I would contend that vacation time in fact contributes to a more productive employee upon his or her return.

So I would recommend that managers encourage employees to take some time off this month, and they should lead by example. Get away from the office. Step away from your smartphone. Clear the head and refuel the batteries, and come back to work in a more creative and innovative frame of mind.

In doing so, your executive team may soon have a new respect for August and how it can contribute to a more promising and profitable second half of 2016.

Fear No More

Posted by on December 7, 2013 at 8:06 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.

March Madness Over Telework

Posted by on March 19, 2013 at 9:34 pm

Last month’s “no-work-at-home” pronouncement by Yahoo’s new CEO Marissa Mayer has set off quite the firestorm in telecommuting and telework circles.

In a company-wide email to employees on February 22nd, Yahoo’s head of HR laid out the new ban on telework in a short, four-paragraph memo. The memo stated, “To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.”

News stories that followed cited Mayer’s concerns that “200 or so” Yahoo employees were working remotely and that “some did little work for the company and a few had even begun their own start-ups on the side.”

In the last four years, I have written several blogs on the benefits of telework for many companies. I’ve noted that while some positions may not lend themselves to working remotely, others could be effectively performed at home or elsewhere for at least some portion of the work week. In a June 2009 blog posting, I cited several independent studies showing that many employees are more productive working from home. I coupled this with my own experience as a senior HR executive for several large corporations.

Mayer, 37, who is a former executive at Google, does admit that some employees can be more productive working from home. However, she argues that productivity does not translate into innovation and that employees need to be in the same physical location in order to collaborate and innovate.

In another blog posting in 2009, I noted how an average employee can spend as much as 90 minutes a day commuting, and how a stressful commute can seriously impact one’s mindset and productivity. I went on to talk about how “innovation starts with happy and inspired employees, and employees who can get to their ‘creative place’ – whether that be a physical place or a state of mind.”

Let me pose this question: Is an employee apt to be in a more creative frame of mind working from: (a) home or other preferred location, or (b) in a cubicle after spending an hour in traffic?

I would argue that the employee problems that exist at Yahoo are not the result of working remotely, but the product of an ill-defined and ill-managed telework program. Whether an employee is working in the office next door or from home, it’s the responsibility of that employee’s manager to make sure he or she is fully collaborating and contributing.

I too agree that in-person collaboration can lead to creativity and innovation. Yet, a flexible and well-structured telework program could include regular in-person sessions, while also allowing for time working from home.

So let’s not make telework the scapegoat for a company’s lack of creativity. Banning telework would be like a basketball coach banning the full-court press from his or her playbook in response to a loss of a game due to a poorly executed play. That would be madness.

Like telework for a company, a full-court press can be an important game-winning tool for a basketball team – if properly executed.

Innovation By Design

Posted by on October 11, 2012 at 6:40 pm

I draw your attention to this month’s Fast Company magazine, which it refers to as its “Design Issue.” The entire issue focuses on the important role that design plays in business innovation as a positive disruptive force.

As the magazine points out, the marriage of design and innovation is not a new concept. For it was the legendary CEO of IBM, Thomas Watson, Jr., who noted almost 40 years ago that “good design is good business.” And scores of companies since then, including IBM, have ably demonstrated the truism of these words.

The magazine spotlights the latest social media darling, Pinterest, and its 30-year-old CEO, Ben Silbermann, as shown in the cover photo above. Silbermann has leveraged the power of the Internet to turn the age-old idea of the scrapbook into a must-go-to web destination. In the last year alone, the number of monthly unique visitors to Pinterest has soared from 600,000 to over 20 million.

Of course, 20 million users is a drop in the bucket compared to the social media behemoth, Facebook, which just past the 1 billion mark in users. Yet, Pinterest tops both Facebook and Twitter in its ability to translate visitors into product sales.

Fast Company also uses this month’s issue to highlight its “2012 Innovation By Design Award” nominees at 1,700 strong across nine categories. Nominees include companies and products such as Boeing’s fuel efficient 787, Nike’s lightweight Flyknit shoe, and Nest Labs’ slick and simple-to-use “smart” home thermostat. Winners will be announced on October 16 in New York City.

I urge you to spend more time in Q4 and in 2013 thinking about good design and how it can be good for your business. It might just be the best decision you make over the coming year — and could lead to your company’s nomination in a future Fast Company’s Design Issue.

Aiming for New Heights

Posted by on July 5, 2012 at 9:39 pm

Later this month will mark the 43rd anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing on July 20, 1969, when astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the moon’s surface. Upon doing so, Armstrong then uttered those immortal words, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

That day in history represents one of the world’s most famous examples of successful human achievement as a consequence of setting a seemingly unachievable goal. It was on May 25, 1961 when President John F. Kennedy spoke before a joint session of Congress and laid down a challenge to the country and the U.S. space program: “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”

Forty-three years ago was indeed a mighty proud moment for our country — frankly one of the proudest moments of a decade that otherwise had been stained by a long war and the assassinations of two Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Pride comes from accomplishment, teamwork, and reaching a worthy goal in the face of adversity. Great corporate leaders and managers provide a vision, a common set of meaningful objectives, and a credible game plan on how to get there.

And it is in the most challenging times that organizations should call on employees to share in the risk and reward of trying to achieve an important goal that may appear just out of reach. It may very well lead to new heights for your company and the pride that comes from real accomplishment.

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.