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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Archive for Tag 'inspired'

Celebrate the Patina

Posted by on May 27, 2013 at 12:57 pm

A Bevolo Copper Lantern
On a small street in the French Quarter of New Orleans sits a non-descript store front, which is home to one of finest copper lantern makers on the globe, Bevolo Gas and Electric Lights.

Andrew Bevolo, Sr. opened his light company in the French Quarter in 1945 based on the skills he had learned working at several leading manufacturers of the day, including Ford, Sikorsky, and Higgins. Bevolo took this knowledge and revolutionized the gas lantern industry with a hand riveting technique. Up until that time, gas lamps were made with brittle soldered joints, which greatly reduced the longevity of the lanterns.

A few years later, renowned architect A. Hays Town found his way to Bevolo’s workshop, and the two formed a partnership and the iconic French Quarter copper lantern was born.

Sixty-eight years later, the company is now run by Drew Bevolo, grandson to the founder. Today the company has 40 employees and its famed hand-made copper lanterns can be found on some of the most discriminating homes and commercial buildings in all 50 states and in 28 countries.

Bevolo now boasts scores of different lantern designs, and can also custom design a lamp on request, working with its own designers or a project’s architect. Each lantern is still made by hand and in Louisiana — and is sure to age gracefully and beautifully with each passing year.

Craftsmanship and artistry are words that have increasingly become lost in today’s flat world, where instant gratification and demands for the lowest price now rule the day. But too much focus on low price can come at a price. It penalizes creativity, it trivializes design, and it rewards mediocrity.

Applaud and shine light on the artists and creators, and those among us who continue to honor the old way of doing things. Celebrate their individualism and patina.

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.

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.

Find Your Creative Place

Posted by on March 30, 2012 at 8:47 pm

Do you have a creative place? It’s the place where you feel you are at your most creative and productive. It may be a bench in your favorite park, a special nook or room in your house or spot in your yard, a quiet desk at a library, a small bistro table in a busy Starbucks, or a spot at work where no one can interrupt you.

Frankly, your creative place may not be a physical location. It could be a particular state of mind. It could be a certain mood, time of day, or the type of music that you are listening to at the time. It could be something you do such as driving or walking. Or it could be any combination of the above.

Every employee has at least one place that focuses the mind and puts them in a more inspired state. Not a state that will necessarily lead to a nuclear fusion breakthrough, or the next generation of computer chip. But it could be a state that helps them think through a more creative presentation, design a more environmentally-friendly container, improve the profitability of a company service offering, or find a more efficient way to process expense reports.

A company’s challenge is to help find those places for employees where they can be more innovative. Most companies insist that employees produce results in sterile environments under rigid conditions. Ask yourself this question: if you were using your own money to fund a composer to come up with a great score for your next blockbuster movie, would you insist that he or she do it between 9 to 5 on a Tuesday in the small conference room down the hall? I don’t think so.

I realize that organizations may not have the flexibility or the resources to put their employees into their most creative physical spaces. But with a little bit of ingenuity, leadership, and guts to try something different, they could clearly get employees to a better place or frame of mind.

Let New Lantern help your company find its creative place. It could be the beginning of a more beautiful and productive relationship between you and your employees.

(Back by popular demand, the above posting appeared originally in April 2009.)

Make Those Minutes Count

Posted by on February 9, 2012 at 8:46 pm

RENT is one of the longest running Broadway musicals in history (1996-2008). Its success, at least in part, was the result of a wonderful collection of memorable songs. First among them is the song “Seasons of Love,” written and composed by Jonathan Larson.

“Seasons of Love” starts with the monotonous recitation of a long number string: “Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes,” which typically is not the makings for a Tony Award-winning song. Yet, this number has meaning as the song goes on to ask, “How do we measure, measure a year?”

That’s an important question posed in the RENT musical; and, it’s an important question for every business.

Today’s businesses spend most of their time thinking about time. They live quarter to quarter, particularly the publicly traded companies which have to expose their financial laundry four times a year. And they obsess over metrics, which are driven by varying time increments, e.g., monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, and annually.

However, companies generally don’t obsess enough over how their employees actually use their time.

Most companies pay their employees for 40 hours-a-week of work, 52 weeks a year. If you set aside the two weeks for vacation, that comes to a nice round 2,000 hours a year that the average employee is paid to be “on the clock.” If you take it a step further and put it in RENT terms, it translates into 120,000 minutes a year for the average employee.

That’s a lot of minutes. Of course, the actual number of minutes a year that an employee works is much smaller. If you consider the average eight-hour day for an employee, you would need to back out the minutes for unproductive time, such as going to the restroom, chatting in the hallway, and taking numerous breaks throughout the day.

Then there’s the time an employee might be sitting at the computer checking their Facebook or Twitter accounts, or browsing on Amazon.com or Ebay.

So when it’s all said and done, the actual amount of available time each day – and each year – that remains for the average employee to contribute to the company’s bottom line is relatively small. As a result, it’s important that the employer do everything it can to ensure that each employee is making the most out of those few remaining minutes.

In sum, incent your employees in smart ways, cultivate and grow their talents, applaud their successes, and create a culture that makes every minute count. If so, I predict you’ll love the seasons that will follow.

Boeing’s Dreamliner is No Longer a Dream

Posted by on September 29, 2011 at 5:11 pm

After three years of delays, Boeing finally delivered its first 787 Dreamliner this past Sunday to its very patient customer, Japan’s Nippon Airways.

The Boeing Dreamliner is probably the most innovative aircraft in the company’s history. It successfully blends design, function, and energy efficiency. The Dreamliner’s lightweight carbon fiber design and use of new plastic-composites translate into a 20 percent fuel savings. Inside the cabin, there is more headroom and larger stow bins, dynamic LED lighting, and larger windows that can be dimmed electronically.

The accolades for the Boeing Dreamliner are already pouring in. Yesterday, it received “Best in Show” at the 2011 annual conference for the International Design Excellence Awards (IDEA) in New Orleans.

But these awards can’t top its most important measure of success. Boeing has already received 800 orders for the Dreamliner valued at $164 billion, making it “one of the most successful commercial airplane launches” in history.

So it appears that the wait was worth it for Boeing.

Your company may be in the process of dreaming up your next best product or service. You too may struggle with delivery delays, glitches, and unexpected turbulence along the way.

Yet, it’s vitally important to push your team to improve upon what already has made your company successful.

Otherwise, you might find yourself stuck on the Tarmac wishing you had a better flight plan.