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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 'investment'

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.

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.

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.

Stack ’em, Pack ’em, and Rack ’em

Posted by on September 1, 2010 at 7:21 pm

In watching the weather reports today, which show three to four hurricanes lined up in the Atlantic heading toward the eastern coast of the United States, I am reminded of one of the more memorable lines in American cinema.

In the 1990 “Die Hard 2: Die Harder,” the actor and former U.S. Senator, Fred Thompson, plays the Chief of Air Operations at Washington Dulles Airport and utters the great metaphorical line, “stack ‘em, pack ‘em, and rack ‘em.” With this line, he gives the order to his air traffic control staff to keep all incoming aircraft in a holding pattern until hijackers are no longer controlling the airport. The intent is to buy time until Bruce Willis (John McClane) can save the day.

So when I saw the colorful, eye-popping flight path this week on our television screens of the incoming hurricanes and tropical storms — Earl, Fiona, and Gaston, I thought of Fred Thompson’s 20-year-old line and the image of the jetliners lined up over the dark skies of Dulles Airport.

Whether it’s turbulence as a result of Mother Nature or man-made disasters, companies are best served by executives and managers who are able to keep their cool and focus in response to both seen and unforeseen events. These necessary attributes can only come through experience, effective training, and a corporate culture that values and cultivates them.

When crisis strikes, do not bet the company on managers knowing what to do. Spend time and resource to make sure they have the tools and know-how at the ready.

Have a safe and restful upcoming Labor Day weekend.

Can-Do Innovation

Posted by on May 26, 2010 at 9:10 pm

DuPont announced yesterday the winners of its 22nd DuPont Awards for Packaging and Innovation. Granted, the DuPont Awards do not yet have quite the cachet of the Academy Awards or the Pulitzer Prize, but they do represent the pinnacle of extraordinary achievement in “packaging materials, technology and service innovations.”

This year, Alcoa Inc. and Exal Corporation took home one of the top “Diamond Winner” awards for their new aluminum bottle, which offers a lighter, stronger, cheaper, 100 percent recyclable container, referred to as the “”Coil-to-Can” or “C2C” bottle. The new, high-tech bottle uses Alcoa’s bottlestock sheet and Exal’s C2C manufacturing technology.

Exal launched the C2C aluminum bottle in 2008, which is now used by companies like Coca-Cola, ESKA Still and Sparking Water of Canada, and Anheuser-Busch.

Ok, so what’s the big deal you might be asking? A lot in my book. The DuPont Awards illustrate a point that I have made on a number of occasions in earlier blogs on this website. Innovation is not only about the iPad, or the latest flat-screen technology, or a Mars rover. It’s potentially about everything your company is doing.

Innovation can and should occur across every nook and cranny of your business — from better and more advanced products, to enhancements in services for customers and clients, to improvements in internal processes, and to the very packages that contain your company’s products.

In short, if your company’s executives and managers are not actively pursuing innovations in all these areas – and strongly incenting your employees to do so – you may not only be missing out on possible revenue and market share, you may end up missing the boat altogether.

So this coming weekend, when you find yourself sipping your favorite beverage from one of those newfangled, super-cold aluminum cans, think about how your company can be more creative across the board.

I can assure you that a new can-do approach to innovation will put your company on a path to bringing home your own awards.

Is it Autumn for Your Company?

Posted by on November 1, 2009 at 9:59 pm

jack-o'-lantern

The word “autumn” conjures up a number of different meanings for me: the colorful fall foliage, the flickering light from a jack-o’-lantern, and the smell of hot apple cider.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary, autumn not only represents the “season of the year between summer and winter,” but it also refers to “a period of maturity verging on decline.” Now that tends to put a negative spin on an otherwise delightful word in my book, but unfortunately it could be a term to describe some Fortune 500 companies.

Like the verge of decline that some of us may feel with each passing birthday (not me, of course), some seemingly successful companies of a certain age may already be in a gradual descent. And they may not even know it yet. In fact, the lay-offs and cut-backs made over the last year in response to the economic crisis may be masking decline that is already well underway for some companies.

Decline could be the result of not moving quickly enough to respond to a changing marketplace or a more innovative competitor. It could be the result of reductions in research needed to spur promising new products or services. It could be from a decrease in spending on high quality employee and manager training. Or it could be the result of an executive team that has paused too long to enjoy the fruits of yesterday’s harvest. Or, it could be all of the above.

Mature companies which lose focus and drive are destined to lose ground on the competition. Such lost ground over time could indeed prove fatal.

Corporate leaders must constantly challenge themselves and their teams. They must regularly retool and reinvest in their employees–and their company’s future.

In doing so, you’ll likely chase off those pesky autumnal goblins, and increase your chances for a more profitable season.