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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 'product'

A Bit of an Obsession

Posted by on May 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm

About a month ago, I read an article in the New York Times about a new hi-tech pedometer called Fitbit Ultra. The reporter, Stephanie Rosenbloom, gave a first-hand account of her Fitbit and credited the little memory stick-size device for motivating her to walk and take stairs like never before.

Now I’ve tried a few pedometers in the past, but after a couple of days, the novelty wears off and the pedometer always finds its way into a drawer. But given the rave review of Rosenbloom, I thought I would give Fitbit a try and I went online to buy one from fitbit.com.

Priced at $99, the Fitbit Ultra isn’t cheap. Yet, I convinced myself I had to have it. And before I clicked “purchase,” I asked my husband if he wanted to buy one too and he scoffed at the suggestion, saying: “I’m already a walker and don’t need this expensive toy to motivate me.”

Within a couple of days, it showed up in the mail, and I installed it on my computer. It comes with a small USB charging station that also serves as a wireless connector for the device. Within minutes my account was set up online. It took about two hours to fully charge, and I proceeded to clip it on my waistband. A full charge lasts about three days.

On the unit I can push a button and get an update on my number of steps that day, my mileage covered, my estimated calories burned, and the number of sets of stairs I’ve climbed. In the morning, it even welcomes me with my name and a random motivational greeting such as “Hold me,” “Burn it,” or “Game On.”

With the online dashboard, you get all this information and plenty more, including charts showing your progress against your own daily or weekly goals or goals provided as a default based on your age and weight. It even comes with a wrist-band if you want to measure your sleep patterns at night, i.e., less movement means a more restful sleep.

By wearing the Fitbit, I immediately found myself taking more walks throughout the day, taking the stairs when possible, parking further away from the store, and even walking around the house before I went to bed if I needed a few more steps to get to my 10,000-step daily goal.

Within days, my husband had witnessed my unprecedented enthusiasm for walking, and he decided he had to have one too – and as soon as possible – so he bought one that day at the new Microsoft Store in Tysons Corner Mall in McLean, VA.

Now he and I compete against each other with our steps, stairs, and mileage covered each day and week. We gladly volunteer to go to the mailbox or put out the trash at night just so we can accumulate more steps. What other little device can do that?!

I don’t expect this obsession to last forever, but while it does, we’ll both be healthier for it and will lose a few pounds in the process. The Fitbit Ultra is not the only new electronic step or activity tracker out there, but it’s clearly one of the most popular and easy to use.

Fitbit took a healthy and low tech idea like a pedometer and used innovative present day technology to make it a very compelling product that might just extend one’s life.

That’s well worth $99 in my book.

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.

Using the Old Bean

Posted by on November 15, 2011 at 8:16 pm

Nothing says November like the feel of wearing a wool sweater from L.L. Bean.

I’ve been a fan of L.L. Bean’s no-frills, long-lasting clothing products for over 30 years. They are comfortable, affordable, and always get the job done.

If I had a dollar for every “Blucher Moc” moccasin shoe that L.L. Bean has sold over the years, I would, well, have a lot of dollars. The shoe is timeless and iconic, and the product description today was the same 30 years ago: “The handsewn upper conforms to your foot for a fit that only gets better with time. Traditional rubber sole has channel grooves to provide traction on wet surfaces.” Current retail price: $69 a pair.

If it ain’t broke, keep selling it. Or something like that.

L.L. Bean owes its success not only to great products, but to great customer service. Year after year, L.L. Bean ranks among America’s top 10 companies for customer service according to the National Retail Federation, based on written surveys of over 9,000 shoppers.

The company was founded in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean in Freeport, Maine — a place that knows something about the importance of keeping warm and dry. Today, L.L. Bean’s flagship store and campus is still in Freeport on the original site where Bean opened his retail business.

Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the 200,000-square-foot flagship store draws nearly three million visitors each year.

Next year marks L.L. Bean’s 100th anniversary. Few companies on the planet survive long enough to celebrate this milestone, much less one that is still at the top of its game. The company’s annual sales now top $1.5 billion.

L.L. Bean wrote the book on succeeding as a mail-order business, and decades later was able to successfully pivot to capitalize on the e-commerce revolution. Like its famed Blucher Moc, L.L. Bean has been able to effectively adapt and conform “for a fit that only gets better with time.”

Yet, L.L. Bean’s current President, Chris McCormick, knows that the company’s success will continue to rely on its commitment to putting the customer first: “It goes back to L.L.’s Golden Rule of treating customers like human beings.”

That’s using the old bean from which we all can learn.

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.

No One To Blame

Posted by on February 7, 2011 at 9:27 pm

When things go wrong, it’s only human to want to point the finger and to blame someone or something else. Companies play the blame game too, and quite well I might add.

You don’t meet your quarterly targets, blame this event or that circumstance.

You fail to close a deal with a huge potential customer, blame this team or that team – or blame your competitor who undercut you.

Your new product advertisement falls flat. Blame your outside ad firm.

Finding a scapegoat is easy. Dealing with your own weaknesses and mistakes, and learning from them is much harder. That’s why both companies and people generally take the former route.

This past weekend, I had a close and personal encounter with blame.

I was awakened this past Friday at 5am by my three indoor cats growling at the front door at a cat on the outside of the door. I got up and peered out the window, and saw what I thought was our neighbor’s black cat. It was still dark outside and I was still in the fog of sleep.

My concern was that the cat had escaped its owner’s house and was now stranded outside in 20-degree weather. I took out some food, which the cat devoured. Just before the cat finished the food, I thought (or I didn’t think) that I would reach down and grab the cat, take it inside for a few hours, and then call the neighbor to come pick it up. This cat thought differently.

When I reached down to pick up the cat, in an instant, it turned and took a huge bite out of my hand, while pushing its back feet against my other hand. I ripped my hands away, and stood there with both hands bleeding while feeling pretty stupid for trying to pick up this cat. I knew now that it was not my neighbor’s cat.

My dumbness resulted in an emergency room visit in response to my bitten hand doubling in size and turning red with apparent infection. The hospital kept me two days to pump strong antibiotics into my body via IV to aggressively attack the toxins that were in my hand. An infectious disease doctor saw me and told me that this type of deep cat bite could do permanent damage to the use of my hand.

I kept telling myself, which was also echoed by my husband, that I had no one to blame but myself.

The hospital was so crowded they put me on the oncology floor with the cancer patients. On the first night, I shared a room with a feisty 82-year old woman who had come to the hospital due to bad reactions to the cancer drugs.

On the second day, they brought in an Egyptian woman in her mid-30s, along with her husband, her mother, her young daughter and several friends and family. She was so ill, so weak, so emaciated, and clearly suffering from the rages of her cancer and the treatments.

My wounds suddenly felt insignificant. Here I was blaming myself for my predicament, and learning from it — and this woman, wife, mother and daughter had no one to blame.

Keep it Simple in 2011

Posted by on January 5, 2011 at 10:08 pm

Over the holidays, a magazine cover caught my eye while I was browsing in a local bookstore. Its title, “Real Simple: 799 New Use for Old Things,” published by Time Inc.

Granted, I’ve seen these types of books or articles in the past, but something about this one at this moment in time struck a particular chord. Of course, the vibrant colors and appealing design of the cover (as shown above) helped get my attention.

Today, every aspect of our lives is controlled or influenced by some sort of complicated device. Many of us now read our books or newspapers on a slate-type screen. We have 900 channels on our cable or satellite boxes, and access to thousands of movies and shows “on demand,” not to mention the hundreds of thousands via the Internet.

Our home security systems rival that of small town banking institutions. And our cars talk to us and react to our own voice commands. A refrigerator can now tell me when my milk is expired, and may soon be reporting me to the anti-bacteria police.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not anti-technology. But I am becoming increasingly pro-simple. Of course, some will argue that many of the technologies I cite above, and scores of others, provide conveniences that we could not have dreamed of 20 or 30 years ago. I guess that may be true, but at what cost to simplicity?

Some days, I long for the glow of a simple incandescent light or the simple latch of a screen door for a bit of added security. My friends love to tease me when I give them a ride in my 1997 base-model Jeep Cherokee, and they look around for the “window button“ to “roll down” the window. I happily point to the hand crank on the door and say, “you actually have to roll it down yourself.”

So on the eve of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, where some of the world’s top companies will be showing off their magical new gadgets that will surely serve to dazzle, I’m thinking about how I can make things more simple in 2011.

Your company may want to put simplicity on its list of things to do in 2011 as well. Are there internal processes that you can reexamine, and actually make simpler – and more cost effective? Are there services that you provide to customers that could be retooled or streamlined to lead to simpler, not more complicated outcomes? Are there products that could be simplified and made more user-friendly?

Or, are there products or services that you currently offer, or maybe shelved a while back, that could actually be put to other good and simple uses?

These are all fair questions that any of us should be asking ourselves this coming year.

I’m betting simple will sell in 2011.

What’s that I hear? It’s the sound of an old, reliable manual cash register going “cha-ching.”