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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 'productive'

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.

Creativity Gets Personal

Posted by on January 15, 2012 at 7:19 pm

In today’s New York Times, author Susan Cain has penned an op-ed called “The Rise of the New Groupthink.” In it, she highlights research that strongly suggests that despite all the corporate hype about the importance of groupthink and collaboration, “people are more creative when they enjoy privacy and freedom from interruption.”

In her upcoming book, QUIET: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, Cain builds on this assertion by citing numerous cases where introversion is responsible for creativity and innovation. For example, she points to well-known introvert and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who as she puts it, “toiled alone on a beloved invention, the personal computer.”

Cain does not totally dismiss teamwork. She notes its important place in the overall corporate process of exchanging ideas, managing information and building trust. Yet, she’s less sympathetic towards so-called “brainstorming sessions,” which she describes as “one of the worst possible ways to stimulate creativity.”

I agree with Cain on many levels. As I have written here in numerous blog postings over the last three years, creativity should be nurtured in the individual, and that each person’s trigger or button for creativity is different and should be highly valued.

For example, in my blog post, “Find Your Creative Place,” from April 26, 2009, I note the importance of finding that place and state of mind 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.”

And I called on businesses to provide for a culture that encourages employees to take advantage of their most creative places to do their work, of course, within the boundaries of practicality.

I’ve also written numerous times on this blog about the powers of teleworking, and allowing certain employees, where possible, to work from home or from some other location where they could be more creative and productive.

Like Cain, I agree that a focus on greater private time and individualization is not a call for employee isolation. There still can be plenty of opportunity during the work day or during the week for team members to assemble in face-to-face groups, teleconference and video conference.

In the end, corporations have the power to spur increased creativity within their ranks by focusing attention and programs not just on the extroverts, but also those introverts who may very well be the source of your company’s next best product or service.

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.

Gone Fishin’

Posted by on August 19, 2011 at 10:13 pm

August traditionally is vacation month for many parts of the world. In countries such as France, employees take off the entire month of August. Don’t bother trying to make reservations at a nice restaurant in Paris during August. Chances are it will likely be closed.

Americans are known for their lack of vacation compared to their foreign counterparts. Most American employees get only two weeks of paid vacation. Some take days here and there throughout the year, while others take the full two weeks at one time — many times taking advantage of Federal holidays such as the Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Every employer should treat an employee’s vacation time as sacred and fully appreciate its value. Employees need to know that their hard work 50 weeks out of the year entitles them to two weeks of true vacation time, i.e., offline, unplugged, and totally disengaged from work. Healthy time away from the office can contribute to greater productivity while in the office.

In fact, where employers are able to provide additional vacation time and/or so-called “flex time,” these small accommodations can in fact lead to even greater productivity. For example, providing Friday afternoons off once a month or during the summer months, allowing for four 10-hour days of work a week, or providing employees with the opportunity to work from home can all contribute to a healthier and more productive workplace.

Coupled with this flexibility is the need for an employer to establish clear expectations for work product and quality. Employees should know that the price for greater flexibility is meaningful work. If work product suffers as a result of a more flexible work schedule, then the flexibility should go away.

In short, employees should make sure they are taking full advantage of their vacation time and any flex time that is available. Meanwhile, employers should make sure they are providing ample vacation time and flexibility for their employees.

The results will be simple: happier and more productive employees, which will make for happier employers and shareholders.

Enjoy the month of August. Unplug if you can and fire up that “out of office” automatic reply on your email program. And, re-introduce yourself to your favorite pastime. I think I might go fishin’.

To the Moon and Back

Posted by on July 7, 2011 at 8:46 pm

On May 25, 1961 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.”

With these words, the United States marshaled an unprecedented level of innovative and scientific forces to accomplish this seemingly unreachable goal. In doing so, new generations of Americans became interested in science and space. Educators, students, and the American society at large embraced this ambitious goal with a level of enthusiasm not seen before or since this period in history.

And eight years later on July 21, 1969 astronaut Neil Armstrong became the first person to step foot on the Moon.

Undoubtedly, this country’s excitement and focus on science and space in the 1960s helped plant many of the seeds that led to America’s leadership in technology over the next several decades, including the microcomputer, software, and the Internet.

With this week’s 135th and last launch of the U.S. Space Shuttle, I find myself longing for a new, seemingly unreachable goal that can spark this country’s ingenuity and innovative spirit once more. Else, I fear that we will continue to slip further behind other countries like China and India, which are turning out four times as many math, engineering, and science graduates as the United States.

Let’s hope our country’s next Moon shot comes sooner rather than later.

Is Your Company as Good as Ever?

Posted by on May 29, 2011 at 6:51 pm

In Toby Keith’s 2005 hit country song, “As Good As I Once Was,” the punch line of the song goes, “I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.”

I can’t say that it’s a favorite song of mine, but the song surely resonates with my husband. Leave it to country music to always win the day in the lyrics category. And as lyrics go, “As Good As I Once Was” is as good as it gets.

The song spent six weeks at the top of Country music charts in 2005 and helped to make Keith one of the most popular singer-songwriters of the past decade.

“As Good As I Once Was” may also resonate with your company as suggested in this verse:

“I ain’t as good as I once was,
My, how the years have flown,
But there was a time back in my prime
When I could hold my own.”

Has your company seen better days? Were you once number one in your product category, or higher up the charts than you are now? Odds are that your employees may be less motivated today than they were a few years back when your workforce was probably younger and hungrier. But don’t worry, you’re not alone. I’ve probably just described over half of the Fortune 500.

Many companies today are looking over their shoulder to find younger and more ambitious competitors on their heels. Or worse yet, you may already be looking at their taillights.

There are ways to turn maturity and experience to your company’s advantage. Sure, your organization and employees may be less nimble than they were a decade ago, but you can draw upon the expertise that comes with age. The key will be to find ways to inspire and incent your workforce through creative compensation and reward programs.

A motivated workforce also starts with motivated managers. Make sure you are utilizing innovative executive and manager training programs to spur more inspired leaders.

In the end, you should not try to match your younger opponents step-by-step, but should seek to ensure that each step counts and is smarter and more efficient based on valuable experience and perspective.

That’s the type of company I would want to work for. Then again, I ain’t as good as I once was, but I’m as good once as I ever was.