From the Ozark Mountains to the streets of the Big Apple to Music City USA, the quest for creativity becomes more evident with each passing day. Jim Clifton, CEO of the Gallup Organization, which provides management consulting for 300+ companies says, “To stay competitive, we have to have to lead the world in per-person creativity.” Tom Peters, noted author and professional speaker, addresses the issue of creativity in one of his many best sellers, The Circle of Innovation. He reveals that “the only sustainable competitive advantage comes from out-innovating the competition!”
If this is true, and it’s becoming more apparent every day that it is, why don’t we see more examples of organizations that encourage creativity among their staff members? Why don’t we see more tools, training, and strategies designed to capture the creative juices of employees at every level? While these circumstances are rare indeed, many companies do, in fact, all of the above.
I found this to be true at the Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri, and they reap the benefits daily. Walk the streets in and around Times Square in New York City, and you quickly lose count of the many examples of individual and organizational creativity—from enterprising street vendors to ingenious corporate giants. Again, benefits abound.
During a recent week-long stay in Nashville, our client was good enough to book me at the plush Loews Vanderbilt Hotel. While this exquisite location offers all of the costly perks one would expect from the finest luxury hotel in the Music City, I’ll spare you those obvious details.
However, let me share some very unique offerings which I’m quite sure you won’t find elsewhere. The common thread lies in the fact that a very creative staff was responsible for developing this very distinctive identity … one that is discussed often by those who have been fortunate enough to enjoy it.
As you arrive at the hotel, you’re greeted by a couple of very large, distinct statues. Two obviously proud and ferocious lions guard the entrance. It’s also obvious that they are big fans of Vanderbilt University, located directly across the street, as the statues are proudly draped in colorful football jerseys.
The roof structure above the valet parking area reflects the team colors of various Tennessee sports teams. As you enter the lobby, colorful “welcome” signs are flashed on the floor and walls from spotlights strategically placed among the ceiling art. In the lobby you’ll discover beautifully trimmed grass around the base of trees—all real, fresh, and well manicured.
Before locating the front desk, I found myself standing face-to-face with a very beautiful, colorful and obviously authentic 50s jukebox. A quick glance revealed that it was loaded with all the big hits from every genre (rock/blues/country/oldies). A neatly printed sign invites you to choose your favorite songs, and moments later the entire lobby is filled with music—at no charge whatsoever. That’s unique.
In the spirit of “Music City,” they post attractive plaques in the rarest places and soon have you seeking them out. They use the title or the first few lines of a popular song to represent the area surrounding the sign. The first I discovered in one of the elevators, and it read, “I feel the earth move under my feet — Carole King.” Another elevator plaque read “Love In An Elevator” — Arrowsmith.” They provide free lemonade every afternoon from a large decorative cart in the lobby. The plaque on the roof of the cart reads: “Lemon Tree Oh So Pretty and the Lemon Flower is Sweet — The Kingston Trio.” Nearby they have an old-fashioned shoe-shine stand and a plaque that reads: “Put Yourself In My Shoes — Clint Black.” The sign above the jukebox reads: “TUNES — A long, long time ago, I can still remember how that music used to make me smile! — Don McLean.” Those checking out will find a plaque near the exit doors that reads: “When Will We See You Again? — The Three Degrees.” As you leave the parking lot heading into the street, you pass a large sign that reads: “Slow Down, You Move Too Fast — Simon & Garfunkel.”
They call their restaurant “EAT,” and the name of their lounge is “DRINK.” Pretty straight forward. This has to bring a smile to your face and is a welcome change from the dull names most hotels use.
They name their meeting rooms uniquely as well: “Lyric,” “Melody,” “Symphony I, II, & III,” “The Gold Room,” and “The Platinum Room.” It’s quite obvious you’re in Music City, USA!
In chatting with the night manager, I learned that the staff was encouraged to create and execute all innovations which enhance the stay of their guests. The majority of those examples I’ve shared are a result of the unique culture this leadership team has provided for their people.
I’m certain some of these things may be insignificant to most, but they impressed me a great deal as a guest. I’m very much used to being treated as “just another customer” in the hundreds of hotels I visit each year. The Loews Vanderbilt “team” made me feel very much at home, valued, and even brought a smile to me face. They accomplished this with very little cost, a great deal of enthusiasm and involvement, and a joy in the air you could cut with a knife! Can you say the same about your current staff and work environment?
Benchmark, read and train. YOU can do the same!