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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When Less Than Perfect is Just Right

Posted by on July 13, 2010 at 8:58 pm

I’m in the process of building a house in McLean, Virginia, and have spent countless hours in the past six months trying to find a good stucco and plaster subcontractor.

We have a very capable architect and equally capable builder, but our struggle has been to find a stucco applicator who uses old-style lime-based stucco and technique similar to that used for centuries in areas like New Orleans, Savannah, Middleburg (Virginia), and throughout much of Europe. Ironically, I would’ve had no trouble rounding up such a subcontractor if I were building my house 75 years ago.

Today, the home building market puts a premium on cost, ease and quickness of application, and a seemingly perfect finish. Guaranteed not to crack for 10 years! But what will it look like in 15 years, in 25 years? Would it simply need a touch up, or a tear down?

Unfortunately, architects and home builders are merely responding to what customers are asking for — or frankly, not asking for.

So maybe I’m the odd woman out on this, but I prefer a look and finish that appears hand-crafted, not perfect. I long for a time when subcontractors were referred to as artisans, not applicators. Sure you will pay more initially, but the immeasurable pleasure derived from hand-applied fit and finish is worth it for the decades I plan on enjoying it.

Some of the finest Persian rug weavers in the world intentionally included a small imperfection in their handmade carpets. It’s as if to say, “yes, I am handmade, one-of-a-kind, and I wasn’t made on a factory assembly line.”

Call me old-fashion, but I think we could all learn something from the old Persian rug weaver’s mentality, whether it’s a house we build or a company we build.

Treat your employees as one-of-a-kind. Treat them as artisans. Cultivate their creativity and incent them to try new approaches. Celebrate their successes, and dwell less on their failures. Otherwise you serve to discourage the needed risk-taking that could make your company great.

In short, spend less time worrying about making it perfect, and more time on making it right and in a way that will last a lifetime.