I believe it was at the Ben Franklin Tech Partners I Xchange three years ago when I saw just about the coolest-ever centerpiece.
The staffers were so proud of it that Laura Eppler, director of marketing, specifically pointed it out to me.
It was a vase of flowers, adorned with real light bulbs staked into the arrangement like flowers.
With a theme of generating “ideas,” having a light bulb flower arrangement was quite clever. I liked it.
I only had one question. Did they light up?
The women who were organizing the decorations seemed a bit crestfallen at my question. No, they did not light up. They wanted to use lighted bulbs, but with the water and the cords, they could not quite figure out how to do it logistically.
I will not lie. For the next couple of years at the I Xchange, one of the first things I looked for was the centerpieces. No luck.
But this year I was pleasantly surprised. As I was snacking on chicken and asparagus risotto, I caught a flash of light out of the corner of my eye.
Evelyn Leon, the administrative assistant to Tech Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania CEO Chad Paul, had just popped a working light bulb in a flower-like stem that was surrounded by a vase of baby’s breath.
“You did it!” I shouted as I ran over to congratulate them on perfecting the bulb bouquet.
The women surrounding Leon beamed with pride as I told them about how much I had teased Eppler a few years back about the unlit bulbs.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who thought lit bulbs would make it better.
As Leon popped the little LED lights into the arrangement one by one, the staffers took turns telling me how they had been trying to work out the lighted arrangements for a couple of years. A florist had tried and failed, and a student’s plan to make it work never materialized.
But the staff was determined. And if you work for an office that specializes in fostering technological innovation through mentoring, teamwork and support – you are going to darn well make it happen.
Staffers said Leon made several trips to the craft store and experimented with several techniques before she got the bouquet lights perfected. While many others helped, ultimately it was her refusal to give up that made the lighted centerpiece happen.
Improved technology certainly helped. The advancement in Light Emitting Diode technology certainly made the logistics easier. But it was the determination to not give up on solving a complex problem that made the centerpieces such a perfect analogy for the event itself – held Tuesday night at Lehigh University’s Zollner Arts Center.
While celebrating the technological achievements the partners have had over the years, keynote speaker Jeff Hoffman, co-founder of Priceline.com, reminded participants that innovation is an ongoing process.
Technology is always changing, he said. What may have been working for 20 years might not be the best solution. But, he said, what may not have worked two years ago – now might be possible.
The ongoing trial and error is all a part of what makes an organization such as the Ben Franklin Technology Partners such a valuable resource in our community.
It provides the money and support to help inventors and innovators take what wasn’t possible yesterday and make it possible tomorrow.
Chad Paul quoted Thomas Edison, the inventor of the light bulb, by saying that the man saw no failures; he only “learned another way to not make a light bulb.”
Well, maybe he should have consulted Leon.