May 7, 2018 by Rachel Bradshaw

LMG StudioSeveral years ago, LMG moved the mailboxes in their Orlando corporate headquarters. It was a small change, but people were thrown. Why move the mailboxes? What was wrong with where they had always been?

“Moving something that we used every day was really about breaking our routine.  It was a non-verbal signal to our company that things were changing,” LMG’s COO David John told me.

I came to LMG to check out their Studio, a 100’ x 50’ space that’s part client experience center, part engineering lab. Touring clients ranging from Ariana Grande to David Blaine use this space to prototype, test, tweak, and rehearse with the sets they’ll later take on the road.  One band’s crew actually built their entire set in one half of the Studio, tore it down, packed it up and rebuilt it on the other half just too see exactly what it would be like during the tour. The studio is soundproofed and equipped with offices, a kitchen, and even showers: talent putting the final touches on a world tour can basically live there while the prepare and rehearse.

LMG’s three divisions cover touring, corporate events and systems integration, and all of them find uses for the Studio space. When world-famous performers aren’t using the Studio, LMG’s engineers are, figuring out how they can apply innovations developed for their clients in other applications. The only activity LMG forbids in the Studio is storage: this is a live space, the room where it happens.

LMG Studio EmptyThat means that when the Studio isn’t currently in use, it’s a black box. You might call it empty, but I prefer to think of it as waiting. LMG has carved out a huge chunk of space for their clients and their staff to experiment and play – not just in their warehouse, but in their project timelines and company culture. I came to LMG expecting to be excited by the Studio and what it means for how AV service providers can collaborate with their clients. What surprised me was the rest of LMG’s campus, and what it means for how LMG’s staff can collaborate with each other.

As Rich Tate, Director of Show Services for LMG showed me around, he expressed a simple philosophy for what face to face events need to accomplish: “Feel…and do.” When people come to a live event, the production needs to not only evoke the desired emotion, but drive the desired call to action. The concert-goer needs to feel a connection to the artist and buy the new album. The attendees of the sales meeting need to be excited about the future of the company and adopt the new client management processes.

Feel and do. It’s a philosophy LMG has brought home to their Orlando office. They want their employees to feel creative and to act collaboratively. Which brings me back to the mailboxes.

The mailbox move was just a preview of the changes to come in the future. COO Dave John recently spearheaded a top-to-bottom redesign of LMG’s Orlando office. As Dave described, “Environment matters and we often don’t realize how accustomed we become to just going through the motions in our spaces. We all need a reason to stop and look up at what we are doing and who is around us. Our environment is one of the strongest ways to stimulate this awareness.”

This redesign had to serve a lot of masters. LMG wanted to:

  • Give visiting clients the sense that LMG would provide not just audiovisual services, but imagination and a creative partnership.
  • Eliminate the physical (and resulting psychological) barriers between team members.
  • Foster a sense of connectivity among employees, to each other and the company.
  • Honor employees’ expertise, creative contributions, and unique roles.

Plus, they wanted it to look, like, really good.

LMG OfficesLMG could have hired an outside firm to handle this redesign, but that would have been faking it. Instead, beginning with marketing and technical engineering and working their way through the entire building, LMG engaged each department in the redesign of their own space. There were some common design requirements, like that natural light be allowed to pass through the space unobstructed, and some common materials, like reclaimed wood and corrugated metal. Each team also had access to the excess materials from the redesign itself, meaning that you can now spot office walls built from former doors and unused acoustic panels, and lighting fixtures made from slide projector carousels (a personal favorite).

The result is a sun-drenched village of visually cohesive yet distinct spaces, featuring:

  • A 24-hour logistics and operations center that looks like a cross between a Brooklyn coffee bar and the Bat Cave, complete with graffiti mural and superhero capes (a gift from a grateful employee).
  • A wall of sound booths for account services pros to take client calls when they need a cone of silence.
  • An IT department whose desks appears to be constructed of remnants from Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road.
  • A technical design department that hangs suspended above LMG’s massive equipment warehouse, and where, when I stopped by, the engineers were happily shouting at each other about the best way to create a custom lighting fixture.

Huddle spaces are tucked everywhere. You get the sense that, at any moment, the staff might burst into spontaneous session of collaborative problem-solving, and the whole office is standing ready.

LMG CoilThe space gives most eloquent expression to LMG’s vision for its employees is its CoiL (Continuous Improvement in Learning) space.

This space celebrates AV and uses it to support learning, but technology is not the focus of the space. Nor is the presenter, though they literally stand in the center of the room. The emphasis is firmly on the relationship of the participants to each other. With six screens positioned around the central “Genius Bar,” everyone has great sightlines to any displayed content, but due to the height of the screens and the viewer distance, the natural resting position of their eyes is on the face of the person seated across the circle. The push to talk mics around the table say to each student “it’s your responsibility to teach as well.” The circular design implies tha same rejection of hierarchy it did when King Arthur used it. And in case you think I’m reading a bit much into the space and technology, there’s some content permenantly emblazoned on the wall that supports my interpretation:

“Lead.

Teach.

Learn”

There’s a reason this isn’t “Learn, Teach, Lead.” The word order was selected to belie the idea that these are different phases of a career. Everyone has the potential to do all three, regardless of whether they’ve been in the idustry for twenty years or twenty minutes.

LMG’s headquarters is proof that space and technology can communicate as clearly as content.  Every corner of the space telegraphs tremendous respect for the expertise and creative potential of their staff. AV is visible everywhere as tool for colloboration and a support for human connection.

LMG is still moving the mailboxes, figuratively speaking. Change – or perhaps evolution – has become a part of their culture. By giving their staff agency in that change, and using it to honor their creativity and build cohesion, LMG has given that change grass roots – and that’s the kind of change that grows.

About Rachel Bradshaw

Rachel Bradshaw, M.Ed., is the Director of Program Design for AVIXA. Her mission is to advance the audiovisual industry by providing strategic thought leadership, tactical discussions and technical instruction at the InfoComm Show.