Innovation by Mohamad Chakroun

Simply put, the Hospitality industry is about people and the effect we can have on their feelings – it is far from simply transactional.

A couple of years ago I made my journey into the Hospitality industry and have since been amazed by the number of challenges and opportunities the organizations in this industry face.  The word, “hospitality” implies friendly – helpful, generous, kind, entertainment, etc. I like to reiterate its meaning because it is an indication of its purpose for being.  However, not every organization in this industry engages with the meaning of hospitality as they tend to operate in a plain transactional form.  Simplyput, this industry is about people and the effect we can have on their feelings – it is far from simply transactional.

This is a huge challenge as organizations must deliver solutions that change alongside the change of people’s emotions and preferences- a change that is as certain as it can be abrupt.

For organizations to grow and prosper they must ensure they stay relevant to how people feel.  In order to stay relevant, an organization must continuously evaluate itself.  This is where continuous value innovation is a necessity.

Considering the importance of innovation and what it means to the success of businesses, it becomes imperative for business owners to foster a culture of innovation and to adopt initiatives and practices that promote innovation in the workplace. For organizations to prosper and grow “Business as Usual” is not an option. They need to be creative, risk takers, introspective, learners, value-driven, and most importantly customer-centric. Organizations must dig deep within their own people and try to reach out to each one of their employees to have them share their thoughts and ideas. The ideas can be about improving a product or a process or creating something entirely new.  Their ideas can also be relevant to improving their work environment and the way they conduct business internally (informal process).  The key is to think about a problem they believe has not been solved yet, or has not been solved well.

The good news is that everyone can be an innovator – innovation is a mindset that can be acquired by continuous learning. Clayton Christenson, a renowned professor at Harvard and the author of the book “Disruptive Innovation” believes that there are 5 learnable behavioural skills needed in order to excel at innovation:

  • Associating (Associative Thinking): This is the ability to connect seemingly unrelated questions, problems, or ideas from different areas. The more diverse a person or organization (entity) is, the more likely the entity will be exposed to problems or issues that are unrelated sparking new ideas and opportunities. Try to observe yourself at home and how you solve home damages/breakages that are not in your field on your own using unconventional tools and methods. This is innovation.
  • Questioning: This skill challenges the status Quo or simply helps us find missing pieces or better yet creating doubt in the way we do things which will lead to thinking in new boxes.
  • Observing: This skill helps us gain insights for creative ways of doing things by observing customers, markets, technologies, trends, behaviours, preferences, work flows, tasks, processes, etc.
  • NetworkingThis skill is about sharing and testing of ideas through a diverse network. Talking to people with diverse background (different business domain, different culture, different specialization, etc.) will lead us to learn and acquire new perspectives.  Companies that go global, they don’t go global just to sell the products they already have – they go with the aim to discover additional market opportunities, as well as, learning new ways of doing business.
  • ExperimentingThis skill is what confirms the ideas generated through the above 4 skills.  We need to be iterative in nature, building our products in small increments and confirming our hypothesis by testing the increments with those who will use our products.

Our industry is about people and businesses  – the least we can do is try to understand their needs.  The needs for kindness, generosity, love, entertainment, joy, and fun will never go away.  Businesses that understand these needs and continue to innovate, while focusing on the human elements of this business will be the ones to prevail.