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  • Writer's pictureNanci Sherman

If You Read One Article About Why Innkeepers Need to Innovate, Read this One

Do you want to be in the top 1% of what you do?

Leverage the creativity that surrounds you. Innovation is the business strategy that sets you apart from your competitors.

Do your SOPs remain the same year after year? If so, you are at a standstill — or worse, a backward slide.

If every hotelier is thinking alike, and most follow suit, no one is really thinking. Human brains easily default to predictable ruts when considering possibilities. Tasks unquestioned obscure invention.

Benchmarking is a sign of corporate laziness. For example, Delta Airlines announced they will offer free wi-fi on their flights for their Skymiles customers. Guess what United and American are going to do next?

If “orange is the new black,” think of complimentary wi-fi as the new air. Unless you are a monk, it is a necessity of life. The controller’s delight over the ancillary wi-fi profit line each month is fool’s gold. Contrast that $15 trickle to the ever more profitable lost room nights from potential guests that refuse to be nickel-and-dimed over what the deli across the street offers for free. The delta in lost profit is astronomical.

Uncapping creativity is the key to greater market share, an engaged workforce, and social media kingmaking. Typically, managers and leaders relegate “creativity” to outside agencies and marketing people. They have predictable thought patterns as well and will feed you the same ideas they feed everyone else.

Authentic thinking (as opposed to mimicking “best practices”) requires a disciplined focus. Consider cultivating creativity as a company practice in which ideas flow to improve every metric. Start an Idea Factory and staff it with people at every level of the organization.

How to Create the Idea Factory

· Bring together a roundtable of seven to nine staff members from every level in the organization to hold the vision of a breakdown-free customer-centric culture.

· Authority and intimidation go hand in hand. Create an environment in which you acknowledge every idea as valuable.

· Set a ground rule that each participant generates a minimum number of ideas in every session. That ensures people won’t “edit” themselves from presenting groundbreaking ideas that sound “dumb” or impossible. (Personal music systems—aka the Walkman— sounded like a dumb idea to the Sony Board of Directors when the president presented the idea).

· Begin each meeting with breakdowns that happened since the last meeting and turn each breakdown into a breakthrough. Every problem is ground zero for an imaginative solution. Revise SOPs accordingly to reflect the process.

· Don’t stop the process unless the ideas check off the boxes of extraordinary, distinctive, and original.

· Prioritize each idea based on merit and profitability before considering cost or execution.

· Invite ideas from your entire population.

· If you send out a brief after every Idea Factory meeting to every associate, you are sure to build a culture of innovation, inclusion, and invested stakeholders.

Creativity is the antithesis of “ It’s good enough.”

Being recognized as a creative leader communicates you are unsatisfied with the status quo.

Leaders who maintain the status quo will find themselves in a congested market with price cuts as the only way out.

Jumpstart the first Idea Factory session with these three questions:

· What might “extreme hospitality”™ look like?

· What will make us a customer magnet?

· What will we do differently so that the best talent wants to work with us?

Then trust the people you hire to fill your coffers through an enthusiastic and entrepreneurial spirit.

Dare to be exceptional.

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