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  • Writer's pictureNanci Sherman

Why Hoteliers Don’t Innovate How They Can and Why They Should

If everyone is thinking the same thing, no one is thinking. It’s another case of the “benchmark flu.”

While it seems strange at first, some leaders prefer to stick with mediocre results rather than innovate ahead of their competitors. I don’t really blame them. If you don’t know HOW to innovate, or where to begin, the task appears daunting. It’s easier to keep doing the same old same old and place the blame of stagnant revPAR on the convention bureau, the pandemic, your location, and a challenging hiring environment. Once you decide these are your obstacles to being #1 in your competitive set, you hand over your destiny to outside forces because, “Well, what can we do under these circumstances?’

The reason that doesn’t hold water is that if there are five hotels in your comp set, and everyone has between 50-75% occupancy, you could still have 100%. To be outstanding, you would have to stand out in some innovative way.

The Problem

For too long, we accept the academic and organizational status quo as our only functional choice for our industry, so we don’t invite a fresh perspective.

There is a special word for people who exist mostly outside of institutions. We refer to them as entrepreneurs. But we do have them in our midst. Entrepreneurs are like gold. If we don’t dig for it, it remains undiscovered.

Why Managers Have to Change

No one likes to be micromanaged. Always telling people what to do and never asking for their ideas destroys motivation. A cog-in-a-wheel mentality is a destructive attribute. Turnover and morale suffer.

If you spend more time putting out fires than innovating, that should stop you in your tracks, Smokey! Something is smoldering in the organization's fabric. We all seek to hire the best, but then we lull them to sleep because we don’t tap into the maximum brainpower in our midst. People without the words manager or director in their title have something to contribute and would love to be recognized as the sentient being they are rather than a drone with no little hope of making a contribution and moving ahead.


We hire them to oversee and fix the mistakes of the people they manage. Why do we create positions to watch over people we don’t trust? What if we paid housekeepers a wage that rewards them financially for doing the job we hired them to do correctly in the first place? We wouldn’t have to hire people to check on them. As a result, the playing field for housekeepers changes. You will have the hiring and retention advantage—and the cleanest rooms.


These are people with brains, hearts, and aspirations. Without meaning to, we treat them as if they are void of imagination, great ideas, and good people willing to help us achieve organizational goals. Involve them in the development of processes. Ask them for their ideas.


· Create a monthly groupthink or experience team. Hold meetings where everyone understands the breakdowns and is part of the breakthrough solutions. Do this departmentally and as a whole.

· Award innovation. Often, departments name an employee of the month, which is rote, exclusionary to your other excellent stars, and rotates between departments. It’s dull and everyone knows it. Reward what drives results.

· Trade in silo mentality for a customer-centric mindset. Departments are internal structures for specialized knowledge, staffing, and payroll. The guest doesn’t care which department they should call to get their issues handled. Your guest should be able to stop a housekeeper in the hall to ask about a great breakfast place, and they should not refer her to another “department” but immediately get the request handled.

Barry Sternlicht really got this when he created the Whatever, Whenever department at W Hotels to handle every guest’s need. Truth be told, I ran the first W NY. Sometimes it was Whatever, If ever, but it was still remarkably innovative.

· Cultivate innovation, inclusion, and diversity by including everyone in the process of excellence. You will see remarkable results in becoming a customer and employee magnet.

I think of the word Genius to mean this: The Genie in Us. Everyone wants to be seen, to be heard, and to matter.

Tap into them to turn on the innovation for an ovation at your inn.

"There’s no going back, there’s no standing still. If you don’t innovate somebody else will." —Musings of the Hotel Oracle

Entrepreneurily yours.

Do you want to be #1 in your market? "Dare to Be Exceptional: How to Maximize Marketshare at your Hotel" will give you the fresh perspective you need and the metrics you desire.

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