Hotel Online  Special Report


Innovation - How to Rekindle the Spirit of Hospitality
By John R. Hendrie and Susan Swanson
September, 2006

Our recurrent lament says it all – no time, no energy, no resources, no interest.  We might as well turn off the lights, lock the doors and head to the hills.  For many the spirit has been dashed.  Every once in a while, usually prompted by some song or quick memory flash, we think back to our early years in the trade, full of vigor, excitement, plans for the future, bustling with ideas, applying concepts, hungry for knowledge, seeking wisdom and guidance – don’t hold me back, I am alive and full of vinegar with fire in the belly.  Then, the realities set in – the politics, the money managers, the daily swamp of alligators, the slow pace of change, lack of decisive leadership – our professional ethos was challenged, and we became morose, chained to our desks, managed by e-mail, the numbers, afloat, confused and lonely in the swirling landscape of Hospitality.

Returning to yesteryear does not make sense, but, just “Imagine”, as the poet and dreamer, John Lennon, would croon, how we can recapture that wonderful spirit, imagination and energy we and our colleagues once had, now buried, and enthusiastically apply that to our current business.  What a coup, what triumph.   And, it is possible!  If you do not “think outside the box”, you simply will be crated and carted away, bound for oblivion. 

When was the last time you had a creative thought?  Honestly.  Then, what did you do about it?  Honestly.  One of the most challenging words in English grammar is “Why”?  And, change always begins with that word.  We know the enemies – normal human resistance and inertia.  But, if you do not manage change and align your product, service and business processes with the market and customer needs, you simply will not do things better, differently or more effectively.  “UPS – I have a “Box” to send to Ennui, just north of Nowheresville.” 

In this world of marketing and Branding, instant messaging and gratification, innovation is a leadership requisite, and those who practice problem solving techniques for those creative breakthroughs are the market leaders, as well.  It is really a “mind Branding” exercise, where you mobilize yours’ and others’ creative energies by transforming personal images and metaphors into new ideas, actually presenting Best Practices for the Future.  This is particularly compelling with the understanding that the Customer Experience is the key.  Just look at WESTIN’s Heavenly Bed or Starbuck’s store ambiance or the Morgans Hotel Group’s grasp of their niche market or even the poorly managed but wildly evocative Krispy Kreme. Throw in a Harley and a Lexus, too; remove the GM’s and Fords. Successful imaging did not come from a vacuum.  It was the creative process at work, and we all have that spark.

The Creative Process is not new, however, the emphasis is throughout all industries and organizations around the world.  The Boston Globe this past Monday featured an Executive Education Program at one of the many excellent area colleges, where the US Navy is sending its Admirals to become more entrepreneurial, embrace change and learn influencing skills, as they grapple with the same issues which confront any senior level manager – resources, technology, changing and moving strategies.  The military culture represents an extremely difficult evolution, yet it starts with leaders prepared and skilled to change culture, instill innovation, and identify better processes and systems.  Here is the military, at best unwieldy.  How about you? 

Returning to the “why”, there is a “how”, the process to tap that energy and brilliance within everyone, no matter their sphere of influence, discipline or type of business.  The process usually has four distinct phases:

The first stage of the creative process is PREPARATION.  It is necessary to gather information, research the problem at hand.  The process usually commences with an issue to address and solve.  It may address productivity, service, improving Customer Satisfaction, and the like, usually problem specific. We become aware of what information we are missing and seek answers, until we are almost saturated.

The second phase is INCUBATON.  Here we turn away from the problem and continue on with our normal business and let our thoughts and information interact (clash, bang, ricochet) on an unconscious level, like a Pin Ball machine. We percolate with the mix and the potential! We begin to access and leverage the creativity impulse, that elusive cache for innovation.

ILLUMINATION is the third phase which brings insight.  At this point the “ah ha” response is experienced.  The hard work of fermenting information results in surfacing an important idea or prospect for a solution.  

Then we move to the fourth stage, VERIFICATION.  This is where you can verify that the information you gathered and the creative problem solving process resulted in a very concrete and logical resolution.

During the creative process we may go from one stage to the next repeatedly, until we have sufficient information and insight to be satisfied with our outcome. Thomas A. Edison knew one thing during his creative process; he had identified thousands of ways that the light bulb was not going to be invented.

The creative process takes courage and fortitude.  It requires patience and the willingness to risk being wrong.  It is bypassing skepticism and embracing a commitment to excellence.  Our Guests/Customers are more wary than ever, and their demands and expectations are very high.  Our staff becomes more diverse and divergent.  It cannot be “business as usual”.  You will disappear, be shipped out.

Shearson Lehman of American Express was quoted as saying “Commitment is what transforms a promise into reality.   It is the works that speak boldly of your intentions, and the actions which speak louder than words.”

Commitment is a character trait of leadership, demonstrating the power to change the face of things.  It is the daily triumph of integrity over skepticism.  Creativity will change your present and certainly position you for the future.  Innovation moves us all forward.  Do more than peek outside your “box”; be audacious.  The potential is awesome!

About the authors:

John Hendrie, principal of Hospitality Performance, believes that Remarkable Hospitality is the portal to the Memorable Experience. Find solutions at:

Susan Swanson, founder of “Create”, is dedicated to empowering through innovation. Review her portfolio:


John R Hendrie

 John R. Hendrie
 Hospitality Performance
Susan Swanson 
“Create” Consulting

Also See: Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association Finalizes Branding and Marketing Initiative; Get in on it / May 2006
Greater Minneapolis Convention & Visitors Association Launches New Brand Positioning & Name / July 2006


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