THINKing About Innovation With Fast Company

By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

Hotel company executives responsible for marketing, revenue, sales, and digital know how important innovation is to success — and the value of engaging with executive peers from other industry sectors. Indeed, staying on top of innovation was one of the priority issues that HSMAI Organizational Members identified at our first-ever Curate event earlier this year.

Our most recent Executive THINK (Travel & Hospitality Innovation, Networking & Knowledge) program was designed with that in mind. We hosted a small, exclusive group of HSMAI Organizational Member representatives at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City on Oct. 23–24 — participating in a conference of 10,000 people with more than 150 “fast track” and general sessions a day held in venues all over Manhattan. The event itself was an illustration of innovation and creativity at its best, but here are four additional highlights:

1. Modern elders: HSMAI attendees were able to pick and chose from a variety of programs throughout the festival, but we started our adventure in a session led by Chip Conley, the former hotelier and Airbnb executive. Chip discussed the new term he’s coined — “the modern elder,” an interesting premise for anyone over age 45 trying to define the value and wisdom they can contribute to a company that is trying to innovate, not to mention the role they can play as a mentor. Read our Innovation Book Club interview with Chip in last month’s issue of Executive Insights here, and watch Chip’s recent Ted Talk on the modern elder here.

2. The passenger economy: Another session that our group found fascinating addressed the new “passenger economy.” Many of us had not heard about the full implications of self-driving cars; we learned about the projections for the amount and value of time that will be freed up for consumers when their cars doe the driving for them. What will they do on their daily commute? We will still need parking lots? Will your car serve as an Uber or Lyft vehicle while you are working? Will shared or fractional ownership become commonplace? Will insurance companies require significantly different levels of maintenance because of the risks associated with self-driving vehicles? Certainly, there could be long-term implications for the hotel industry, but this session gave me confidence that there are a lot of people out there doing research to anticipate the disruption that will be caused by the passenger economy.

3. A diverse assortment of sessions, including:

  • “What Are the Ethical Boundaries for Artificial Intelligence?” — which considered whether companies of the future will need a chief ethics officer.
  • “When Big Brands Go Startup” — which included case studies on how Ford Motor Company and CNN News have incubated new startups by creating a culture of innovation. Speakers at this session were adamant that every company needs to innovate, or eventually die.
  • “The Business of Happiness” — which introduced us to the fact that there actually is a business of happiness, and you can buy it. There are apps that will personalize and send you or your team members motivational messages at whatever frequency you desire.

4. Pharrell Williams: One of the highlights of the festival was a general session with musician and producer Pharrell Williams and one of his mentors and business associates, Chris Meledandri, founder and CEO of Illumination film and animation studio. Illumination has produced successful movie franchises such as Despicable Me, Minions, and Ice Age, among others. Williams and Meledandri’s most recent collaboration is the animated film Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch, which Williams narrates. Their partnership is a great model of innovation and creativity, and I can’t wait to see the movie.

If you’re looking to get out of your work or hotel industry bubble, plan on joining us at one of our next Executive THINK programs. We will produce at least two in 2019 — at CES in Las Vegas on Jan. 7–9 (registration is now open), and again at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City next October. Both programs are guaranteed to offer meaningful consumer perspectives from outside our industry, expand your thinking about how business is and can be done, and demonstrate the power of innovation and creativity.

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles