Innovating from the Inside Out

By Walid Salem, Vice President of IT, SilverBirch Hotels & Resorts | March 04, 2016

Innovation — improving a process, idea or product — is used for finding the best solutions to business challenges. Too often though, innovation is associated with flashy products and fanciful ideas instead of a mindset of directly responding to client needs or functionality that improves the quality and effectiveness of current products and services.  
Sadly, what we’re seeing are companies and creators innovating just to innovate. They are adding new features on existing technology investments when consumers haven’t demonstrated a need or asked for further developments. By ignoring consumer needs, innovation can become a negative force for a business — wasting valuable time and resources — instead of ushering it forward.

By focusing on continuous growth and improvement instead of just new product solutions, innovation can extend beyond IT teams and creators. This is particularly true for hotel management.  
As an industry, hotel management is in a challenging time, especially with the rise of platforms like Airbnb. Now more than ever, the industry needs to innovate by defining and redefining its products and services to compete with traditional hoteliers and the newly emerged micro-economy players.  

Innovating to create impact while serving needs
Just as highly agile and competitive companies actively listen to their consumers and clients when innovating new business models or products, we too can turn our focus to the people who know our industry best: our employees and guests. One way to address this and support innovation is by creating space to engage our employees and guests in open conversation and idea development.

While employee and customer feedback can be received through more traditional channels like email, suggestion boxes and social media, there is a variety of crowdsourcing platforms available that can be tapped to improve internal innovation projects.

Innovation Software Platforms or Idea Management Software such as IdeaScale (www.ideascale.com) and SPIGIT (www.spigit.com) provide an online space for collaborating and improving on products and experiences by engaging the people who know your company and client needs the best. By using Idea Management Software, you get access to actionable reporting and mobile-friendly voting systems that encourage users to share and engage with new ideas. This type of software also fosters collaboration and transparency by allowing multiple departments and individuals to get involved. Many companies, including Starbucks and GE, already use these platforms to solicit feedback from existing clients.

Social Enterprise Software like Yammer (www.yammer.com) or Chatter (www.salesforce.com) can also be an effective forum for soliciting employee feedback if this is something your company has already invested in. Take a closer look at your current software or ask your IT team about tools and features that may enhance collaboration and innovation. The main downside to using this technology, however, is losing the gamified approach and ideation methodology to innovation.

Innovation is the art of change, and for any change to be successful, you have to empower and engage the people who know your business best. These tools can help you do just that.



What was your first job?
Preparing and serving breakfast at the Hotel Intercontinental in Paris.
 
Who inspires you?
Dr. Agatha Sidlauskas for her commitment to education through the application of child psychology.
 
What are your hobbies?
I try new hobbies often. I like to learn new things. Lately, it’s been traditional archery.
 
What technologies excite you?
Anything connected and collecting vast amounts of data.
 
Sage Advice:
Look outside your industry to find best practices that can move your business forward.
 
What is one other job that you would like to try?
Aeronautical engineer. I’m learning about it through free online courses.
 
What is your favorite book/movie?
I love movies that tackle new ideas – The Matrix, Inception and Interstellar to name a few.
 
What is your favorite vacation spot?
My backyard. I have traveled throughout Asia, Middle East, North America, Europe and Africa.

 

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