If your VCR's time setting blinks 12:00 a.m. all hours of the day and night, and any attempt to change it results in cassette tapes spewing forth from a disgrunted machine, chances are you're living outside the techno-bubble.
Whenever I get a chance to talk with my peers about the opportunities facing the hospitality industry, one topic always pops up: we all seem to share equal heartburn over how to process and effectively use the massive wave of technology that is washing over our industry. I suspect I'm the last guy who has all the answers to this pressing issue, since I find replacing batteries in flashlights somewhat challenging. I can, however, encourage you to think about the ramifications that come with the unprecedented time in which we live.
Case in point: When did we stop using words to describe things? When I hear the acronyms GDS, IT, POS, DSL, IP, LAN, WAN, VSAT, MP3, LCD, Wi-Fi and PDA, I wonder if we are rapidly approaching a point in time where the entire English language will be reduced to short sentences made up of random letters. I imagine there are conversations right now that sound like, "My PDA's LCD died so the POS data download failed--IT informed me I'm SOL."
The point is, we're moving at an amazingly rapid pace these days, and the tools we are using to perform various tasks both in our personal and professional lives are geared to keeping us connected. These devices are designed to condense activity and save time. The trouble is they also have the capacity to overload our senses. The end result: living in a techno-bubble on "24-hour alert."
My partner, for example, gets up at 3:00 a.m. on the day we're taking a flight to print his boarding pass. He wants to make sure he gets in Southwest's first boarding group even if it means losing four hours of sleep to do so. Okay, I'm also guilty of dropping by my computer before turning in for bed and checking e-mail. I wonder how many others think that if we do not check e-mail every ten seconds we are going to miss something really important, like the spam regularly I get from a guy in Nigeria who promises me if I just wire him $500,000 he will turn over a Swiss bank account number that has a trillion dollars stashed in it.
I'm a huge advocate of new technology coming into the marketplace that allows us to do our jobs with greater efficiency, but I am a little worried about the influence it is having on the next generation moving into our work force.
A good number of young people today are living in the techno bubble--a particularly dangerous concept for those of us in the hospitality industry who still believe hi-touch is more important than hi-tech. If not handled properly, I see our industry moving away from its long standing emphasis on customer service to an emphasis on uber-technology at the expense of human interaction.
I believe it's all of our duty to make sure these fine young people who are moving swiftly up the ranks get an ample dose of how technology is a means, but not necessarily always an end, to how to perform their jobs. It's good to take a day every now and then to go unplugged. At least it will stop your VCR from blinking at you.
Russell Dazzio is Chairman & CEO of R&R Global Hospitality. He is an adjunct professor at UNLV's Harrah Hotel College, where he is actively involved in creating INNovation Village, "a campus within a campus that showcases a hospitality village of tomorrow." For more on INNovation Village go to www.unlvhoteldevelopment.com.