Are we brave enough to think differently?

Over the last ten years, many experts have had their judgements and insights face scrutiny through wrong predictions.

Maybe the lesson of last decade is that it is very difficult to have complete insight into how the markets and business are vulnerable. In January, the Bank of England admitted that many of the economists got the 2008 crash completely wrong. They also forecast the fall out of Brexit wrongly. They are not alone. Many have got some of the key events of the last decade wrong.

Maybe the real lesson is that we need to be more open to different thinking and to encourage executives to be brave enough to think differently? However this is hard to achieve as there is a whole level that has become almost lazy in their thinking. Liam Fox was roundly criticised in late 2016 for saying many businesses had become lazy in the way they competed for business. It was a bold comment but there was some truth within it. Many companies are more internally focused than externally eyed. The customer has not always been king anymore and maybe the time is right to return to that basic rule that everyone used to know within Hospitality.

However, there is also a need to free up the thinking of the younger generations that are today breaking through and are looking at the world differently to how many of the established leaders of today understood business up to the 2008 crash.

Many will argue that this is a brave new world. In some ways it is but in many ways it is not. It is just the same as it ever has been. The difference is that:

  • Many businesses have moved away from the fundamentals that originally created success.
  • We need to free up new leaders to have a voice. It is an often discussed topic that there has been an absence of leaders breaking through which is seen as the younger generation’s fault. No, it is how that talent has been nurtured over the last twenty years.
  • Thinking has changed. The baby boomers grew up in an era when an entrepreneur was expected to be focused on wealth attainment. Today many are focused on their impact on society – there is a group of new socially driven entrepreneurs. How can the wealth driven entrepreneur really relate to the socially driven entrepreneur?
  • Many cultures have become lazy. There is an argument that the hotel industry that was so confident in itself and the dynamics of the market that it has been caught off guard twice in the last decade.

Firstly, the Airbnb model has posed a serious challenge to the mid-market. It was a model that caught many unaware but the consumer responded to the concept and the business has grown at speed. n Secondly, it is noted that online innovators have grabbed a massive 25% of the hotel industry, and it is predicted that this will rise to 45% in 5–7 years. Few forecast this growth.

In terms of the global industry, there are some key points to consider:

  • Many hospitality companies became lazy in the basics and at times took the consumer for granted. The consumer was open to change and responded when that change came.  
  • The last decade has been the era of the digital entrepreneur. Just as the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century changed working practices radically, we are seeing the same gain with a second revolution, although this time it is digitally led.
  • This is arguably one of the “inventive “eras since those days of the first Industrial revolution when everything seemed possible. However, one of the key differences to today is that most of the “creators” are under 35 years of age. They create new concepts online and see their audience as global.

So why not bring together groups of the young and harness their insight and ideas; to be prepared to learn from them.


What are the dangers?

It will be said that they will be “naive and inexperienced”. True as were many of today’s leaders when they were first trusted. We are not advocating that they take over from the board but simply that there is marriage created between the experienced and the young – and to encourage new ideas and thinking. No?

Then reflect on how much change or innovation has been created by established players? How much inspirational leadership has been shown by those from the large companies with the real strength to be able to create change?

The real breakthrough that have taken place – whether Airbnb or Facebook or Twitter – has been created by those brave enough to think differently. Most will agree that many cultures have become staid and ineffective but cannot see how to create change as it does take so long to happen. Within large companies this is true. It is often compared to an oil tanker changing direction but maybe the starting point is to encourage the talented young leaders to have a voice and to be encouraged to be brave. It makes a statement and places a marker in the ground.

This is not a new idea. The old catering giant, Gardner Merchant, had a policy of not sacking a manager unless unavoidable as they wanted their managers to be brave enough to take risk without fear. Many of the middle Operations Managers today were an average ten years younger than they are today. Many of today’s Chairmen first became board directors between the ages of 28–34. This is not a radical new idea. It is a return to what worked in the past.

Hospitality faces a bright and exciting future. The desire for great experiences is growing. Whatever the economic challenges that are faced, there is consumer demand for great experiences that get them to relax and have fun. There is also a consumer love affair with food. This is the time to embrace change and to ensure that there are a strong body of new leaders emerging to take the industry forward. However, their skills will be different and their perspectives.

The challenge lies in a delicate balance in how we create a marriage between leadership teams and young innovators plus coach middle managers to think differently and to explore new ideas.


So what is recommended?

  • Creation of Internal Think Tanks to explore new ideas and service offers n Training/coaching sessions that encourage lateral thinking and the exploration of the new
  • The freeing of potential leaders within cultures
  • An understanding that experts do not always know best anymore
  • A close eye on the consumer and their desires
  • A return to the old maxim “The Customer is King”