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Leading Innovation and Change Through Tech-Driven Times

Innovative & Lead graphic

April 27, 2016

By: Adam Edelman 

In a world where anyone can summon a private driver to show up to their door in minutes or have an online order of groceries delivered within hours, things begin to seem easy.

But, while technology has brought a new dimension of convenience to consumers, the hospitality industry in particular is challenged to adapt accordingly. A leader in this environment must have a clear vision for his or her team, while constantly surveying the technology landscape and considering how new innovations might help or hurt their company culture, customer experience, and overarching brand.

Innovation and Change Go Hand in Hand

The terms, “innovation” and “change” are constant buzzwords in business, especially when technology is involved. To give these words true meaning within an organizational context, it’s important to understand how they are interconnected.

Innovation is a means of changing the status quo by developing and testing new ideas. Change is the real-world impact that happens when an innovation is implemented. Without change, innovation becomes mere ideation. And without innovation, the potential for change is severely limited. Leaders are key drivers of both innovation and change, as they are in the position to make decisions and take calculated risks.

How the Sharing Economy Affects Hospitality Businesses

“Ride sharing,” currently dominated by Uber and Lyft, is one of the most disruptive innovations to ever hit the market. While the social and economic changes brought about from ride sharing carry their largest implications in the transportation industry, leaders in hospitality must still be aware of potential trickle-down effects.

For example, Uber and Lyft make it easier for hotel guests to get around the city they’re visiting without renting a car, which could in turn affect hotel parking and shuttle revenues. On the flip side, a hotel that is not located near tourist attractions might benefit from ride sharing in the sense that their location becomes less of a drawback as guests are able to hail a ride on their smartphones.

Where Uber and Lyft really signify change in the hospitality industry, though, is in the larger “sharing economy,” which has also sprouted lodging-centric ideas. Airbnb and Hotel Tonight immediately come to mind, while Recharge appears to be another notable force. Individually and as a whole, these types of companies are undoubtedly shaking up the way hotels do business.

Understanding the Implications of Change

Change affects hospitality customers and employees in different ways. Therefore, leaders must strike a perfect balance that keeps everyone happy. This is much easier said than done, and the challenges are magnified for big, high-volume brands.

On the customer side, there are essentially two types of customers to please. There are the tech-savvy customers, who want to interact seamlessly. And then there are the traditionalists, who still want to see everything on paper, printed and confirmed. Age does not always separate the two, as there are plenty of older adults who embrace technology.

Within your organization, you have professionals spanning different departments and areas of expertise—from marketing to accounting to housekeeping. Every single one of these staff members is important in their own right.

It’s great to entertain and immerse in innovation—never be afraid to try new ideas. However, before change is implemented, take a step back to consider the implications on all sides. Be a visionary. Too often, leaders act instantly on whatever is in the front of their mind or at the top of their inbox.

How to Introduce Change to Your Staff

The most pivotal aspect of managing change takes place before change ever happens. You can position your organization for a successful transition during change by looking to those who are most impacted for constructive feedback prior to a hard launch.

For instance, one of the most interesting and impressive trends in the hotel industry is straight-to-room check-in. Hotels are allowing customers to choose their room and use their smartphone as the key, without ever visiting the front desk. From a guest standpoint, the change is mind-blowingly convenient. But when you take a closer look, issues with validating identity arise. In this case, you would want to seek out security personnel for their concerns.

By introducing change in the early stages of development, you can mitigate negative impacts and avoid internal chaos.

Controlling Chaos

Sometimes chaos is an inevitable phase of change. Going back to the examples of Uber and Lyft, these companies themselves have experienced widely publicized growing pains despite their enormous successes. Drivers complain of diminishing earnings, riders report poor drivers, and governments seek to ban the services from their limits altogether.

If change-driven chaos ever sets in while you are at the helm, here are a few tips for diffusing the situation:

  • Evaluate the changes and measure the results.
  • Educate your staff on the benefits of the changes, while also recognizing the drawbacks.
  • Rely on your team for honest feedback.
  • Be open to further change or necessary adjustments.
  • Take pride in your responsibility as a leader to solve problems, not add to them.

Becoming a Better Leader

This is only a primer on hospitality leadership in the tech age. If you are looking to invest in your career and work alongside fellow emerging leaders from all walks of life, the HTM Master’s Program at San Diego State University might be right for you. Our curriculum is affordable, personalized, and highly-praised by alumni. See how the HTM Master’s Program can change your life.


adamAuthor: Adam Edelman, Assistant Director of Operations at Hyatt Regency San Francisco (LinkedIn)

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