Friday, February 12, 2016

Robots in hospitality

Session 4 - Bring in the robots

Roughly four weeks into the semester, we have completed the first module. That module focused on developing an understanding of the problems and opportunities within the hospitality industry. The course has built a framework that began with that understanding and now transitions to ideas.

So cue the robots. Thanks to a great relationship I have with UNLV's state of the art Drones and Autonomous Systems Lab (DASL), I was able to schedule the entire class session at their lab. My students were immersed in robotics and drone technology. Which in turn allowed me to frame the technology as an innovation to be applied to hospitality. Technology aimed at basic research is a noble academic pursuit but technology applied to solve a problem in an industry as large and diverse as hospitality is profit. 

Imagine robots not simply as the animatronic entertainment piece but as functional elements in the service delivery process. Assisting humans in the performance of their duties or perhaps freeing humans from the more mundane and repetitive roles and allowing that human resource to enhance the guest experience through more interaction. Freeing human capital to elevate guest facing services. Now that is an innovation with huge implications to profit. 

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Session 3 - UNLV Hospitality Lab

Leading a first ever hospitality innovation lab requires some rather innovative thinking. To ensure the students were guided on the journey in developing and applying innovation to the hospitality industry, I designed the course to follow an approach where each session builds upon the prior session and ultimately prepares them to start developing an idea. In most cases of startup innovation this may be contrary to conventional practice.

The course itself is divided into four modules with each module filling approximately 4 class sessions. These sessions overlap and follow a logical sequence to the final pitch presentation, much like a startup pitch to an accelerator except that all of the pitches will be applied innovation to hospitality and all teams will have followed the same path.

Now in the first module we are sharing knowledge. Knowledge of both the hospitality industry and of innovation itself. In addition, we educate them on value propositions and a business model. I think it it is critically important for the students to view innovation in the context of the customer, the competition and the unique nature of the hospitality industry. The objectives as you can see above are to build a level of background knowledge of the hospitality industry and then refine that by zeroing in on the key problems for example, a long line at check in or engagement of millennials. My intent was to narrow the scope of ideas to ideas that actually solved significant problems in the industry. Second to that was to identify the major opportunities to innovate for example, robotics or predictive analytics. This foundation would therefore be strong and the student teams would be prepared for the second module: ideation.

Coming up with ideas is the easy part.

So I don't hang them out on this, I bring in mentors at this stage. True hospitality experts who can help mentor the teams on their possibilities. Provide them with the key insights or the go/no-go feasibility checkpoint on disruptive ideas. This actually take us to the mid-point in the semester where the student teams pitch their ideas to a panel of industry experts who score the ideas on a standard set of criteria similar to a pitch night but with more structure.

The highest scoring idea per team then becomes a project for the balance of the semester. Their deliverable on the last day is a final pitch, more refined and based on either a simulation of their idea or a prototype test plan.  What happens after that, well thats beyond the scope of my post but suffice it to say, I see this becoming integral to the startup process.