Last night marked the midpoint in the semester for Hospitality Lab. The evening also marked the class session where the eight student teams presented two of their innovative ideas. While I can't reveal the extraordinary ideas yet, I can share some of my observations about this talented group of millennial dreamers.
The first thing that is apparent is how differently they view the world and in particularly the business of hospitality. Their lens into the experiences that ultimately drive satisfaction from guests and revenues in the hotel are very different from the baby boomer or gen x. I recall sessions in my career where new innovations were described by their ability to "wow" the guest or impress them with advanced technology...this is not the case with the millennial inventor. Instead they see unbounded opportunity where status quo is an old Latin term of little relevance to them. They don't feel the need to incrementally improve and in fact all 16 ideas presented demonstrated a departure from that incremental innovation theory. The ideas spoke to their own personal behaviors, their likes and their perspective on travel and hospitality. The sociology of the millennial hospitality innovator is fascinating.
The millennial innovator also does not see solutions from a technology perspective, they see technology only as an enabler not as a solution in itself. They are truly digital natives, in that they have always known the Internet, the smart phone and social media. These things have no "wow" potential in them, they are simply factors that enable a higher level of engagement with each other or between a hospitality brand and it's guests. You cannot wow a millennial with technology, period. You cannot engage them with the same thinking you use today. They proved this theory last night.
The ideas ranged from the incredibly simple to large scale. They see hotels not as boxes for honeymoons and conventions but as places where you live temporarily, places that can facilitate whatever it is that you are doing. They become part of the travel journey and no longer the destination.
The remaining half of the semester is devoted to taking the highest scoring idea of the two they presented and then developing a prototype or a simulation to prove the concept in a start up pitch format. The hard work of taking a dream and executing on a minimum viable scale now begins. Along that path, I will include mentors who can help, guide and advise them as they put real design effort into these ideas. And at the end, produce something wonderful.