Forget brainstorming: People are at their most innovative when they work within the constraints of what they already know.
The other day I read an article in the Wall Street Journal and that was the headline. My first thought was we have wasted a lot of time trying to get outside that darn box, only to be told now to climb back in. As I continued to read, I started to understand what the authors were talking about.
Sometimes we try to think so far outside the box that we overlook the best innovations that might be right in front of us. By closing our boundaries and staying within what we know, the authors say, we can find more innovative solutions. We also can make sure we are accomplishing the immediate tasks at hand.
Think about our friendliness, one of the most common and consistent compliments we receive from our guests. People feel welcomed when they step out of that taxi and walk through our doors. The problems begin if we don’t follow through, and their great experience can be altered the minute they step inside their rooms if something is wrong.
Every traveler from the affluent businessman to the elderly couple celebrating their 50th anniversary has one thing in common: They want to stay at a well-run hotel, and regardless of the bells and whistles that come along with it, they want to feel they are in a special place where they will be taken care of. You’ve probably stayed at a small hotel off the beaten path; one that amazed you with its level of service, from a staff that went above and beyond to exceed all your expectations. Can every guest who has stayed with us say that about our properties? I hope so. From here on out, let us make that a resounding ‘Yes.’
We offer our guests an impressive pillow menu, among so many other great amenities to complement their stay with us. If they arrive, are checked in and excitedly enter their rooms ready to climb into our comfortable beds to relax … and there is no pillow waiting for them, or the other amenities they ordered are missing, we’ve lost them. All our marketing and thinking “outside the box” to come up with those great perks is now good for nothing. Even if we recover and get them what they wanted, it is too late. They are now thinking, “I wonder what else will go wrong.”
We can prevent these incidents from happening by thinking “inside the box,” and making sure we do everything possible to make our guests’ experience the best they have ever encountered. We can by hyper vigilant and make sure all our guests receive everything they expect, from the moment they arrive. This could mean double-checking that everything has been set up in the room before a shift change. We should also be taking notes during the morning meetings about VIPs or guests celebrating something special so we do not miss anything.
We don’t need to reinvent the wheel; we just need to deliver the best experience we possibly can. If we are so far outside the box that we forget what we are supposed to be doing inside it, we are missing the forest for the trees.
I know many of you go above and beyond for our guests every day, and I’ve read countless examples on this site. Most recently, I read about the chocolate cake Mrs. Armstrong gave to the staff at The Franklin as a thank you for her wonderful honeymoon stay. Before that was the “bestest 7th birthday ever” we helped provide at The Benjamin.
Yes, I am still looking for good ideas on ways to improve our processes, through outside-the-box (or boat) thinking, but I do not want us to lose sight of what needs done inside the box. The Wall Street Journal went on to describe ways innovation can come by thinking inside the box, so please read the rest of it and think about which approach works best.
Good ideas should be coming from all areas of the company, and whether the thinking is inside or outside the box does not matter. What matters are we always thinking about doing the best job we can, and we are always open to improving our processes and products.