It’s no secret to most travel agents that they operate in an industry where change is more than a cliché, it’s a state of mind. During a recent American Society of Travel Agents conference, BCD Travel's Director of Innovation Miriam Moscovici led a panel discussion about how individuals and organizations can take part in the revolution that is reshaping the industry.
Travel Market Report pulled out eight of the top tips from the discussion:
1. Be opinionated.
Moscovici believes in developing and expressing opinions strongly to engage other innovators in thinking about the issues that challenge you the most. “I always have an opinion on things, and I love being wrong, having people arguing with me.” She promotes a “tenacity of thinking” on the road to healthy debate.
2. Curiosity trumps technical expertise.
While John Ische is president of Trisept Solutions, a leading travel software provider that strives to be on the cutting edge, he feels an inquisitive nature seeking out how different concepts fit together helps him innovate. “It is not tied to being technical. It’s more about having a high sense of curiosity.”
3. Be comfortable with the uncomfortable.
“Can you breathe every day and not know what the future holds,” asks Matt Zito, managing partner with Travel Startups Incubator. A serial entrepreneur in the travel industry, Zito feels that part of the success he and his wife have had in investing in and developing new businesses and business lines is based on being “really comfortable with change and uncertainty, the unknown.”
4. Get your hands dirty.
Zito believes that surface knowledge can often lead to a superficial understanding of how things work and impede innovation. Knowing enough detail can free up a business owner’s mind to new possibilities. “You have an idea, but you don’t know how it’s going to impact someone. Then you start digging deeper and deeper, gaining more knowledge, until you realize, this makes sense.”
5. Be a voracious consumer of news and ideas.
Steve Glenn, CEO of Executive Travel, said “I really read a lot, but I have a couple of go-to sources,” including FlipBoard and Singularity University. “If you want to be engaged, you have to be around the best and brightest.” Ische said he stays current with “a lot of different types of news. But a lot of it is collaboration with people. I learn a lot from talking with our suppliers and customers.” Moscovici says she is “obsessed with LinkedIn lately. I’m following folks in this business, reading the articles they post. It really enriches me.”
You don’t just turn on a light bulb and your company’s strategy is bright. “A lot of times, innovation takes a little persistence. It’s a process of trial and error,” said Ische. He noted how Trisept Solutions has been working on integrating artificial intelligence for almost three years. “We found it is tougher to teach it to the travel business than we expected. It’s taken a big investment. Like any big breakthrough, it takes time and money to make it happen.”
7. Embrace failure as part of your journey.
“Our biggest problem as business people is that we are afraid to fail. But the more you fail, the more you learn, and the better you get,” said Glenn. “Fail forward,” Glenn advises.
8. Believe that innovation comes in all shapes and sizes.
Too often, business owners are searching for that big breakthrough, instead of the incremental innovations that can lead to ideas with a broader, larger impact. Moscovici at BCD Travel has been working with people leaders “trying to inject some of those skills and methodologies” to improve processes and skills at places like the company’s Jacksonville contact center.
“We’re creating a toolkit for supervisors, managers of contact centers, to give them suggested activities and frameworks on how to solve problems. One day, innovation could be automation in your QC [quality control] or ways to improve our relationships with clients.”
“The smallest thing can add value and innovation to your company,” said Ische, whose company has hosted regular “hackathons” internally with small groups, throughout the years. “We’re constantly encouraging anything people think can improve the business.”