Chris Hunsberger asked that (rhetorical) question of the 550-plus attendees within minutes of kicking off his keynote talk yesterday morning at the 9th annual HR in Hospitality Conference & Expo at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
A quick Google search will bring you nearly 270 million different definitions, explained Hunsberger, the executive vice president of HR and administration at Four Seasons Hotel & Resorts.
So there are a few different ways to define the term. But, in essence, innovation is about “creative problem solving,” he said, “and doing things in new and different ways.”
Indeed, doing things in new ways is a necessity for any organization with hopes of succeeding in 2015, said Hunsberger, who is, by his count, 75 days into his new role, after 34 years in operations at Four Seasons, where he has spent his entire professional career.
To illustrate the importance leading companies (and their HR functions) place on doing things “a little differently,” Hunsberger pointed to organizations such as Zappos and Netflix.
Zappos, of course, has famously offered employees financial incentives to leave the company, in part as a way to separate those who are truly committed to the organization’s success from those who are simply working for a paycheck.
Meanwhile, Netflix is piloting a program that allows employees to set their own holiday schedules.
To further demonstrate his point, Hunsberger also offered a few “short stories of innovation” from within Four Seasons.
In search of innovative ideas from employees, Hunsberger and the leadership team asked senior leaders throughout the organization to arrange and oversee “innovation sessions” focused on identifying opportunities to improve the guest experience, for example.
At one of these sessions, the Boston-based hotel’s team came up with an idea for “15-minute room service.”
“We obviously get a lot of feedback from guests, and many felt room service was too pricey and, at an average of 30 minutes to 40 minutes, took too long. So the Boston team had the idea to develop a 15-minute room-service menu,” said Hunsberger.
Leadership loved the idea so much, he said, that “we rolled this out as a global initiative in about 90 days, and we even had a competition to see [which hotel] could come up with the best menu.”
In addition to drawing raves from Four Seasons guests, the 15-minute room-service initiative “really allowed our team to think about innovating,” he said, “and doing things in a new way.”Twitter It!