Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hospitality Industry struggles with Experience Economy

When we travel, we all have hotelexperienceto sleep. Why are we prepared to pay € 25 for a night sleep in a hostel, € 50 for a bed & breakfast, € 100 for a three star hotel and € 500 for an exclusive hotel? Where we choose to sleep differs and varies with our travelpurpose (business, holiday, romantic weekend), our budget and our previous experience or reviews from friends or total strangers on a website. This is in a nutshell what the Experience Economy (Pine & Gilmore, 1999) is. We are prepared to pay a higher price when the added value and experience is perceived to be higher. “We are on the threshold, say authors Pine and Gilmore, of the Experience Economy, a new economic era in which all businesses must orchestrate memorable events for their customers.”

wow experienceBut when do we become loyal clients that come back? And when do we become ambassadors for a hotel or restaurant and tell our friends about our experience? Only when the reality is perceived better than what we expected to get. Only when we got the WOW-Experience. And this is where the struggle for high end luxury hotels and restaurants begins. The expectations are allready very high when the guest comes in. Ofcourse a hotelguest of a luxury hotel will expect to get a spacious room that’s superclean, with a nice view, well designed interiors, good and various choices of food, a beautiful spa and swimmingpool and friendly and professional staff. So, what will give him this extra memorable experience? Is it a well orchestrated show with lights and music, an unexpected flashmob of dancing staff, a singing waiter on rollerblades? I don’t think so.

I believe the Hospitality Industry focusses too much on design and concepts. Ofcourse I was stunned with the view on top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore, the first time I saw the 150m wide infinity pool, but will this experience bring me back the next time? No, I don’t believe so. So what will?

real-fake smileIt’s connecting with the people and the atmosphere that they bring into the hotel that makes the difference. And with connecting I don’t mean the professional and helpful smile I get when I ask a question. It’s connecting from heart-to-heart. From one human being to another. Sharing a joke or a laugh, a concerned look when you share that your child is sick at home. The singing waiter can be a memorable experience to come back for, if the singing waiter is genuinely enjoying what he’s doing, radiating with fun and connecting to others, in stead of doing a daily routine like the pianoplayer in the lobby. I believe orchestrating experiences to deliver something new, only lasts for a short time and doesn’t create the loyal guest that returns and returns. We all know and feel that a theatre play is not real, however nicely performed. Or are you the kind of person that likes to see the same show over and over again? It’s fake or real that makes a the difference. Can you tell the difference between a real and fake smile in the picture? (Pine & Gilmore also realized this when they wrote their other book “Authenticity”, 2007)

Still, stafftraining for Hospitality Industry is often focussing on doing things right and in the same (our) way. A very logical left brain way of doing things. This results in professionalism with a bit of a distance, easy to measure and control,but leaving very little room for acting out of the box.

So how to get this genuine personal touch into the picture?

Work on well-being, happiness and playfulness with your staff. Playful Training will allow them to open up, connect with others from their own selves and dare to come up with creative ideas to engage with the guests in new and memorable ways that come from their hearts.

Let me hear what you think.

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen (Playful Facilitator & Speaker of 21st century Leadership Skills)

Look what happened after a two day Joy-Care Leadership workshop that I delivered with www.ha-p.com for the management of Marina Bay Sands Hotel Singapore. A few participants dared to take the initiative of organizing this ‘Coffee Break Dance’ where colleagues share the fun of leaving their comfortzone. Do you think the laughter is fake (orchestrated) or genuine (from the heart)?

Creating Open & Collaborative Cultures through Play

worrySince 2004 IBM conducts every two years a Global CEO Survey among global business and public sector leaders to research what keeps them busy (at night in bed). The survey consists of in-person interviews with (in 2012) over 1700 CEO’s worldwide.

More than half of all CEO’s see Human Capital, Customer Relationships and Innovation as key sources of sustained economic value (report 2012).

The findings (2010 & 2012) show a fast growing need for some critical capabilities of employees, in order to deal with the complexity of operating in an increasingly volatile and uncertain world. These include; creativity and creative leadership, collaborativeness, connectedness, communication and flexibility.

To foster these capabilities “CEO’s are creating more Open & Collaborative cultures – encouraging employees to connect, learn from each other and thrive in a world of rapid change. The emphasis on Openness is even higher among Outperforming organizations(*) – and they have the changemanagement-capabilities to make it happen.” (2012)

So where does Play fit into this?

To create a more Open, Collaborative & Innovative culture, it’s vital that people make the shift from their serious closed mode into their open mode. And the fastest way to get people into their open mode is through humor, laughter and fun, all essential parts of Playfulness. As John Cleese tells his students in this lecture; “The essence of Playfulness is openness to anything”.

Playfulness & Fear don’t go together well. You cannot be playful if you’re frightened of making a mistake, or of being ridiculed by others. So, in creating Openness through Play, creating a safe learningenvironment is essential. I also have my participants acknowledge their fear first before inviting them to play.

What I love most about my work as a Playful Learning facilitator, is when I see the magic power of Playfulness do her work. People take the step out of their comfortzone into their (natural born) Playzone and amazingly fast make the shift towards openness, connectedness, joy, spontaneity and creativity.

I see Play as a vital ingredient in creating and nurturing a 21st century succesful Company Culture. And I’m very curious to hear your opinions about this…

Playfully yours,

Annemarie Steen

(*) Outperfomers are organizations that surpass industry peers in terms of  revenue growth and profitability.

Interested in the findings & reports?

2010: http://public.dhe.ibm.com/common/ssi/ecm/en/gbe03297usen/GBE03297USEN.PDF

2012: http://www.brandchannel.com/images/papers/536_IBMGlobalCEOs.PDF

My favorite quotes…

einstein“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.” (Roald Dahl)

Quote

My favorite quotes…

“The truly great advances of this generation will be made by those who can make outrageous connections, and only a mind which knows how to play can do that.”
Nagle Jackson

International Blowing Bubbles Day

Hi,

Two years ago, I came across a tweet that mentioned International blowing bubble3Blowing Bubbles Day on May 6 (an initiative from a dutch artist Flip Looyen). I tought: “Hm, nice”, but went on with reading other stuff. That night I woke up, and felt the need to do something with it. I have a strong vision on the connecting power of Playfulness, so I thought to apply Blowing Bubbles to prove my point. I thought of a location where people are not connecting and decided on the bus/trainstation of Eindhoven (Netherlands) at 7am. Then, I sent out a tweet inviting others to join me on May 6th to Blow Bubbles on this location. And in case nobody showed up, I brought 83 sets of Blowing Bubble stuff (all I could find in my hometown of Veldhoven to hand out for free.

So what happened?

To my surprise, a lot of people reacted with fear (around 50%). Either not accepting my offer, or very fast putting their blowing bubble set in their bags with the excuse “nice for my kids”. Another large group of people (around 40%)held the blowing bubble set in their hands, not opening it, looking around what other people were doing. Some of them needed a little encouragement before trying. When they did (leave their comfortzone) they reacted with high energy. And there was a small group of people (around 10%) that immediately reacted with joy and started to play with it. Surprisingly a lot of people in function (railwaypolice officers, taxidrivers).

My (not validaded) conclusions after this experiment;

blowing bubbles1) YES, Playfulness connects. If you look at the picture, you see two guys playing and a third is watching them with a smile. There is a connection there.

2) Playfulness is something that a lot of adults perceive as scary, not done, childish, etc.

blowing bubbles23) While working (in stead of waiting) we tend to be more open towards strangers and like a Playful distraction/intermezzo.

My vision is still “Playfulness Connects”, but my mission after this day became “To invite adults to leave their comfortzone and dare to be Playful”

So what will you do on International Blowing Bubbles Day on May 6th 2013?

More info: http://www.internationalblowingbubblesday.wordpress.com

With playful greetings,

Annemarie Steen

(Dutch Newspaper Eindhovens Dagblad invited me to blog for a week about this International Blowing Bubbles Day two years ago: here’s the text in dutch: http://www.steentrain.nl/attachments/File/Blog_ED_Bellenblaasdag.pdf)