Don’t just pay lip service to the phrase, says Digital Drums chief executive Steve Dunne

Do you understand the meaning of the word innovation? Is it a word that you see and hear often in the travel sector but don’t really think about its meaning too deeply?

I only ask because, over the past few months,
I have been fortunate enough to be invited to judge many entries for various travel industry awards.

Be it the Travel Marketing Awards or Travel Weekly’s Agent Achievement Awards, and every award scheme in between, the word most used by travel brands entering, and the word most mentioned with little thought, or evidence, is innovation.

During judging, I became aware the word innovation, along with “market disrupter” and “game changer” were being bandied about with absolutely no thought. It was like playing a game of “innovation” bingo as I read through entry after entry where travel brands described themselves as “innovative” when often they were anything but.

The biggest culprits for using the word redundantly were the bigger, better-known brands. It was as if they had lost sight of what innovation means. If that is the case, then they need to move back into the mindset of being truly innovative, rather than paying lip service to the word.

cTough timesDo you understand the meaning of the word innovation? Is it a word that you see and hear often in the travel sector but don’t really think about its meaning too deeply?

I only ask because, over the past few months,
I have been fortunate enough to be invited to judge many entries for various travel industry awards.

Be it the Travel Marketing Awards or Travel Weekly’s Agent Achievement Awards, and every award scheme in between, the word most used by travel brands entering, and the word most mentioned with little thought, or evidence, is innovation.

During judging, I became aware the word innovation, along with “market disrupter” and “game changer” were being bandied about with absolutely no thought. It was like playing a game of “innovation” bingo as I read through entry after entry where travel brands described themselves as “innovative” when often they were anything but.

The biggest culprits for using the word redundantly were the bigger, better-known brands. It was as if they had lost sight of what innovation means. If that is the case, then they need to move back into the mindset of being truly innovative, rather than paying lip service to the word.

Tough times

Some of the sector’s leading brands are going through considerably tough times. And when these famous names hit tough times, the standard response of management is to hunker down, lay off staff and shut down outlets. Their strategy is to do anything but be innovative. True innovation is more prevalent among the fledgling brands and start-ups that don’t know what they don’t know.

However, as they get bigger and more established, the first thing to be dropped is innovation. The willingness to take risks, try something different or push the boundaries of conventional thought gets replaced by pursuit of the status quo or need for caution. That is when the market takes them over, turns or changes and leaves them looking lost.

Well-known brands, famous for their innovation, are no longer innovative. Look at Apple, Facebook, Airbnb, Uber and Google and you see brands that have replaced being innovative themselves with buying innovation. Facebook bought WhatsApp and Instagram, rather than developing those new innovations themselves.

Innovation imperative

All brands should seek to remain as innovative as they can, regardless of size or position in the marketplace. Remaining innovative is the key not just to success, but to survival – as some famous high street brands are starting to discover. And innovation doesn’t have to mean something dramatic.

The word means “to make changes” or “do something differently”. It starts with the mindset and culture of the team and is fuelled by communication and reward. Look at your own business. Are you being truly innovative or paying lip service to the phrase? Are you adding value and anticipating the market or striving to maintain the status quo? You may be surprised at the answer. But if you ensure innovation remains at the heart of your business, you may not just survive but thrive.

Some of the sector’s leading brands are going through considerably tough times. And when these famous names hit tough times, the standard response of management is to hunker down, lay off staff and shut down outlets. Their strategy is to do anything but be innovative. True innovation is more prevalent among the fledgling brands and start-ups that don’t know what they don’t know.

However, as they get bigger and more established, the first thing to be dropped is innovation. The willingness to take risks, try something different or push the boundaries of conventional thought gets replaced by pursuit of the status quo or need for caution. That is when the market takes them over, turns or changes and leaves them looking lost.

Well-known brands, famous for their innovation, are no longer innovative. Look at Apple, Facebook, Airbnb, Uber and Google and you see brands that have replaced being innovative themselves with buying innovation. Facebook bought WhatsApp and Instagram, rather than developing those new innovations themselves.

Innovation imperative

All brands should seek to remain as innovative as they can, regardless of size or position in the marketplace. Remaining innovative is the key not just to success, but to survival – as some famous high street brands are starting to discover. And innovation doesn’t have to mean something dramatic.

The word means “to make changes” or “do something differently”. It starts with the mindset and culture of the team and is fuelled by communication and reward. Look at your own business. Are you being truly innovative or paying lip service to the phrase? Are you adding value and anticipating the market or striving to maintain the status quo? You may be surprised at the answer. But if you ensure innovation remains at the heart of your business, you may not just survive but thrive.