We invited two noted thought leaders in the worlds of hospitality and innovation to share their perspectives on change: Dr. Lalia Rach, an educator, author, entrepreneur, and Founding Dean of the NYU Preston Robert Tisch Center for Hospitality, and Tom Goodwin, an innovation leader and business transformation consultant.
Check out the video highlights of this conversation below:
Dear Dr Rach and dear Tom Goodwin, we are very honored to welcome you in this conversation about shifting mindsets. As great observers of changes in society and hospitality, can you tell us how you see things in general?
Tom Goodwin: First and foremost, change is amazing. When it comes to the progress that we make. It's energy, it's options, it's a sense of progress. So change is great. Uncertainty can be amazing if we use it the right way.
Dr. Lalia Rach: If you're more aware of the opportunity that comes from changing, you can then perhaps become more comfortable with your discomfort in change. Because all change is personal. And all change impacts people differently. Sometimes we're barely aware of it, other times it's so much in the front of our minds we can't even let go of it.
Times seem very disturbed and we see our society changing everyday. Do you think our society is really experiencing changes like never before?
Tom Goodwin: I don't necessarily think we're moving in faster changing times. I just think that somehow the opening of our eyes is now so wide that we're so overwhelmed by information that's real time, that we have a greater understanding of how many things happen in a day.
So, the amount of societal change that we have is extraordinary, but not unprecedented. In a way, though, many of the elements of technology that changed the world were about space and distance to the industrial world. And increasingly, the changes that we see are more about the mind.
We can now reach more people than ever before, and that's having very strange effects on our psyche. We feel more connected than ever before, but more lonely. And what we're seeing is many of these tensions coming together at the same time.
Dr. Lalia Rach: Do I think society is experiencing changes like never before? No. If you really think about what we're talking about with change, we are talking about the availability of information and the immediacy of connection. When you move from something that has been in place for so long to something utterly different, this can be felt as disruptive behavior.
Tom Goodwin: A lot of expectations have changed. Perhaps we need to be a little bit more grounded in reality about what the role of these things are in our life. I actually think that work has become a lot more important to people in the last 20 or 30 years as we've lost a sense of meaning and purpose from other elements of our life.
There are people saying we are becoming more individualistic and some other explaining we are more collective. What would be your perception?
Tom Goodwin: The extraordinary thing is that the world tends to operate in a balance. The more we become individuals, the more we have this need to organize and come together. The more we come together, we have this reason to kind of rebel against that structure. What's different now is we're almost seeing an algorithmically created tribe. Information being propagated by algorithms means in some ways we are put in groups with people who are quite like us, which actually ironically means that our individualism tends to turn into collectivism without us realizing it.
Dr. Lalia Rach: When you think about this, we are hardwired to be collective. In order for us to have survived as a species, we had to be collective. It is part of our brain function. I don't know if I can say it's part of our DNA, but I do know it's embedded in us. And so, we are all biased to find similarity. That's the first thing we see. This is all done subconsciously in microseconds. But we are a collective. We like being part of things.
Everyone talks about hybrid living. What does the word hybrid relate to in your mind, and especially in our current changing society?
Tom Goodwin: The word hybrid, when you used to describe society at the moment and the working world, in a way is about a state between two different paradigms. We've had the old paradigm where physicality and your situation and your presence were very much aligned with the value that you created. You were either there or you were not. When we talk about hybrid, we're really talking about trying to create a situation which combines the best of both of those paradigms. And that means that rather than thinking about working from home, it means we can think about working from anywhere. Rather than attending events in person or remotely, we can think about events that combine the best of both. We can create a future which is much more beneficial for everyone and allows freedom. But we should recognize some of the problems that this brings about. Hybrid comes with a sense of blurred lines. Everything that used to be compartmentalized is now somewhat gray. And that amount of ambiguity changes a lot of our lives. What we're seeing is slowly the physical world starts to adapt to the new behaviors and expectations of people.
The biggest hybrid change: we now have a variety of offerings in every part of our life, not just hotels, but that we can pick and choose sometimes.
This hybrid living should be impacting hospitality and hotels. How do you see this happening?
Dr. Lalia Rach: We now recognize that we want to live more of our lives in public - and so what a lobby is built for, what it's expected to allow for, how it changes from morning to afternoon to evening. Those aspects, now, that's flexibility. And the fact is, now that our hotels are more user friendly. That doesn't mean that they're not wonderful structures, but we want our customers to feel a sense of individual welcome.
If you're the type of hotel or hospitality business designed for the individual, you must demonstrate that it is their individuality that matters, not yours. This type of thinking can be unusual and somewhat difficult aspect of change for the hotel industry as it down plays replication for reasons of economies of scale. If you must maintain the replication, consider where can you make it so that I, the individual, see myself reflected in the structure.
Tom Goodwin: Are we in the business of providing people with a good night's sleep? Or are we in the business of making sure that that person's next day brings as much joy and as much education and as much inspiration and productivity as possible? Maybe you are in the hotel business and not in the business of self help, but everything that a hotel does is about creating an environment in which people can accomplish more and people can feel more attuned to who they are and so on. It's very interesting because the first stage of the Internet was effectively to take behaviors that we already had in the physical world and to integrate them by applying technology to make things easier. The second stage of the Internet and the digital revolution was to create new behaviors and new workflows in the digital domain. And the third step is to rethink the entire physical world around the new possibilities and the new behaviors that technology makes.
Another trend shared by analysts is the appeal of local connections and communities. Is this an important notion according to you?
Dr. Lalia Rach: I would say yes.
We've been talking about opportunity and I often think that is the forgotten opportunity that you do have a local clientele and in many ways they then become your best salesperson.
In tandem with our buying of things is our buying of experiences. We want to touch and see and hear and taste that which the local does. Therein is a reality change. We used to travel to see the sites. Those sites could be cultural, they could be artistic, they could be built, or for recreation. Now because we are able to travel so much more, all those things come into play. We now have moved beyond the initial experience to expecting so much more. We want to know what it's like to live there. What does it mean to be local?
I wonder if the hotel industry recognizes that their ability to extend the local community to tourists can also be provided to their citizens? The knowledge you have about your area should be used to draw locals to your restaurant, to your bar?
Tom Goodwin: There's a weird movement from people away from local and towards global people who are perhaps more like you. But ironically, because that's how people tend to shift in their life, that actually raises the issue that these local connections are even more important.
The more time you spend talking to people on Twitter who live in Paraguay but have very similar jobs to you, the more your need to have a beer with someone that lives next door to you but has a very different life, the more that need becomes apparent.
Dr. Lalia Rach: And that's another way that I would make sure that our local people are engaged with us because that is a process that they should be in. The COVID shut-down globally demonstrated to many destinations how much they had lost because they ware overrun by tourists. Their community was no longer theirs. In the post-COVID world, destinations and tourists realize that expanding horizons should not result in harming or destroying a way of life. It’s not that you can’t have tourists but planning must be in place. Consider whether the destination or business is actually attracting the tourists that best fit. It’s everyone’s responsibility. Another way to engage local people in the planning process.
Tom Goodwin: The need for community creates almost a perfect design brief for how companies can go about creating spaces and creating feelings that help assuage first.
Well-being has been a topic related to individuals and seem to be now moving to another level. Do you see it expanding out of its original perimeter?
Dr. Lalia Rach: Well-being is what you do in the environment in which you live.
We should look at well-being as a global fact, not a benefit. It is not something some people should have and other people shouldn’t. It's just a very different way we look at our lives today: the concept of well-being is embedding itself, in our society, our business lives, as well as our personal lives. We now look at our planet, our cities, our environment, and think well-being should be everywhere.
Tom Goodwin: We're seeing a huge shift in society, start to think much more in terms of a more general sense of our bodies, a more general sense of how everything works together and how interconnected things are.
It's highly likely that for a chunk of society, the notion of well-being a core element of our life and something that we optimize against almost as the most important and characteristic, will absolutely take root quite soon. It's highly possible that for some people, gross national happiness or personal wellness scores or sleep scores or mindfulness quotient or some other number will almost become their goal in life.
Yet, I don't think it's something that will be done by the mass market.
We're seeing a huge shift in society, starting to think much more in terms of a more general sense of our bodies, a more general sense of how everything works together and how interconnected things are.
Let’s talk now about consumption. Do you see major shifts in how consumers act today?
Tom Goodwin: People have been talking a lot about changing consumption patterns for a long time. And famously, millennials were people that didn't buy things, they bought experiences.
For a while there was this feeling that an amazingly curated Instagram feed showing you in Positano and Mykonos became the new handbag, and you almost demonstrated social status through experiences rather than owning things. But when you look at the numbers in how people spend their money is, it's very much unchanged over time. What is unknown, is how a movement towards more conscious consumption will develop.
Dr. Lalia Rach: We have to begin with a current reality and that is the condition of the global supply chain. When we talk about consumption, we're just beginning to grapple with what a supply chain is and means to how our lives function. I'm not convinced that the customer is going to focus on this when traveling. But I do believe that with awareness of environmental issues and supply chain changes travelers will be more willing to try alternatives.
So I do think you're going to see substitution. I do think you're going to see some changes in realities that we thought we could never do without, but we will adjust.
Also, when we look at consumption today, the fact that we are far more educated, that we understand how connected we are, as a world, and that we understand clearly how much we want a better future for our children and our grandchildren all point to shift in our ethical approach to consumption. We have very certain beliefs, but there's always some gray edges that allow us to view consumption differently.
When you're talking about consumption, what you know is valid for the past and today is likely to have very little meaning in the future. So be flexible.
Tom Goodwin: It would be very easy to think that at a time where people are very conscious about their footprint and the environmental destruction they may cause, that actually it means that people will stay at home more and just not fly to Europe for their holidays. What it probably means is people will find better ways to do it.
What is the role of provider of space in the future and what kind of new business models can be exploited? It's interesting to think what starts to happen when people use these spaces for longer days. It's interesting to think of how the use may change if people bring their families with them.
Also the more the companies become helpful and help focus people on simple things in some ways, the future of all this is to have companies that make your life easier. And that doesn't mean doing your laundry for you, that means just telling you two things to do while you're in that city. It means saving you time, saving you mental space. People don't have enough time, people don't have enough money, you know it was always that way. Actually, clarity is almost a big scarcity these days.
As a conclusion, could you share your advice on how to best react to change?
Tom Goodwin: The best attitude towards change is probably to focus on things that you're in control of.
Having an understanding of what you're really about, by finding your genuine sense of meaning, find your moral compass, find values and a sense of community, find a really honest sense of who you are and what you're about.
Dr. Lalia Rach: If you want to see opportunity, you have to be willing to change.