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Six ways to think about innovation in travel– before you start trying to innovate!

Anybody working in travel can see that there are a new crop of innovators who are disrupting the industry from every dimension. They view the world differently and so act differently to disrupt the status quo.

Being a smaller, entrepreneurial business at OpenJaw, we are constantly looking our own thinking around innovation. Our engagements with customers in China such as Hainan Airlines, and our exposure to innovative airlines such as S7 -Siberian Airlines and Kulula Airlines in South Africa as they continue on their travel retailing journey, has led us to draw up a prioritised list of innovation strategies–and what your company can learn from them too.

Here are six travel innovation insights that you can use today:

  1. Never fall in love with your ideas: If you think the idea of innovation involves placing big bets on WAGs (wild ass guesses), then save everybody’s time, and buy a lottery ticket. However, if you’d prefer to launch something new into the world of travel with a bit more knowledge about how customers might respond, then you must never fall in love with your ideas. Getting direct feedback from an actual travel customer who can actually pay for a flight, a seat, a package is the only way to validate if you are on the right track.
  2. Only opinions from cheque writers count: Opinions from your boss, your team or your spouse don’t count. The confidence we all have in our beliefs is often not connected with actual reality of customers. Only the opinion of people who can write the metaphorical (or real) cheque or will take out their credit car for the product counts.
  3. Innovation can be an idea or a process: Trying to be innovative does not mean that you have to create a ‘thing’, as in new technology or a new version of product. Sometimes they are just ideas. We don’t have to look far for these: Minimal Viable Product, Agile or Core Competence are innovations that are actually just ideas. One of the best solutions we have seen at OpenJaw was to repackage something that was already being done. The innovation was to turn this into a different sequence with a new name and better way of communicating the value. You could argue that it was just a series of ideas, repackaged and repurposed, but showing the true value unlike before. Whatever we thought, the customers loved it.
  4. Choose a methodology: Find a methodology that forces you to operate within narrower parameters, even if these are just time-based such as get a working prototype ready by 9am on Friday in one week ready to test on a customers.
  5. The importance of mindset: Thinking about things differently, taking what everybody is looking at and present a totally different way of looking at it is the bedrock of innovation. All you need to make this form of innovation happen is to get a shift in people’s perspective. Indeed, convincing the group to think in new, unique and much simpler ways was the hardest.
  6. Changing the game by changing your mindset: Getting a lot more people tuned into a different way of thinking by taking part in something they had never really done before, and seeing customers reactions in front of them has created a bowwave of interest, and an opening of minds that we could not have anticipated . And that alone was a much better outcome than creating all the new products in the world, as it has created the platform that will change the brand’s future.

There are so many more examples, but these six insight are enough to illustrate that you can get a headstart on your competitors before travel innovation programme.