HM on location: HITEC opens with call for change

Digital futurist Chris Riddell was the opening keynote speaker at this week’s HITEC meeting in Minneapolis. Photo credit: Hotel Management/Esther Hertzfeld

MINNEAPOLIS—The Minneapolis Convention Center is the home of this week's Hospitality Industry Technology Exhibition & Conference, one of the most-anticipated events every year on the hotel event calendar. 

Chris Riddell, self-described digital futurist and keynote speaker, stressed to attendees the importance of keeping up with the pace of change that technology creates and brings to the table. “It’s a high-speed change for sure but it’s becoming the standard,” he said. 

He highlighted Amazon’s Go, which gives users the option to buy goods from Amazon in person rather than through Amazon.com. The new store set-up, which Amazon calls a "just walk out" experience, requires no check-out. While Amazon has only opened two Amazon Go stores so far, this will be the new standard for all guest experiences, Riddell said. 

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“This is definitely the biggest disruption in the technology space right now,” he said about the online retailer morphing into a brick-and-mortar retailer. 

Riddell also said that as a society we are now out of the digital revolution and into the cognitive revolution. While users are uncomfortable about the amount of information that organizations have about them, those same users feed the beast by consenting to share their own information. “Big organizations are creating chaos with data and we fear this,” Riddell said. 

The travel industry has more data on consumers than many other industries, but Riddell said it needs to learn to create value for the data it has on its guests. 

Riddell describes two worlds: One is a banana plantation where what is sold and how it is sold remains the same. There’s another world in the rainforest, where it’s scary and potentially hazardous. 

On the plantation, workers are told to be great at their job, to be loyal to their company, to work with those they like, to be competitive and to be perfect, Riddell said. But in the rainforest, workers can break the rules and dream; open doors and listen; trust and be trusted; seek fairness instead of advantage; experiment and learn; and try, fail and try again. 

“Start-ups love the danger of the rainforest,” he said. The hotel industry needs to behave a lot more like a startup to harness the “life-changing opportunities” that being risky can offer. More and more banana plantation owners are sending their people to the rainforest to learn how to cultivate creativity. 

“Don’t get complacent because the world is changing,” Riddell continued. “Every moment in our lives is a technology moment. We need to look for the change—the human and behavioral change.”

And that change will drive future technology. 

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