Innovation and best practice sharing have long been discussed in our industry, evoking possibilities and potential. At Davidson, we hold “Greatness Requires Risk” as one of our core values and best practice sharing was top of mind for our senior leaders. We knew we wanted to foster a culture of innovation, where creativity thrives and taking risks is encouraged. We aimed to enable best practice sharing across our network of nearly 90 hotels, spread across the country.
But we were faced with the question of HOW. We asked ourselves how we could actually implement innovation at Davidson so that our hotel managers prioritize creativity amid their busy daily routines. We began to explore these questions in our interactions with property leaders. Along this journey, we discovered three valuable lessons:
1. Innovation happens at our hotels organically: Because we attract the best hotel managers in the industry, innovation happens naturally. They just come to work and solve problems. As our industry has weathered the volatility of the COVID pandemic, our leaders exhibited creativity and passion in solving the unique challenges that arose.
2.Unveiling hidden gem innovations is key: Often, hotel leaders don’t perceive their own actions as innovative. While visiting hotels, our corporate leaders have encountered numerous hidden gems of innovation. Realizing the need to share these innovations, we sought a way to not only recognize innovators but also benefit other hotels.
3.Sharing must be intentional, easy, and efficient: Sharing innovation rarely happens by chance. It must be intentional, streamlined, and accessible. As our hotel leaders tirelessly meet the needs of their teams, guests, and owners, we needed to integrate innovation into their leadership DNA. This required the development of a platform and process that seamlessly facilitate sharing and adoption of best practices.’
Thus, SPARK was born.
Under the leadership of Nadia Panasyuk and managed by Kerri Brown, SPARK represents Davidson Hospitality’s program for innovation and best practice sharing. Each hotel appoints a SPARK Ambassador who leads a committee of creative team members from various disciplines and levels. These committees regularly meet to brainstorm and implement creative solutions for their hotel’s most pressing challenges. New ideas are submitted via a 5-minute digital form to the Idea Portal app. As ideas are implemented, the SPARK Ambassadors create implementation guides in the app, making it easy for other hotels to adopt these innovations.
Since inception of SPARK in April 2022, Davidson’s team members have submitted over 370 ideas to the Idea Portal! To further nurture a culture of innovation, we celebrate an Innovator of the Month and award SPARK Innovator of the year at our annual Leadership Summit, highlighting outstanding ideas from the field.
Notable ideas include:
1. Robot vacuums “Klean Latifah” and “Dustin Bieber” assisting the short-staffed housekeeping team at Hyatt Regency Boston/Cambridge in maintaining clean guestroom hallways.
2. Using retired classroom-style banquet tables attached to a wall behind the large ballroom at the Viking Newport. These tables use collapsible hinges to create service space for the banquet team when needed, and can be lowered to ensure smooth traffic flow.
3. The Fontaine Kansas City transforming their pool deck into a winter wonderland, complete with igloos, a log cabin, and glamping yurt experiences. Each offering includes a curated food and beverage menu, festive decor, and music.
4. Pelican Cove Resort repurposing an underutilized section of the beach into an ocean golf experience. Eco-friendly golf balls containing fish food enhance the experience.
The Corporate SPARK Committee plays a vital role in elevating the program. Leaders from various disciplines explore ways to scale innovations with the greatest impact on key performance metrics. Kenny Imafidon, Vice President of Operational Excellence, and Megan Maul, Corporate Director of Transitions, lead the effort to scale and standardize innovation.
This committee also includes leaders responsible for gathering best practices from the field and recognizing the most impactful innovators!