At your company, when a “new” problem or challenge comes up, do your employees know where to look in case a similar issue has already been successfully solved, earlier, by somebody else? Or, to consider this from the other direction, when someone at your company thinks up a solution to a thorny problem, what happens next? Does anyone else in your organization ever hear about it? That’s what should happen. And here’s how to make sure that it does: Build a system.
In fact, even better: Here’s a ready-made system you can borrow (they won’t mind) from The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. It’s a rock-solid approach, because it has to be: With 90 properties worldwide, in a wide variety of locations and situations, The Ritz-Carlton has a particularly strong need to make sure that best practices spread companywide. If a Ritz-Carlton employee at, say, their Kyoto hotel comes up with a spectacularly more effective (or just subtly better) way to handle, say, front desk staffing for peak check-in times, it would be wasteful indeed to not have that approach available for consideration and implementation when the same challenge comes up at a hotel 4,740 miles away in Dubai.
That’s where the Ritz-Carlton's innovation database comes in. There are currently over 1,000 innovative practices in this database, each of them tested on property before being contributed to the database.
To give a simple example: If one of Ritz-Carlton's beachside resorts develops the innovation of using Segways (with the crucial addition of beach tires) to speed beverage service for their oceanside guests, after three months of success with this approach, the property can add it to the innovation database. Now, any other beachside property looking for ideas that could speed their own outdoor beverage service can look in the database and discover this ready-made solution.
A significant point: Use of the database is not optional. In fact, over the course of a year, every property is instructed to submit at least 7 such ideas and draw at least 4 ideas from other properties to address their own challenges. And to avoid the database turning into a free-for-all or a generic brainstorming receptacle, there are three immutable requirements that a contribution has to meet before it can be submitted. First, an idea has to be tested for at least three months and proven its value, so that the database gets filled with ideas that aren’t just potentially good ideas, but are successfully tested ideas. Second, contributions must advance the Ritz-Carlton’s overall company goals and be consonant with its company principles. Finally, contributions must be applicable to other properties. For example, although Segway beverage delivery won’t be of interest to a downtown urban hotel, it’s likely to be of interest to other beachfront properties or properties with other extensive outdoor service areas.
Every company benefits when employees contribute great ideas, but it’s the most satisfying for everyone involved if you find a way to make sure these ideas circulate and are made the most of. This simple system is a way to make sure this happens.