On Saturday I facilitated a strategy planning session for the Academy of Hospitality and Tourism. The AOHT is a wonderful organization comprised of tourism professionals, teachers and principals from Miami-Dade County Public Schools and others who are interested in helping high-school kids prepare themselves for a job in the tourism industry.
It’s a much-needed program – last year Miami-Dade County imported almost 60,000 workers and yet the unemployment rate amongst African-American males is estimated at more than 8% (some put the number at 12%). And because tourism is one of the very few industries where a worker can begin at an entry-level position such as skycap or food server and five years later find themselves a well-paid assistant manager, the AOHT really does prepare kids of a productive future.
But the reason I’m telling you about my experience is because it proved something I wrote about a few days ago (Seeing The World From The Other Side). When I started the session I told the group about my experience running on a resort golf course and what I discovered about looking at the same old thing in a brand new way.
When we split up into groups to work on specific issues, I asked everyone in the group to forgo their natural tendency to join the committee they always join and instead join the committee dealing with issues they weren’t knowledgeable, experienced or maybe even interested, in. To my surprise, the group was willing to do this and the accountants in the crowd joined the marketing committee while the operations people signed up for fund-raising or membership.
Because they were exercising their brains in ways they hadn’t before, and because they were allowed to come up with silly ideas (they weren’t experts, after all) a very interesting thing happened. This group, which has been participating in these same sessions for the last five or six years, came up with pages and pages of brand new ideas. And as my brilliant friend, Tom Monahan, says: “Whoever comes up with the most ideas comes up with the best ideas.”