One innovation question that saved my client's career

Ever done something profoundly simple that made a HUGE impact?

Well, I did this a few years back and could never have imagined how much it would help.

Picture this. 

It’s 2015, and I’m in a brand new swanky hotel somewhere in Asia, finishing up a workshop for 20 GMs from a luxury hotel chain.

I’m pooped. 

It’s been a couple of big days helping them create innovative growth strategies for their hotels. 

The client’s stoked, and I’m looking forward to joining them for a hard-earned beer at the bar.

Just when I’m almost out the door, I get cornered by one of the GMs.

“Hey Nils, have you got a moment?”
“Sure, what’s up?” I respond, mustering the last ounce of my energy.

Seems like the GM’s hotel was not going gangbusters. 

Despite it being brand new (it was the one where the workshop was), the sales just weren’t going well. 

And after a bit of digging, I found out that they didn’t have their own marketing team, just a team of salespeople.

That’s it. That was all the resources they had. 

No marketers, no social media team, no marketing plan and no chance of surviving if they didn’t do something different fast.

I could see why he hadn’t spoken up during the workshop though.

He’d lose the respect of his peers and potentially his job.

But his job was already on the line due to the poor sales.

My brain cogs went into overdrive ‘Think Nils, think’.

What could I get this time-poor, stressed out GM to do in his sales meeting that would prompt marketing solutions to drive sales?

“Okay, so here’s what you’re going to do…”

The GM’s task was to write up one question on the whiteboard at the beginning of every weekly sales meeting.

“What’s the most engaging piece of marketing or advertising you’ve come across outside of the hospitality world, and what made it so compelling?”

After the team had shared the engaging marketing and advertisements, he was to ask them to work out how they could adapt the attributes to their hotel.

Fast forward 12 months, and I’m at a conference for the same hospitality group, this time with every GM around the world, not just from Asia. 

I bump into the GM, and he has a big smile on his face.

“Nils, I’ve just got to thank you for that 5-minute technique. It totally turned things around…”

At the first meeting, the sales team was a bit slow to think of marketing examples. Still, they did nonetheless, and it started to get them creating pro-active ideas.

At the second meeting, he wrote the same question up on the whiteboard. 

This time examples were flowing left, right and centre, and it was becoming easier for them to adapt. 

One of the ideas they had adapted came from a competition idea where a famous fashion designer would re-design and stitch up the winner’s favourite clothing outfit.

The hotel’s adapted idea was to run a competition with people sharing their favourite personal recipes.

The winner would win a night at the hotel where their Michelin hat chef would cook them a meal based on the recipe.

The campaign was a smashing success. 

It cost very little to do, created a stack of publicity, and created lots of sales.

The GM continued to use the 5-minute adaptation technique for his sales team and other team functions in the hotel.

And a few years later, the GM was promoted to run the hotel chain’s flagship hotel.

I think he owes me a beer.


Innovation doesn’t need to be complex. 

Nor does it have to be time-consuming. 

It can be as simple as having a prompt.


PS: Register here for our next free Business Reinvention Strategy Training.

Nils Vesk is a Four-Time Author and International Keynote Speaker. Nils has worked globally with over 200 bluechip companies including 3M, American Express, Canon, Caltex, Microsoft, Nestle´, IBM, Fuji Xerox, PWC, HP and Pfizer.

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About Nils Vesk

He's the founder of Ideas With Legs.

His  clients call him a Reinvention Renegade. Nils Vesk is an international authority on innovation and the inventor of the ‘Innovation Archetypes Process’.

Around the globe, leading companies such as Nestle, HP & Pfizer turn to Nils to share his unique game changing innovation techniques for formulating commercial insights, ideas, extraordinary customer experiences and irresistible products. Nils unpacks the million-dollar innovation principles used to create rapid growth for the future.

Nils is the author of a number of books including "Ideas With Legs - How to Create Brilliant Ideas and Bring Them to Life", and "Innovation Archetypes - Principles for World Class Innovation".

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