The Beat Letters: Gillespie On Innovation

We received three letters in response to Scott Gillespie's column last week on innovation--all supportive of Scott's arguments that travel management companies, global distribution system providers and corporate travel buyers lack the wherewithal to innovate.
As usual, Scott's insights are worth thinking about. My initial take is that the rewards [of innovation] are not as obvious as the penalties associated with the risks, in the eyes of those Scott cites. Innovators take risks and make investments in order to reap a reward. TMCs, GDSs and corporations don't have that mindset.

~ David Hillman of Consulting Strategies

Innovation: we all have to do our part, and now. The recent treatise around innovation and distribution resonates with my passion for the travel business. Your contributors and industry colleagues, Scot Gillespie, Michael Strauss and my former co-innovator/boss, Jim Davidson, all have lead me to have one of those "aha moments" today.

Here is a question: What do buyers or customers, suppliers, innovators or those new entrants and substitute products or services all have in common? The answer is an old one and defined by The Five Competitive Forces That Shape Strategy, by Michael Porter, 1979, Harvard Business Review.

Now a plea to your loyal readers: I suggest we all review and drive our own part of innovation today. I see the innovation is coming. It will be coming fast too as we crawl out of the last two years of poor economic conditions; be prepared, know you part and please act now.

~ Michael Jacques, consultant and VP of business development for TripWare

I applaud Scott's thought provoking and cattle-prodding the various players in the industry.

I think the fundamental problem is the last one raised--no willingness to pay for new and innovative products and services. Travel is managed as an expense line at corporations. It's something to track and reduce and optimize. The fundamental goal of a good travel manager is how to get more trips out of the allocated budget. Of course, there are security considerations, comfort, etc., which mitigates that, but it's really about the bottom line.

I agree that suppliers need to listen more carefully to buyers about their problems. And suppliers need to talk more openly amongst themselves about problems. But companies at heart are conservative and budget-oriented. Either we need to stop innovating altogether and just cut to the chase on price, or we need to do a much better job of identifying and selling the benefits of our new ideas.

Thanks for making me think about this one.

~ Corporate card executive