Shared Intelligence, not Artificial

After a thought-provoking few days at the annual GBTA Europe conference in Frankfurt, I‘ve taken some time to reflect and consider the main topics.
Artificial intelligence
I tend to agree with the statement that people overestimate technological change in the short term, and underestimate it in the long. This was evident in many of the educational sessions which focused heavily on artificial intelligence.

It seemed that not a presentation went by without the speaker giving some version of the “the robots are coming” pitch, but mostly then failing to either convey any but the very lightest comprehension of the topic or provide any real examples of how it will transform our industry. Longer terms AI will define many of our experiences in travel or elsewhere.

In the meantime, we are yet to see any live examples in our industry where there has been a seismic shift in the user experience due to AI.

‘Cross-industry innovation’
The simpler, smarter vision of change came from “Idea DJ” Ramon Vullings.
He challenged us to “re-imagine the way we do things” and look to other industries for inspiration. He calls this  “cross-industry innovation.” Vullings shared humorous anecdotes and experiences where industries had converged, and suggested attendees ask, how can we use technology to make things simpler for people?

He also emphasized that looking to other industries is not a game of copy-cat but a game of thought leadership:
“For cross-industry innovation, don’t copy what others are doing but copy the thinking behind the ideas,” he said.

He shared numerous successful examples such as the airplane landing gear being the inspiration behind the first foldable Maclaren baby pram and the Formula 1 pit stop, which drove the design of fast food drive-throughs. Many of the problems we face have likely been solved in other industries, but it requires a specific determination to seek them out.

One example of this is ride-sharing app Uber, which burst into the market as part of the shared economy evolution some years ago. Uber has now rolled out its technology to other areas such as food delivery through UberEats. Another examples is Easyjet who applied the low-cost concept from the airline industry to its lauched Easyjet car, cruise, and hotel brands. The company even launched Easygym, EasyPizza and EasyCinema — the list goes on.

Technology continues to push the industry forward
Technology continues to be a driving force and underpins the majority of the discussions I had with both buyers and suppliers, and whilst technology is developing rapidly, so are our expectations. GBTA put the question of the biggest game changer to the test with a lively debate covering the changing the way we book and manage business travel.

In line with the main buzz-theme of the conference, AI was voted the most important trend on a five-year timeline. And whilst there is no doubt that the shared economy has made a significant impact, many felt that this game changer was already an established trend with a growth of 18,000 new corporate customers coming on board each month.

We all crave innovation and we all want our industry to shed its poor reputation for the same, but I can’t help feeling we should spend more time finding smart simple solutions for the basics of what business travel is all about. Changing the way, we think rather than hitching a ride on the bandwagons du jour.

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