NH Hotel Group

NH Hotel Group breaks barriers during a 24-hour Design Thinking Hackathon

In an ad hoc industry like the hotel industry, there is a general mentality to solve problems with the same methods that were previously used. While this approach can be efficient, it often forgets the empathetic side to problem solving. This can result in neglecting those who are being helped, which, when your main business is providing the best possible service, is generally a bad sign.

As more hotels are slowly beginning to implement Design Thinking into their strategies, NH Hotel Group joined these trail blazers by experimenting with the Design Thinking methodology. NH Hotel Group’s HR management team brought their hotel management development candidates together to see how they would react to a new way of thinking that required each young professional to see their challenges with empathy.

With 24 hours on the clock, these twenty-nine candidates came together for a Design Thinking pressure cooker challenge. As the long hours carried on, each individual was forced to let down their guards, step out of their comfort zone, and embrace a new approach to solving daily challenges.

The 24-hour mission begins…

The day started with a sense of curiosity and wonder as the group arrived at the newest NH Hotel Group’s construction site to be welcomed by eight members of the management team standing together in the middle of the empty lot. In this rather Hollywood-esque scene, their 24-hour Design Thinking challenge was given. Following this, the team boarded onto the Plastic Whales Boat for their initial ice breaker en route to The Design Thinking Center.

Taking an empathetic approach to solve challenges

After being split into smaller teams, each group was given the task of solving a personal or NH Hotel Group related problem. To get to the root of the given challenge, the groups started with stakeholder mapping (see Figure 1). On this map, those with the most influence on the challenge are closer to the center, those without are further away.

Figure 1: Stakeholder Mapping Template

Once the stakeholders were identified, profiles of each were created and stakeholder journeys (see Figure 2) were mapped out. These journeys were mapped from the perspective of the stakeholder to find the areas of improvement. For instance, if the stakeholder were a guest, their journey before, during, and after the stay would be mapped out. Any moments during that journey that are perceived to not be up to par are identified and expanded upon.

Figure 2: Customer Journey Mapping Template

Seeing things with an empathetic perspective is key to Design Thinking as it allows companies to better understand the central cause of challenges. “We wanted to use Design Thinking to retrain the way we tackle problems by solving a problem from the perspective of the person who is experiencing the problem,” Tanya van der Heijden, Talent, Learning and Development Manager at NH Hotel Group, explained. “If you’re able to solve a problem from that perspective, then you’re able to connect more with that person who is affected by the problem”

Bringing ideas to life

With the insight created by identifying areas of opportunity, ideation began for the teams. For each challenge in the stakeholder journey, a solution was conceived. These solutions were then clustered with other solutions, opening the possibility to solve multiple challenges at once.

NH Hotel Group’s Customer Journey Mapping

NH Hotel Group’s young professionals took these clusters and moved into their prototyping stages. Since the current case did not require a physical prototype, the teams used scenario-based storytelling through videos and live acting to bring their stakeholder challenges and solutions to life.

This methodology allows a team to hone in on specific challenges, and by doing so, other related challenges are tackled. In other words, by focusing on one stakeholder’s journey and their areas for improvement, other stakeholder’s journeys are also influenced. This creates a ripple effect of influence in solving business challenges.

Unique application of Design Thinking

What sets this case apart from other Design Thinking applications is that the initiative came primarily from the HR management. The 24 hours served as an opportunity to pull the young professionals out of their comfort zones and see how they performed under unexpected conditions. It also encouraged the team to think about challenges with an empathetic approach, which allows them to gain a better understanding of their guests and colleagues.

NH Hotel Group hopes to continue to use the Design Thinking methodology moving forward, “I think it’s a good way of approaching a situation because it forces you to hone in on the specific situation, person, or target market and think from different perspectives about solving a situation. It’s not only a really good way of working but also helps you to connect with your core business,” Tanya concludes.

Ready to get started?

Design Thinking is changing the way in which hotels approach their challenges, whether they are personnel or guest related. Do you have a similar challenge you are dealing with in your organization? Reach out, we would love to brainstorm together to find your human-centric solution.