If you don't foster innovation, employees will seek it somewhere else

Kyle Stromberg

Chief Technology Officer at Navitaire, an Amadeus company

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Fostering innovation in the workplace is key to nurturing disruption from within, but it’s not always easy. I remember when Justin Wilde first came up with his virtual reality (VR) booking experience project. After purchasing a VR device with his own money, Justin used the goggles to create an immersive experience around the booking process. He brought in his own HTC Vive into the office, set it up in one of our training rooms, and invited me to come down and just try it out.

 two workers developing their ideas


There was initial scepticism as to how this idea would impact the travel industry and how applicable toNavitaireand its products this would be in the long term. Some employees wondered who would genuinely want to book travel with VR. However, this premature disbelief did not translate into heavy resistance. Navitaire has a culture of fostering innovation by allowing employees to develop demos that can prove and demonstrate concepts. As a matter of fact, Navitaire CEO Dave Evans was supportive of this idea from the start.

Although Justin’s VR project is unique, it is not an exception. For example, Navitaire’sAncillary Pricing Optimization, which uses predictive analytics to optimize ancillary pricing, is one other example of a product which started out as an employee’s personal project. Even if an original concept does not become an actual solution that we bring to market, parts of it may.

These projects can contribute to raising the value of our offer for our customers, and in turn helps our business adapt fast to changes in the marketplace. Fostering innovation from within also provides opportunities for people to bring their ideas to life, to show their abilities and to find new ways of supporting our customers, beyond their usual day-to-day work. It shows that we value creativity, and we listen to our employees and support them to explore new projects, and this can have a significant impact on our business.

Managers who don’t enable innovation at work are overlooking opportunities to engage their team and to ultimately benefit their companies. If you asked a few engineers why they would like to work for the world’s biggest tech brands, they are likely to mention the innovation these behemoths are known for. Developers are naturally creative people, eager to harness any chance to develop concepts of their own.

Nonetheless, from a managerial perspective, encouraging creativity in the workplace presents challenges. The greatest difficulty is to balance unique ideas with the day-to-day business. You cannot lose sight of your business objectives, but at the same time it is essential to offer an environment where engineers and developers can be innovative within a reasonable timeframe.

After trying Justin’s demo we could envision his concept of a VR booking experience. VR is still in the early stages, but thanks to devices like Oculus Rift, Google Daydream, Samsung Gear VR or HTC Vive, this technology is getting closer to reaching the mass market. Virtual reality could be an important channel for airlines to reach travellers. The booking experience needs to be available on any consumer channel, and the first airlines to adopt a VR booking experience could really stand out from the crowd.

Amadeus and Navitaire are always looking for new ways of shaping the future of travel by fostering innovation, and Navitaire will continue to explore VR as a consumer channel. We are also looking into augmented reality to see what its potential is from a customer perspective. I hope one day soon I can book my holidays in VR, who knows what the future will bring!

Get a taste of the VR experience in the video below, or visit our newsroom formore information.