What is innovation, anyway? Three travel experts weigh inNewsBy Marisa Garcia | June 15, 2018Share This article was originally published on There are some words we use so often that we wear down the lines of the text to tatters, the phonics become mere warbles, and the very meaning of the word comes into question as readers and listeners roll their eyes at another cliché.Innovation is one of those words, it would seem, so often repeated and yet so rarely evidenced. What is innovation? How would we recognize it when we see it?The dictionary has its own opinion, of course, “the action or process of innovating” which isn’t very helpful, when you think about it. Look to the verb, innovate, and you get something more useful. “Make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products.”The word has been around since the 16th century, and we’ve seen a lot of true innovation in that time. Fires, candles and oil lamps gave way to gas lights which gave way to lightbulbs, which diversified to halogen and fluorescent, all of which are being phased out by LEDs.But just as it’s difficult to mark the degree of innovation in lighting at a time when there are so many light sources to be had, the speed of change in technology and the arcane nature of some of the changes that take place make any new development a questionable innovation.We asked three travel industry experts how they recognize what is truly innovative.SITA CEO, Barbara Dalibard, tells us: “For me, there are three aspects to innovation: it is how we do things – our processes and how we work with our customers; it is in our products and services – which of course are supported by new technologies like biometrics or artificial intelligence; it is developing or enabling new business models - new technologies, blockchain for instance, can allow a whole new way of doing business. We need to embrace these three aspects simultaneously. So, innovation is not just driven by technology but of course technology is a very important piece of it. “It takes place throughout SITA and is driven by our Innovation Board which provides clear focus and direction. Together with SITA Lab – our technology research team – which is exploring emerging technologies, we are investigating with our airline and airport customers how technologies can be used to make air travel easier at every step. Today we are working on projects using blockchain, machine learning, biometrics, mixed reality, drones, robotics and other technologies. “Recognizing innovation is easy when it has already happened but earlier in the process that is not so obvious. The key is to allow experimentation and failure, give the space and the stars will emerge.”Share this quote Suzie Thompson, VP Marketing, Distribution & Revenue Management at Red Carnation Hotels describes innovation as a type of foresight, or special insight into solutions to everyday problems that may be overlooked. She says: “It's the ability to think and do differently in order to find new solutions to present or future problems. Innovation requires vision, leadership, collaboration and communication. Innovate big and innovate small, just don’t be afraid to innovate at all!”Share this quote Skyscanner’s chairperson, Gareth Williams, regards innovation in the same terms as Harvard Business School professor Howard Stevenson has described entrepreneurship, as “the pursuit of opportunity without regard to resources currently controlled.”As Williams explains: “This applies just as much to innovation. The hard bit is not the idea — it’s making it happen in the face of inertia, doubts, speed bumps, and lack of resources. Capital and other resources is great for scaling an innovation, but innovations seem to thrive under conditions of constraints.”Share this quote So there you have it. Innovation is a new solution to an extant problem — perhaps one which has gone undetected — using whatever resources are available.Next time you bump into a potential innovation in the dark, light a match or turn on the switch and keep the fire burning in your team.