ROHIT VERMA: So we are really delighted to have Miss McKenna here from Hilton. I assume you've got some background information about her. She's the director of our customer experience and innovation. [INAUDIBLE]?
CAITLIN MCKENNA: I am, yes.
ROHIT VERMA: A Cornell graduate, 2005. And [INAUDIBLE]. Her background is generally in what she [INAUDIBLE]. Let's just welcome her.
CAITLIN MCKENNA: All right. Very good. Well, thank you guys. I really appreciate you letting me come and be part of this very cool session. I love that there's finally a cross section that's being explored between health and hospitality and wellness and all those great things that we need to talk about for future state in bettering both industries.
My name is Caitlin McKenna, as Rohit said. Not Dean Verma, but Rohit. And for those of you who don't know, I graduated in 2005, which feels like yesterday, but apparently it's been like 12 or 13 years. So anyhow, I thank you again for welcoming me today.
I want to start the day off by just showing you a quick video around the future of hospitality, some of the components of which include a wellness exploration. And after that I'll tell you a little bit about myself. But before that, let's just start with a quick video, and we'll go from there.
OK. So I made that video really just to, number one, hopefully it inspires the morning a little bit. And by the way, I'm very casual. So if you have questions along the way, just raise your hand and ask. I'm not fearful of answering any question that might come my way and love the dialog.
But made the video as a real exploration of the future of hospitality, but also to showcase that through the power of things like data and analytics and technology, supply management, partnerships, and things like that, we have a real powerful opportunity to change how we experience hospitality and offer wellness throughout that journey.
One of the things that I like to note is that wellness and well-being, it doesn't have to be considered throughout the entire journey of a guest experience, but rather is the small, incremental less obvious system of products that a guest experiences throughout the way. And with guests staying at our properties, we've got about a million guests staying at our properties every single night, so we have a real opportunity, and in my opinion, an obligation and a duty, to serve the wellness need that our consumers are expecting at this point in time in the industry.
So we'll talk a little bit about that. But before I go on, I'll tell you a little bit about myself, just to give you some bearings and understand why I'm talking to you today. As Rohit mentioned and I mentioned, I graduated in 2005. And I took some time to do some consultancy type work, which I liked, didn't love.
And at some stage I decided, I'm going to go work at Hilton and help our senior leaders discover where value lies. I was more of an analyst, an internal consultant to asset managers, things like that, our CFO, CEO. And I would help them, through analytics, decide what was valuable, what wasn't, where we should invest in our business and where we should move on, and then also help our owners and operators do just the same.
At some stage, my left brain became completely and utterly exhausted, staring at spreadsheets day in and day out, and I decided to pursue another passion point of mine, a little bit more creative, and that was wellness. The trouble was I didn't want to leave the industry that I called home, which is, of course, hospitality.
So at that very same time, it was sort of fortuitous, there happened to be a job opening in the spa discipline at Hilton, so I managed to convince the hiring manager that I was even remotely equipped to change the spa discipline. And I did it.
And the cool thing was, and the reason I think I added value in that particular stage, was Euphoria Spa and Fitness was launched maybe two or three years prior, and it was proving to have zero value to the business whatsoever. In fact, the spas were losing money. And so for me, it was easy to just peel back the layers, dive in, look at the numerics, and figure out where the problems were.
And for me that became a really exciting challenge. And that's where my entry in process problem solving, process identification, and exploration into finding the right solutions became really intriguing. So over the course of several years, I made it my mission to evolve the Euphoria Spa and Fitness piece of the business, which we did. And now we've got over 40 of them around the world. Of course, some of that continued growth and development is by the wonderful support of the team I left behind who replaced me.
But my real job and goal at that time was to start convincing the business that wellness actually did matter and that there was a contingent of wellness consumers who really, really care about living and breathing a wellness lifestyle, whatever that might be, and that was different for everybody.
And then too, it mattered because it would ultimately change the business, ultimately change how we operate within our hotels, and thus, of course, drive value to the owner, operator, et cetera. And at first that was one massive, giant hurdle. And I think now we're coming full circle.
But anyway, right as I began to get my bearings with spa, I decided that fitness needed some attention too. Fitness, we had about 4,400 properties around the world at the time. And every single one of those properties had a fitness center. I'm not sure the last time you all have been to a hotel and have seen the fitness centers in Hotel Statler, for example. They're nothing to brag about, and yet we're wondering why nobody uses the fitness center. It's a glaring opportunity, of course.
So I started to work on that a little bit too. But just as I really got my bearings with the fitness facilities and that particular piece of the job, I ended up taking a job in strategic creative innovation, product innovation, and then of course my job has now evolved into customer experience and innovation.
And anyway, that all comes full circle, because the bottom line is value, and value to the guest, and value to the owner. And I'll talk a little bit more about that. And there's a piece of the puzzle that in all the work that we do, and I think you'll see this. I might reiterate it far too many times. But it's the ability to qualitatively and quantitatively justify the work that you're doing and prove out a particular value or ROI to the consumer and to the operator. And I'll talk about that a little bit more.
But the key underpinnings of that is observation. Whether that's via research, analytics, so on and so forth. And we could talk a little bit about that in more depth in just a second.
So one of the things I have my team look at every time we go ahead and start a project is three overarching questions. And by the way, I'm going to talk about all this stuff in the context of Hilton. Number one because I represent Hilton, but number two, it helps frame up these types of questions. They're probably more meaningful to a massive enterprise like Hilton. Less so a startup or something like that.
But one of the beautiful things-- I will say this. One of the beautiful things about working for Hilton, it's why I've been there for a decade, is we act like a bit of a startup, though we're a massive company. And we're really empowered. We're allowed to make decisions in the moment, seek and share ideas, and all those wonderful things. So it has a very different feeling than maybe some of our competitors in other massive companies.
But anyway, so we'll start out. Some of the overarching questions is will this simplify and uplift the guest experience. Of course our primary consumer is the guest, right? But the next thing is will it help the hotel and its team members and, in parentheses, owners?
So as you know, we're a franchise business, and we operate hotels in 90 countries around the world, maybe even more at this stage. And in a franchise business, one of your major customers becomes the owner. If you provide no value to the owner, it doesn't matter what you do for the guests, because there will be no such hotel. So everything we do has to make sure that there is a very quantitative and measurable value to both of those two contingents.
And then thirdly, can this be scaled across multiple brands, properties, et cetera, to provide a consistent experience. And I don't mean consistent experience in that 14 brands will have the same exact experience every time. But if we're going to build something and launch it into some sort of respectable market domain, will we be able to scale it with the right technology platforms, the right infrastructure, the right team members, will the experience be pleasant enough for the varying cultures who will experience?
As you know, I mentioned 90 countries around the world. If you can imagine the different people we touch around the world, it has to be relevant to many more people other than our US-centric, at times, business. So those are the three overarching things that we think about.
But the second thing that I also make my team look at are four success metrics or qualifiers. And they become success metrics later on in the development process, but to start I consider them qualifiers. And what I mean by that is if we have a known problem that we're going to try and solve for, we need to be able to make sure that no matter what the solution is that we ultimately create, it has to meet these four qualifiers, and if it doesn't, we're moving on.
And this is probably most relevant in a large company. It's driving demand, meaning will more people stay at our hotels? Will they go to our restaurants? Will they use our spas, even when they don't stay at the hotel? Will we get a stronger rev par, higher occupancy, so on and so forth. Those are the things that I mean by drive demand.
Will there be an increased willingness to pay? So if I do x, will people spend $20 more doing that, or would they mind adding $50 to the room night if x was available? Those types of questions.
And then will it create a relative scarcity. And what I mean by relative scarcity, and I apologize if you all know exactly what that means, but in case you don't, relative scarcity is simply will they come stay with us versus another person because we have said product. And that's sometimes hard to define and hard to measure, but there are ways.
And will this help us tell our story. My belief is if you don't tell anyone what you've done, it's as good as never having done it before. So there's a real value to telling your story, and that can be literally your internal team members, or it could be this massive PR and marketing opportunity. Either way, that is a big piece of the puzzle. And it has to align well with the vision and mission of whatever you're doing. So you're not going to build something that ultimately doesn't jive with the rest of the messaging around the business, so that's why this particular pillar or qualifier becomes ever more important.
I'll talk a little bit about product teams. It feels very fundamental, but the reason why I bring it up is there's this school of thought, and maybe this is true in a discipline like finance or accounting or so on, where the more manpower you have, the more output you will also have. We disagree in the world of innovation, and that's why, possibly, startups are very successful.
So we actually have very, very small, nimble, agile product teams that their sole function is to build against a given product. What you see up top, product owner, product manager, creative lead, for example, those are the people that would sit at the core of the product that they're developing, and then we've got some subject matter experts that would be brought along the way to help shape and define the ultimate solution.
Those are our feature teams. And say, for example, if we're building a fitness concept, we might bring along a food and beverage expert or a digital guy or gal who will help build out the function, our loyalty teams, for example, and so on. And those are the folks that they come in at the right time. They're empowered to make decisions and help shape the product.
We don't need to go up and down the ladder to get approvals 50 times over. And we just have the ability to really build something fast. And the reason why fast is important is for obvious reasons. If you don't move quickly, you are building something that will be obsolete at launch time, or you're already behind the times, and it makes virtually no sense to be building in the first place.
So I mentioned, obviously, that our core person is the customer. So if the customer is our core person, then why are we not solving for anything but the customer. So we spend all of our time embedding ourselves in the minds of the customers, and that's where we find where the pain points, opportunities, and any needs might be.
I think there's this inherent kind of-- I don't know. You want to build a solution before you even know there's a problem. We see a lot of this in startups. They're building something, but there's really no problem that they're trying to solve for in the first place. And they've got a great idea, but there's not really a need to even start with, so it's an ultimate fail.
But if you become keen observers, and you sit, and you watch, and you see what people are doing, and you understand their habits, and you watch their behaviors and the sequence of their movements throughout a hotel or throughout the guest journey, you start having some discoveries, and that's when you can start building a product. Sure.
CAITLIN MCKENNA: Sure. Absolutely. So there's multiple ways. You mentioned surveys. So surveys is an easy, quantitative or qualitative methodology of gathering information. We have salt surveys that we call them. And they're-- I don't remember the acronym.
I'm awful at remembering acronyms. But really it's an opportunity so post-guest's stay, they might comment or provide feedback on an experience within their hotel. It might be a spa experience, a food and beverage experience, their in-room, what have you. And they might provide feedback in that context. So those types of standard surveys.
Those are valuable just to get a high level understanding of what's going on and general sentiment, but where you get really good information is if you literally perch yourself in the middle of a lobby and watch people move around. Or if you throw a minimum viable product into a space and you let people give it a whirl, you see how they act with that product that you've just developed, and you could discover where there's room for improvement.
So I could show a few examples in a minute, but that's really what I mean by observing. It could be a bit of an awkward experience, and I've done it a thousand times over. But it's no different than, I guess, Alexis, you can attest to consultancy. You're asking thousands of questions, and if you're not asking questions, you're people watching. Everyone likes to people watch.
So that becomes a really key component of the business, and the observational research doesn't stop. So you build this minimum viable product. You test it. And one of the great things about Cornell too is that we have a live lab. And by live lab I mean every single hotel that we operate.
So we don't just build something and hope that it's the right thing and throw it into the market. We actually-- the most minimum viable product, we put in hotel guestrooms, we put in the hotel, and we watch it, and we test it, and we iterate on it.
And one of the cool things that we-- it becomes very attractive to companies big and small. We've got, at any given point in time, 30 companies that we're working with. Small startups two massive partners, like Amazon, for example. And we're letting them break their stuff in our hotels, and we're helping them to ultimately get an idea to a commercial state.
Sometimes we'll think of an idea together and build prototypes along the way with one another, and at other times, we'll actually take what might appear to be a consumer product and make it hospitality ready. So the iteration process becomes quite important. And then when it becomes a minimum marketable product, that's when you can go ahead and actually launch it into more than a single property.
It's not so much a test anymore. It's an actual product. But you'll notice that process is never complete. Just as you launch something, you're ready to continue developing it, which is why we have small, little teams that will ultimately continuously build on that.
So have you guys heard of Digital Key, for example? Maybe not. But Digital Key, basically, you use your mobile phone to unlock your key. And Hilton was the first to launch this, and it's through the Hilton Honors app. And they launched it, but literally the day they launched it, they're already working on V2 or the next iteration of it and things like that. So that's my point around continuous development.
OK. So I'm showing you this slide not because it's sequential in nature, but it helps break down that circle that's on the former page. And there's really just a few reasons why I point to this slide. What you'll notice is that there are certain items that are boxed out. Some of them are unboxed. And the point here is around flexibility.
So depending on the size and magnitude of what you're developing, you might do some of the non-box things, but you'll always do the stuff that's in the box. For example, the ideation phase, substantiate against your qualifier. So things that I mentioned earlier.
Will it drive demand? Will it increase the willingness to pay? So on and so forth. And those things become very valuable in the validation phase. So you're going to set up what value means to you and what value means to the product.
Does it mean that you're going to have x, y, z ROI? Does it mean that you're going to have an increase in rev par? Does it mean-- I can list them off.
And if you define what success looks like, once you get to the point where you're going to test a product, you can measure against those criteria, and you're not you're not left wondering what does value mean and to whom. So that becomes a very important piece of the puzzle. The other thing that seems less obvious, but in a company the size of Hilton, stakeholder buy-in becomes a really critical piece of the puzzle.
You don't want to get to the point of launch, and no one has ever heard of it except for you, because then there will be zero adoption, and you'll be left with nothing but a bunch of hurdles to convince people that you've built something great. So always bring people along the way. And that seems obvious, but there's this tendency in human nature to hoard what you're doing, have full ownership of it, and not tell anybody. That will bite anyone in the rear in ways that you don't like when you're working for a huge company.
And then the other thing I'd like to talk about too is the testing thing. So testing. The only way you're going to know if something is fantastic is through testing, which I mentioned. But then finally I redid the socialize thing. The socialize phase, rather.
Socializing, I mean this in-- there's an internal piece that's very valuable. So letting every single person in the business as well as within the franchise community know of what you're doing. And then also the marketing piece. And that's where the consumer gets to know what's available and new and different, and they get to really understand the differentiator and the story component of it. The why you're doing what you're doing.
And when you're working with thousands of people on any given day of the week, it's hard to communicate the real purpose of your business, and telling your story becomes a critical piece to making that successful. OK. So one of the things that I wanted to just briefly touch on today is the idea of simplicity versus utter disruption.
As all of you know, you hear the word disruption everywhere, and that's the buzz word. By the way, I'm already bored of the word innovation, but it's not going anywhere. So innovation it is, and so too is disruption.
But disruption, of course, is wonderful. Right? You think about what Amazon does. Amazon is disrupting every darn industry there is, including health care. We're disrupting. Digital Key is a disruptor. All these different things are fantastic.
But one of the things that I want to point out is that innovation does not have to be this massive overhaul of how you do something. It's OK if it's small, incremental changes, and it's continuous improvements in the business. And we often think about innovation in forms of gadgetry, and things, and tech, and phones, and machines.
And while, yes, that is a serious piece of the puzzle, innovation has to happen everywhere else too, especially in our business. It's how we function as a team. It's our processes that we develop. It's human resources and how we do different things in human resources. In our business, how we take care of our team members, for example, is a really important piece to how then we take care of our guests. So there's a trickle effect to all of this.
So I'd just like to point out that in our case, it's small, it's simple, and certainly service is the underpinnings of absolutely everything that we do. Gadgetry is wonderful, but if there's no service that underlines it, and gadgetry isn't the supplemental piece of the puzzle, then we have a real opportunity for potential failure. So I like to just keep that in mind and remind my team too, that's the business we're in.
OK. So three philosophies of innovation. I'll go through these briefly on this slide and then get in a little bit more detail. And how am I for time? I'm all right? All right.
So we've got, number one, innovate in your areas of strength. Two, focus on what they actually do, not what they say they do. And then solve for social dynamics rather than product problems.
So what do I mean by all these? So like I mentioned earlier, we're in an industry where we're best in service, right? So we should focus on service and be the spearheads of what great service looks like. However, we can't innovate very well if we don't bring in other expertise.
So for us, we need to bring in partners, like I mentioned, small startups, folks like you. We did a really wonderful first-ever hospitality hackathon through eHub last, I want to say October, and it was so super successful. It was a really fantastic opportunity to leverage young minds, bring in some new energy and new ideas, and help us ultimately innovate. We'll actually do that again this year.
But my point is here around bringing in cross industries, adjacent industries. And I think that's kind of what this whole class is all about, right? Like you can't do wellness without understanding the various other industries that might have peripheral vantage points in wellness. So bring in the people that know how to build products that aren't necessarily bound in service.
And I'll talk about this just briefly. So last year, I launched the Hilton Innovation Gallery. And its sole purpose-- I'll let you guys watch a little bit of a video if it starts. We'll see. Maybe not. Yeah.
CAITLIN MCKENNA: Oh, here we go. There's no sound. But I launched the Innovation Gallery last year for the sole purpose of convening. It's the place where we bring all these great minds. We bring in people from other industries, and we let people share with us their great ideas about how we can propel the industry forward and also how we can ultimately help them build their industry in a different way, too.
You'll see that there's this U-shaped seating area, and it's meant to be a place where you collaborate, and you think differently, and you communicate in a way that's different than sitting at a round top table and talking at each other, staring at each other in the face. When we first opened the building, people said, OK. I want to use the space, but can you bring eight round top tables in? And we said, no, you can't bring in round top tables. That's defeating the purpose. We want you to function differently.
And so the spaces built-- you'll see, this is VR, here. What you saw beforehand is the product showcase showing the different products that we've built in an iterative process with our different partnerships and things like that. And the real value is exploring the future of hospitality, but doing it in a way that we're leveraging these partnerships in areas of expertise that we don't have in our four walls. So that's really the ultimate goal of that and my point around doing what you do best, but letting others do the rest.
In terms of focusing on what people actually do, not what they say they do, this seems fairly obvious, but this is where being-- oops. Excuse me. No, we're OK. Where being a keen observer becomes ever so important.
A few years ago, we had this real issue around package-- at all of our hotels, as you can imagine, people send their packages to the front desk. If they're going to arrive at the hotel, they might send a box beforehand, and the front desk will help deliver that package to the guest. Well, the front desk is happily delivering the package to the front desk, but when you're dealing with thousands of packages every day, it becomes a little bit arduous, and it's pulling you away from your task, which is check in, check out guests.
So being the keen observers that we are, we started to notice that the front desk staff was not delivering a pleasant experience to the guests when they were coming up to them and saying, can I have my package. So we said, well, how are we going to solve for this? And this is what I mean by really small things that are not massive overhauls, but they actually create a pleasant experience for the guests and ultimately a byproduct for the hotel that's even better.
So what we did was we partnered with Amazon, and we were the first company to help launch their locker program. And anyway, at first test, it took away the burden of 10,000 packages at the front desk to the locker. So guests were now coming up, picking up their package from the locker, and not only that, it was bringing the community of people from outside to the hotel. They'd pick up the package and then go to the bar and have a drink or go to the restaurant and have a meal.
So you're building a stronger value to the hotel, and you're making something so simple. And we wouldn't have known it had we not watched the faces of the team members who were supposedly giving good service to our guests as they came into the hotel. The next point here is around solving for social dynamics. And this is really around the wellness.
I want to use the wellness as a wellness-specific case study, here. Because we're finally at a place where the wellness consumer is finally gaining attention. When I was doing spa and fitness years ago, I could literally talk my ears off and everyone's ears off around wellness and what that meant to the business, and it was met with such resistance.
Number one, our executives, they didn't really think it was a big deal, because they didn't exercise. Or that's what they thought wellness was. My belief is that wellness is about a positive experience. Making people feel well and comfortable and happy within your space. It's about delivering a really lovely interaction that leaves them feeling pleasant. They might not even notice it in the moment.
Wellness is around sustainability and giving people a feeling of well through sustainability efforts. In the gallery, for example, we've got one wall that's entirely living. It's made completely of a Norwegian moss. It's subtle, but it cleans the air. It's a different look and feel. And so wellness doesn't always have to be, like I mentioned, this packaged set of experiences, but rather these more subtle things along the way. I finally feel like we're at this space, which is why I think this class has, frankly, come to fruition. Because the wellness consumer and the people who are operating businesses are finally coming to agreement with each other.
Anyway, so it's a social dynamic. It's not a real problem. It's something that we're addressing as a group. So I'll play a video too for you. But how we got to Five Feet to Fitness. This is a product that we launched mid last year. And what we noticed was like I mentioned earlier.
Nobody is using-- nobody is a grave exaggeration. But very few people are using our fitness guestrooms, and that's industry-wide. It's not just Hilton. But yet we insist, via brand standards, that a fitness facility has to be in the hotel. That makes no sense.
If we change the fitness facility, maybe it'll make sense, but at this very stage, it doesn't make sense. And what we were finding is that people aren't using it for obvious reasons. It's lackluster. It's not very inspiring. You don't want to go there. You do not feel well by any stretch of the imagination while you're in that space.
Two, you don't really want to wear your sweaty gear in front of your colleagues and traipse through the lobby of the hotel to go exercise. There is no sense of privacy, so on and so forth. So we went ahead with those observations in mind, built what we're calling Five Feet of Fitness. I'll show you a quick video of it.
And really what it is, it's an in-room fitness offering. We're the first in the industry to launch this type of thing in this magnitude. Other people have done it, and we even did it in the past, with placing a bike in the room or a yoga mat or something, but it really wasn't a comprehensive set of products.
This is Five Feet to Fitness. In a second, I'll tell you about the business case, the iterative process, and why it makes perfect sense to launch. All right.
- You're gonna feel great after this. OK, let's go. Extend arms outward. Alternate these positions. Reach up [INAUDIBLE]. Stand in position two, holding weight at chest height. Using a sweeping motion, sweep [INAUDIBLE] shoulder height [INAUDIBLE]. Pull your body toward [INAUDIBLE]. Side step [INAUDIBLE]. Keep your core engaged. [INAUDIBLE]. You're crushing it today.
OK. So you get the idea. It literally sits in a guest room. It requires no different footprint, but has a really cool opportunity for guests who, number one, who happen to exercise on the road. It's great for them. But even better, it's opened up this new market of individuals who'd never even thought about exercising, and now they are because they don't need to bring their shoes. They don't need to come packed with stuff. And it's their opportunity to explore and do something differently.
When we first launched the program, we went to a number of different-- we went to our owners conference, for example. And all the owners were like, oh my god, this is really cool, but no way are you going to have me invest and put this in every one of my rooms. Until we share with them the business case. And this lines up with the success measures that I mentioned earlier.
So in this particular instance, it cost $12,000 to outfit a room, but it has a 20% uplift on revenue for the room. So if it's-- like at the Hilton McLean, for example, it's a $40 to $50 premium on that room. It's booked nearly 100% of the time, and the ROI is anywhere from 18 to 24 months. And for those of you who have ever dabbled in investment, like me, 18 to 24 months is an absolute no brainer. It's super easy.
So this is an example of a product through iteration, discovery, measuring what success looks like, forcing a product to meet the need of a consumer, number one, but also drive value to both of our contingents that matter most to us. It becomes a really fantastic product.
And in conclusion, I could probably carry on, but I realize now that I see there's a clock there, where we are for time. This is obviously a space that's very near and dear to my heart, and I could talk about it for the next eight hours. But what I'll ask is that you become the next generation of observers and observe things, obviously the gaping holes, where there's opportunity to improve, but also be keenly aware of the small human patterns and behaviors that dictate an opportunity for change. And that's really where you begin to innovate in wellness and of course anywhere else in the business.
That's all for me today. Happy to answer questions and tell you more about how we innovate at Hilton if you have any.
ROHIT VERMA: [INAUDIBLE] questions [INAUDIBLE]. But anybody would like to ask a question directly, [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: Hi. Thank you for coming here. [INAUDIBLE] I know that there's also really a demand for people who wanted to exercise outside of the hotel. There are people who wanted [INAUDIBLE] cycling, and I was wondering if Hilton [INAUDIBLE] that at all?
CAITLIN MCKENNA: Yes, we have. So a couple of different initiatives which are fun. We have a Take the Stairs program. So for I cannot recall how many hotels right now, but we have basically guidance on how the guest can traverse the building via steps rather than take the elevator. That's super simple.
We also have a program like a run-walk program. The hotels have these really cool maps to explore the city and the culture within via running or walking. We also have our Canopy brand. The Canopy brand is known for bikes. And actually gave each of the winners for the hackathon a Canopy bike. So if you see orange bikes around here, it's ours.
That is an opportunity to explore the city and the local community via bike riding. Let's see. We've got different programs through Conrad, which is Conrad 1/3/5, I think, is the initiative. And it's basically exploring the city. You can either be doing these walking type things or whatever. So we do certainly do that, and we have packaged them in terms of a program and an offering to the hotel, but you're right. People want to get out and explore and run and get fresh air.
We've also even thought about taking our gyms and putting them outside and creating a neat sort of adult playground type space. We may open that up at some stage again. Who knows. But yeah, we've explored a number of different things and launched a handful of others.
ROHIT VERMA: One question. Leah, are you here? Yeah. You want to ask a question?
AUDIENCE: I don't remember it. I'm trying to remember.
CAITLIN MCKENNA: But good thing you're here, because that would have stunk if he asked if you were.
ROHIT VERMA: I'll ask the question. Just let me get it. What is one of the most valuable takeaways from your [INAUDIBLE].
CAITLIN MCKENNA: Oh, I love that question. There are so many. I was telling Rohit this morning that to me, I think the most valuable thing, education is wonderful. Books are wonderful. The things that you learn in a classroom, of course, are valuable. But to me, the most powerful takeaways were the wonderful people that I got to meet and the interactions that I was so fortunate to have.
I came from a very small town in Pennsylvania, and I would say it was limited in terms of the type of people that I was able to immerse myself with on a day-to-day basis. And I always considered myself an open-minded person and a welcoming individual for all different types of people and so on. But when I came to Cornell, it was like a breath of fresh air. I actually got to meet a set of wonderful people who came from every inch of the world and taught me something different in every interaction. So for me, education was cool, but the ability to be among such wonderful people was the best part.
ROHIT VERMA: Thank you. Yes, go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Can you talk a little bit about the scale of your teams? How many people work [INAUDIBLE] projects. [INAUDIBLE]
CAITLIN MCKENNA: Oddly enough, we're in a big overhaul and change of the business. We're actually reorging a bunch. I was telling Rohit this morning that we brought in a man by the name of John Witter. He was formerly working at Capital One. And his real MO is around innovation and marketing and things like that. So we're changing up how we formulate our business.
And the idea is that there will be a senior leader, for example, someone like me. I would have a team of an endless number of people, depending on how many products we work on. But the idea is we need to solve for the most prominent issue at hand.
So you have one product vertical, so to speak, that's solving for in-room experience or meetings and events or whatever it might be, and you have a small team of maybe two, three people. And those are the ones that every day are working towards the solution that you're working on. But everyone else in the business knows that, and you're bringing in those subject matter experts along the way.
So they might be working on a slew of other things as part of their gig, but they'll stop and come work on this project with us where it makes sense. So if we need a digital person. If we need a FNB representative, and they come on and ultimately will then continue working with us on that product over a course of time. And we'll build out these teams as issues present themselves, and we have a strong enough case to build against a certain problem.
We also have a few people, for example, that are just there to help us stay abreast of trends, be aware of technology, those types things. They work on more or less the low-hanging fruit type stuff that we definitely need our hands in, but don't have a formulated plan around, if that makes sense.
ROHIT VERMA: There were a bunch of questions about partnerships and the fact that [INAUDIBLE]
CAITLIN MCKENNA: So yes. This is a great question. Partnerships, we rarely say OK, we need an exclusive partnership. That wouldn't make much sense if we went to Amazon and said, you have to be our exclusive partner. They would immediately say no. And my belief, and I think others in the company, is that if we propel the industry forward, we ultimately propel our own business. So the level of exclusivity doesn't matter to us as much.
We work with, like I mentioned, small startup companies, but we also work with big enterprises like the likes of Amazon, for example, Microsoft, Intel, Samsung, so on. And we work with them to varying degrees. The trouble with start-- there's wonderful value to startups in that you get this brilliance of an idea, but you have to work harder to scale it, right? Because when you're a startup, you don't necessarily have the infrastructure to serve x amount of countries, or you don't have the supply chain set up, or manufacturing, and so on.
So there are limitations, but it's a kind of fun piece of the puzzle if it makes a lot of sense. For example, one of the products that we've worked on a lot this year is with a company called Pilot. It's the translation earbud. So being able to translate in real-time language and not have to do text to text, talk to text, that sort of thing.
But a limitation, of course, is around their scalability factor. But we want to take that risk with them. If we see real hospitality application, we help bring them from that infant state to a large commercial state.
But then the value too, of course, with working with companies like Amazon is they already have this level of genius about them and an infrastructure to really quickly support our business and vice versa. So those partnerships become a lot easier. Maybe not the initiation of them.
There's a lot more conversation and legalities around it, and who does what, and what the project will look like. And that's where the piece of the puzzle that I talked about earlier when you saw the chart that went across the board, defining what the scope is becomes ever more important so that everyone's very aware of what the ultimate goal is.
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
ROHIT VERMA: If somebody has one quick question, [INAUDIBLE]
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. There's also a mix of social media [INAUDIBLE] a huge platform. The leveraging of either that experience with one of your new products, [INAUDIBLE]. So how do you find that balance between leading edge but also know that the product that you're putting out there, are you willing to hedge your bets that yes, 10% of feedback may be negative, but we're OK with 90%.
CAITLIN MCKENNA: Yes. So when we do a test, for example, we're not testing in 50 properties to get 50 potential fails or 50 hotel fails with lord knows how many guests in a given test. We'll usually start with one, two, or three properties and have a defined number of folks that we're willing to fail with. But it still matters because they're a mix of guests.
We might look at our honors members. We like might look at people who are staying with us for the first time. We want the feedback from everybody, but we're not going to set ourselves up for failure and let a test be our demise by letting social media react to a test.
But believe it or not, guests love being part of the future. They love being part of the process of defining a solution. And when you let them know that's what they're doing-- because they would never go in and not know that they weren't testing something. We don't let them go in blindly.
And as soon as they get the idea that they're helping to shape the industry, there's this intrigue, and they're willing to take that risk with us. And I think that's our saving grace. And likewise, when you've got 5,000 properties around the world, a handful of them, they want to be at the forefront, and they want to be the leading edge hotels that are willing to take risk along with you. So it becomes an easy proposition.
ROHIT VERMA: Thank you very much.
CAITLIN MCKENNA: Oh, you're welcome.
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Caitlin McKenna, senior director of Strategic Innovation Delivery at Hilton Worldwide, gives a Health, Hospitality and Design Industry Seminar, "Innovating Wellbeing in Hospitality," March 16, 2018. Offered by the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures, the seminar course (HADM/DEA 3033/6055) provides a unique opportunity for students to learn from industry leaders with proven success in the emerging industry that combines elements of hospitality and design with health, wellness, and senior living.