Workshop Review: Innovate or Disappear

On Thursday 5/14, guests joined our expert panel for a discussion of the Future of Hospitality in the post-COVID-19 era. The panel was presented by Brick & Wonder and the Independent Lodging Congress, and moderated by Scott Williams, President of The Nantucket Project.

Video & Audio Playback

Session Recap

Drew Lang Introduced the session, Independent Lodging Congress and Moderator, Scott Williams.

Nobody is supposed to be alone as we’re figuring this out. That’s why we’re taking cues from these experts. 


The punchline is there will be 40k more COVID-19 deaths in the US and 5m more infections by July 1. A second wave is ‘possible plus’ in the Fall. Herd immunity is not going to happen, and it’s dangerous to think about. 


Humans are simply not designed for a viral attack like this – the wet computer between our ears doesn’t understand viral exponential growth. 


In our leading scenario, Trump continues to defer to the states on their plans, the disease doesn’t change dramatically, we do not get to rapid testing in the next 6 months…, human adherence to the rules will be relatively high but decline over time, and the economic recovery will appear to be slow in the beginning, but will be strong in the end. We think this is the 70% most likely scenario, getting us back to “normalcy” (10% unemployment, which we haven’t seen since the peak of the ’08 crisis) – we see that happening in the next 8 months. 


We do not model any major medical breakthroughs in the next 8-9 months. 


Overall blended Infected Fatality Rate (IFR) for anyone getting the disease in America is 0.4%. This disease is profoundly ageist. What does that mean for a solution? The vulnerable populations must be protected… [In the hospitality industry] you have empty rooms… and you can be part of the solution. 

Vulnerable populations need to be put away for a while and cared for, and that has to be government funded. If you do that, the other group of folks, the Under-55s-and-Healthy, can get back to work and get the economy moving. 


Priority number one was the safety of our staff and customers. Priority number two was surviving as a business and doing all of the tough things everyone is having to do. Between layoffs and furloughs we had to cut 80% of our staff. 


Most recently, we’ve been focused on innovation. Having built our business in the 2008 financial crisis, moments in time like this are an opportunity for existing trends tend to accelerate. 

Virtual and hybrid work are trends we’ve been watching, but we thought it would be ten years before we got to where we are today. That has accelerated our product road-map dramatically. 


How do you retain the ability to be sensible, but also to dream. Certainly on the front end everyone is asking ‘What are the immediate things we need to do to reopen?’ …On a parallel path, we are thinking: ‘Where do we go from here? What can we draw inspiration from in other cultures?’


Products that are supposed to enhance the sense of safety or wellbeing have specific tactical objectives, but not one of them are reassuring – everything looks alarmist… As ‘experience makers’, we have to challenge ourselves to overcome that… How do you navigate people without alarming them?


The best design comes out of the worst situations. 


As designers we look at the parameters of a problem, we interrogate those parameters and we use empathy and curiosity to push and pull at them… and then we evolve a better solution. But right now, in hospitality, the model is completely challenged. For most of our clients, it’s not possible to do the thing they do. 


There won’t be a magic bullet, it’s really about trying to adapt to solutions that will help us in the near term so that we can re-open in some way… and then in the far-near term look at the things that will be built permanently to adapt to this. 


If you have ideas and you don’t know how to action them, please come forward to the panelists, to Brick & Wonder and to ILC. It’s a collective effort – no one person is going to figure this out alone.


Meet the Panelists

R.P. Eddy, CEO, Ergo

R.P. is the Founder and CEO of Ergo, an intelligence and advisory firm which serves governments and corporations, and hailed by the Harvard Business Review as, “breaking from industry orthodoxy with a radical new model.” He is the co-author of best-selling and award-winning, Warnings: Finding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes which described a pandemic like today’s, and how to prevent it. Eddy led the process to build the first White House policy on pandemic diseases. 
R.P. served as Director at the White House NSC. He was Chief of Staff to the US Ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke where Eddy drafted the first UN Security Council Resolution on HIV/AIDS and was a member of the State Department Senior Executive Service. 

Ryan Simonetti, CEO, Convene

Ryan is the CEO and co-founder of Convene, the company that designs and services premium places to work, meet, and host inspiring events. Ryan co-founded Convene with the intention of disrupting the commercial real estate industry and transforming the workplace experience by capitalizing on converging trends in real estate, technology, and hospitality. His vision – to infuse hotel-style services into meetings, events, and flexible office spaces – has been Convene’s guiding force for the last 11 years, during which they have expanded to 32 locations across the US and UK.

Matthew Goodrich, Founder & Principal, GOODRICH

Matthew is an award-winning interior designer and strategist known for projects that feature-rich narrative content and foster interaction and human connection. He has designed for established hotel brands such as Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton, created new brands such as Arlo Hotels, designed restaurants for Garces Group, Quality Branded, and Boka Restaurant Group, as well as celebrated chefs such as Dominique Ansel and Stephanie Izard, and innovative concepts for national casual dining and quick-service restaurants such as Dean and Deluca, Barnes & Noble and Panera Bread.

Aliya Khan, VP of Design, Marriott International

Aliya is the Vice President of design, global design strategies at Marriott International. With more than 20 years’ experience, she has led the design oversight of Marriott’s AC Hotels, Aloft, Element, and the newest Moxy brands. She drives efforts to define the brands’ foundation, distinguishing each one with their own design personality. She is also responsible for both the launch of the original Aloft prototype in 2008, as well as its most recent concept, which re–launched in 2018.


Scott Williams, President, The Nantucket Project

Scott Williams is a brand builder focused on the theatrical narrative at the heart of brands. He has been President of The Nantucket Project since 2016, was Chief Creative Officer at Commune Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, he ran global brand development, including all creative processes relating to new hotel concept development and oversight of all communications, CMO of Morgans Hotel Group and Chief Creative Officer Worldwide for Starwood Hotels & Resorts.

Drew Lang, Founder, Brick & Wonder

Drew Lang is the founding principal of Lang Architecture, and Founder of Brick & Wonder.

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