Today's Reading


The Clarion-Stockholm is a four-star hotel located in the center of Stockholm. It routinely averages more than fifty ideas per year from each of its employees—about one idea per person per week. One reason that Clarion employees are able to come up with so many ideas is that they have been trained to look for problems and opportunities to improve. For example, every time a guest complains, asks a question, or seems confused, staff members do all they can to fully understand the issue. If staffers have an idea to address the issue, they enter it into a special computer application. If not, they enter just the raw problem. Each department has a weekly idea meeting to review its ideas and problems, and decide on the actions it wants to take on each of them.

We met with several bartenders and went through all of their department's ideas from a randomly selected month. A sample of them is listed in Table 1.1.

As you read through these ideas, notice five things. First, the ideas are responding to problems and opportunities that are easily seen by the bar staff, but not so readily by their managers. How would the managers know that customers are asking for organic cocktails (Tess's idea) or vitamin shots (Fredrik's idea), or that the bartenders could serve more beer if an extra beer tap were added (Marin's idea)? Such insights come much more easily to employees who are serving the customers directly.

Second, most of the ideas are small and straightforward. They don't require much work to analyze and are inexpensive to implement. How difficult is it for the conference sales department to give the bartenders a "heads-up" that it will be meeting in the bar with a customer who is considering booking a major event (Nadia's idea)? And how hard is it to increase the font size of the print on coupons given to conference participants so as to clarify what they mean (Marco's idea) or to give the restaurant staff a tasting of the new bar cocktails so they can sell them more effectively to their diners (Tim's idea)?


TABLE 1.1 Ideas from the Clarion-Stockholm bar

Marco: Get maintenance to drill three holes in the floor behind the bar and install pipes so bartenders can drop bottles directly into the recycling bins in the basement.

Reza: When things are slow in the bar, mix drinks at the tables so the guests get a show.

Nadia: Many customers ask if we serve afternoon tea. Currently, there is no hotel in the entire south of Stockholm that does. I suggest we start doing this.

Tess: Have an organic cocktail. Customers often ask for them, and we don't offer one.

Nadia: Clarion conference and event sales staff often meet prospective customers in the bar. Give the bar staff information in advance about the prospects so they can be on alert and do something special.

Tim: Whenever the bar introduces a new cocktail, have a tasting for the restaurant staff, just as the restaurant always does when a new menu or menu item is introduced, so servers know what they are selling.

Fredrik: When the bar opens at 9:30 in the morning, many guests ask for vitamin shots (special blends of fruit juices). Put these on the menu.

Nadia: Have maintenance build some shelves in an unused area in the staff access corridor behind the bar for glasses. Currently, there is so little space for glasses in the bar that they are stored upstairs in the kitchen, and it takes 30 minutes, several times a night, for one of the two bartenders to go and get glasses, which means lost sales.

Marco: In the upstairs bar, we have to spend an hour bringing up all the alcohol from downstairs when we open and putting it away when we close. We wouldn't have to do this if locks were installed on the cabinets in the bar.

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