Training Top 125 Best Practice: Choice Hotels International’s Choice Ideathon
To cultivate and reinforce its key value of innovation, Choice Hotels International developed and launched the first Choice Ideathon in December 2015. The organization introduced the Ideathon by dropping a flyer on every associate’s workstation—with the tagline, “Everything begins with an idea”—followed by company-wide communications via a variety of modalities.
The Ideathon was a corporate-wide event, where associates were encouraged to submit creative and innovative ideas. There were no strict limitations on topics, and the resulting concepts could be documented in many ways, including usage scenarios, paper design mock-ups, presentation slides, clickable prototypes, or even pixel-perfect mock-ups of future user interfaces. It gave participants a unique opportunity to spend time out of their normal work zone and eventually spend two dedicated days working and collaborating with colleagues from across the organization.
Thirty-eight ideas were submitted, and three ideas were selected to move on to the final round. Those chosen were selected based on a combination of popular vote and by voting criteria, via Survey Monkey, by Choice’s Extended Leadership Team (ELT) comprising approximately 60 top leaders, including the executive team. The generator of each winning idea formed teams of three to five associates to help tease out his or her ideas and put a recommendation together.
Final teams had the opportunity to meet periodically and then travel to Choice’s corporate office, many for the first time. There, they had two days to work together as a team and prepare to present their idea. They also could reach out to their previously assigned subject matter experts (SMEs) and “lifelines” to help answer questions and provide direction. The Talent Development team also provided ongoing support and training around working on presentation skills, etc.
Each team had 30 minutes to present to the ELT their idea/concept and make a case for moving forward. The ELT assessed each team via a rubric and had the opportunity to ask questions. A reception followed the presentations, allowing Ideathon participants to network and socialize with the ELT members and answer any other questions. Each team member also received a trophy recognizing his or her contribution.
The feedback was rolled up and recommendations were made for how to move forward. One of the teams received funding to move forward with their idea and also had the opportunity to travel to the annual Choice Convention. There, they had a booth to communicate and interact with franchisees and distribute their Google cardboard visual reality hotel room experience. At a later date, although not part of the original program design, Choice provided financial recognition.
In the end, each team also participated in a wrap-up meeting, where Choice could gather feedback on the process for improvement in the future as the decision was made to hold the Choice Ideathon as an annual event.