Chaos theory and ‘generation flux’

Chaos theory and ?generation flux?

“There are some times when you can predict weather well for the next 15 days. Other times you can only really forecast a couple of days. Sometimes you can’t predict the next two hours.” The business climate is like the weather, and right now is the “next two hours” era, according to chaos theory expert DJ Pate in a recent Fast Company article.  

The article is called “This Is Generation Flux,” which is the term coined for a varied group of pioneers whose companies have thrived due to their forward-thinking adaptability.

I was reading the article on my flight back from a meeting with a former commercial mortgage banking executive who earlier had argued that the lending process had become fundamentally flawed, comparing the distant connection to the final result in commercial lending to that of the Henry Ford assembly-line model. He explained that this needed to change — that loan officers should take a deal from start to finish, and until this was true, the stream of hotel loan defaults would not go away. His argument was true, one could hardly argue, but certainly understated.

As I read on, I couldn’t help but continue to question how the hotel real estate industry is structured. Why is hotel real estate comparatively so vulnerable to rapid cycles? What is our justification in projecting performance three, five, or as far as 10 years out?

The chaos theory argument is that the state of change is accelerating and visibility of the future is declining. The next generation will be defined by fluidity rather than a new, agreed-upon paradigm. Pattern = no pattern — a time of chaos.

Are we as hoteliers victims to our desires, vulnerable to the same mistakes we made in the past (see 2006-2007)? Have we already brushed off these mistakes and now seeking gold at the other side of the rainbow?

“Uncertainty is when you’ve defined the variable but don’t know its value. Like when you roll a die and you don’t know if it will be a one, two, three, four, five or six. But ambiguity is when you’re not even sure what the variables are. You don’t know how many dice are even being rolled or how many sides they have or which dice actually count for anything.” Businesses that focus on uncertainty, according to Dev Patnaik, “actually delude themselves into thinking that they have a handle on things.”

Before we throw the dice during this next “cycle,” are we sure we have even defined the variables? Trying to replicate what happened yesterday only makes us vulnerable to a similar result tomorrow.

But beyond how our product (hotels) is created, I believe there is a lot to question in the way our product is delivered. As companies continue to create more brands in order to maximize exposure in markets, they are simultaneously only losing brand identity.  Furthermore, our customers have the ability to interact with one another and be critics more than ever before, and despite our best efforts to be in front of them via media channels, why are we apprehensive to be in front of them when they come through the door (see: check-in kiosks) … the moment of truth?

There is much to translate from “generation flux,” and the parallels to the hotel industry are endless. We are, in fact, in a state of chaos.