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The ‘right’ questions

As a professor, it is a privilege to lead discussions about what is happening in the hotel and travel industry with passionate young people who have chosen to prepare themselves for careers in our profession with college studies. It is also a responsibility to make sure we — those in the industry and those in the academy — are honest about the necessary threshold capabilities needed by those entering the profession. It is often tough to be honest with young people, as I have found out and as many hospitality managers discover when they are faced with giving corrective feedback to an employee for the first time.

But we must be honest in explaining that effort does not always equal accomplishment and that a positive attitude is as valued in the workplace as a superior aptitude. Along with honesty we need to respect what young people entering the profession bring to the industry. They convey optimism, generosity, appreciation for diversity and the environment, and are undaunted by rapid change. In turn, we need to reinforce to this connected generation that just because we can locate the correct answer via the great World Wide Web, placed in our pockets, it does not mean we have asked the right question.

Defining the right question remains one of the essentials of business success. It is also the heart of any knowledge pursuit, whether teachers employ the Socratic Method or students are one of today’s curiosity-driven participants in massive open online courses (MOOCs).  In the hospitality management classroom we debate what those questions are for hoteliers, food and beverage professionals and destination managers. We conduct research grounded in appropriate data to apply the right answers to the problems posed. The quest is satisfying on many levels.

What do you want hospitality management students to know? What are the problems you think educators and researchers can help you answer? What are the “right” questions for hospitality leaders to ask today? Tomorrow? How do we go about answering these questions? And what is the best answer among the multiple choices we are offered? You are cordially invited to join the quest.

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