This is a simple process but it’s worth taking a few minutes from time to time to remind ourselves of its importance.
Everything we do follows the same basic cycle: Plan > Do > Refine.
A lot of the planning is taken care of for you: all our tours follow set itineraries while the Canteen uses recipes and prep lists to reduce the guesswork. That being said, you play a key role in making sure that all the prep work is done efficiently and on time so that the guests have a seamless experience.
This is the time we spend with the guests and your time to shine. It also includes what happens before and after the tour. This is why sales and marketing are an integral part of a successful adventure.
Improvements come from reflecting on how well we executed our plans, both as individuals and as a team. This is something we do both on an ongoing basis and seasonally.
As we refine how we do things it’s time to update our plans, completing the cycle.
Working with the public means that we tend to get a lot of feedback. This can be helpful when refining what we do but can also be overwhelming.
Remember that not all feedback is created equal. Look for trends instead of individual comments and focus on the feedback that helps us improve what we do best or solve our biggest issues.
Going A Little Further
This simple approach above works great for delivering our existing products. Developing new adventure tourism products that can be delivered multiple times consistently requires a little more work. The process listed below is the one used mostly by the management team but it is something that will help you, regardless of your role, understand how we create new products.
The human-centred perspective of design thinking resonates with us as a way to flesh out the adventure cycle. Our development process, especially in the plan and refine stages, follows the familiar empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test steps of design thinking, adapted to our situation. What makes these work great for adventure tourism is that they are built around a mindset and toolset rather than a strict step-by-step or checklist process.
The expanded process can usually be broken down into five general steps:
- The first one is identifying the problem we’re trying to solve or the type of adventure we want to create. This includes:
- What’s the problem we’re trying to solve by improving our products or by offering a new one? Be specific in providing the who, what, when and where.
- Why does the problem occur? Use the “5 Whys” technique to identify the cause, not just the symptoms.
- Is this on our list of priorities for this quarter or is this urgent and unexpected? If the answer is no then let’s discuss if this is something that should be added to the list, now or in the future.
- Summarize the problem with a “How Might We” statement. Be specific. Share this (and attach any background information needed) in Asana.
- The second step is to look broadly for inspiration and ideas on how this problem could be solved. Share these as comments (attach pictures of your notes if it’s easier) on the task in Asana to get feedback. If needed, schedule a meeting to work through additional ideas.
- The third step is to choose a solution (or a couple of solutions) to test and to build a prototype that is close enough to the final form for us to get useful feedback. Consider who and what else will be impacted by this solution to limit unintended consequences. Create subtasks in Asana to track the next steps.
- The fourth step is to test and refine the initial product before we can offer it to guests. Learn from the results to refine the solution until we have something ready for implementation. Add notes on feedback and improvements in Asana. Get feedback by observing and listening to what is being said unprompted. Ask questions, if needed, to confirm those observations.
- The fifth step is to roll out the solution and/or commit to the change (including updating any documentation).
Once the adventure is offered to guests we continue to work on refining it. At the individual level, this means taking a few minutes from time to time to reflect on how each of us can improve how we work. At the company level, it means both implementing small changes as we go and taking some time each year to review how we can make larger improvements.
There are a few principles that we find help guide how we tackle this process:
- The guests are the heroes of their adventure. Everything we do starts with empathy and is centred around the needs of the guests.
- Embrace collaboration and different perspectives. Work as a team and engage others in the conversation.
- Define the problem before searching for solutions. It’s not worth finding the perfect solution if it solves the wrong problem.
- Be biased toward action. Tackle projects that are big-thinking but small enough to be delivered. Prioritize testing and iterations over studies.
- Continue to improve. Regular reflection allows us to improve the process. Be responsive to change and be willing to change the process if it no longer works.
This process can be used to create new products or to refine elements of existing adventures.
We use the word “problem” in the process above to define a question raised for inquiry, consideration, or solution, not necessarily something negative.
Using the word problem when thinking of new products also helps to remind us that anything we do should provide value to our guests, partners and team members.
Build for the Guest, Not The Industry
We think about adventures on a daily basis. We work closely with others in the tourism and outdoor industries. It’s easy to get trapped in the bubble, thinking that our guests have similar experiences to us.
We become indifferent to things we’ve seen before as we chase the high of finding a new adventure to offer. We chase novelty, showcasing the new shiny tour and trying to make sure we capitalize on the latest trends. We confuse novelty with innovation.
There’s a place for offering experiences designed for our industry and media partners. It helps to get the word out, it creates a buzz. Our guests don’t share our background however. We need to remember that what we’ve seen a thousand times is a new adventure for them.
The best example from our tours is fresh snow on evergreen trees. It’s easy to take it for granted, we see it on a regular basis. It’s easy to discount it, after all we’re heading to a gorgeous frozen waterfall down the trail. Most of our guests have never experienced this before. For them, this is the highlight of their adventure. It’s like walking in a Christmas greeting card.
We don’t control when it happens and we can’t promise they’ll get to experience it. What we can do is plan our tours with enough flexibility to allow them to slow down and enjoy the moment.
Remember to always build new products for our ideal guests, not for us in the bubble.