Tenth Innovation Network focuses on data and digital entertainment

The tenth edition of the Innovation Network (IN) gathered in January 2012 at the Hotel Bel Air in Los Angeles. Each year, this invitation-only event brings together senior executives representing some of the most influential global companies in the hospitality and travel industry, who recognize the value of innovation for their industries. When the IN reconvenes in fall 2012, it will be organized by the Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship (PIHE).

"It is very exciting to add the Innovation Network to the growing family of outreach programs that the Pillsbury Institute offers to provide experiential learning opportunities in entrepreneurship to our students, faculty, alumni, and corporate partners," said Neil Tarallo, PIHE academic director. "Joe Strodel, director of communications and corporate affairs, and his team have done a great job developing the IN, and it is our intent to continue with that tradition. Entrepreneurship and innovation go hand in hand, and we will focus on the intersection and the dynamics of the two concepts."

The IN also contributes greatly to student learning, which is a core focus of PIHE’s mission. A key element of the IN meeting is the participation of Student Ambassadors from the School of Hotel Administration. The fourteen ambassadors are chosen in a competitive process that allows them to present their own innovative ideas, and the resulting interaction of the students and executives is one of the high points of the IN meeting. This session, the students conducted "red carpet" video interviews that gave executives the opportunity to highlight innovators that had global business impact. In previous editions, students have presented the top "game changers" in hospitality and travel.

"What was most rewarding was the interaction between us students and the industry executives—it was definitely a learning experience that can't be offered in a classroom," said Andrew Chang '12, manager of the Student Ambassadors. "Attending this event was a great way to apply what we've learned in our coursework to real-world scenarios. Our role as Student Ambassadors was to facilitate the event itself, and then we sat at the tables and participated in group discussions."

Added Michael Jurgielewicz '13: "It was an amazing experience and privilege being able to represent the school." Gabriel Kennedy '13 agreed: "The Innovation Network was an unbelievable experience. The opportunity to network with the most influential leaders in our industry was extraordinary." Kennedy suggested that the Student Ambassadors could take on more responsibility in future meetings, a point also mentioned by Mollie Eisler '13, a veteran of two Innovation Network sessions who volunteered to assist with planning the next one.

Presentations at January's IN focused on the innovative use of data and innovation and on the intersection of the hospitality industry and digital entertainment. Among the presenters was academy award winner George JobLove '76, who has worked as EVP of Sony Pictures Entertainment. The data innovation discussion was led by Gil Elbaz of Factual, Inc., and J.P. Schuerman, founding partner, Enso Communications. They were introduced by Uta Birkmayer, MPS '92 who is the founder of Xsense authentic places. Other presenters included Lee Stein, P '04, '13, founder of Prize Capital, and Kenneth Blatt '81, principal of Caribbean Property Group.

About The Innovation Network
The Innovation Network (IN) is a community of senior executives who lead strategy at their companies and share a passion for driving innovation across the hospitality and travel industries. Through unique, invitation-only events, IN members explore the latest thinking in innovation, strategy, and leadership. They also engage with one another to address the opportunities and challenges facing their companies and the industry. The Innovation Network is a program of the Leland and Mary Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. To nominate an IN member, please contact Neil Tarallo at nt266@cornell.edu.