We certainly live in a world of innovation. New business strategies and ideas are literally around us virtually every second of every day. Brands, large and small, are constantly striving to create better, more convenient, and/or exciting, or novel, or any other number of ‘remarkable’ experiences.

I wonder, though, as the excitement and novelty of new concepts and experiences wear off, is there a plan to continue to nurture and innovate the idea? 

Failure to do so can turn a great concept’s buzz into the exact opposite kind of buzz… the “what the heck happened to that” kind!

Let me share my case in point that prompted me to ask the question.

Several years ago, maybe 7 or 8, Terminal B at the Philadelphia airport was in bad shape…really bad. Maybe one of the worst in the country. Right at that time a new trend was emerging where retail and food outlets were being integrated right into the gate areas of airports. So Philly, in desperate need of a new look in Terminal B, took a shot. They built restaurants, and convenience type retail, and bars that were literally integrated right into what was once ripped up, old and ratty, grey vinyl chairs in row after row.

It was actually remarkable.

I remember the first time I saw it thinking, wow, can’t believe someone thought of this. The centerpiece of it all was rows and rows of iPad minis with credit card swipes so you could order from anywhere. (This had its own challenges which I was discussing last night with a friend of mine that HATED this setup, so not without issues!) Regardless of how you felt, it was definitely new and unique in our airport anyway. It also got lots of media coverage and had everyone talking about it, in mostly positive ways.

Fast forward to Sunday night, this week. I was on a flight delayed by a mechanical issue, and starving, and everything in most of the airport was closed…so I wandered over to Terminal B. Low and behold, one of these restaurants, integrated in the gate, is still open! I sit down in front of one of the iPads at a table, and notice that the home button was broken and cracked. Yes, it still had a home button which was surprise number one, and the button didn’t hold up very well. No big deal, there is another iPad next to me… wheel of death black screen. The one across from me has a base that is broken and it is leaning 20 degrees to the right. None of the credit card swipes work anymore, and they have gone to QR codes.

They also have apps and games, flight information, etc. on the iPads. Well thought out at the time they launched, but now the iPads lose connection, apps don’t launch… essentially, it seems, there was no plan to continue to innovate and upgrade this idea, and now it is still ‘remarkable’ but in a bad way.

By the way, the QR code worked, the food arrived, ok by airport standards. I got what I came for, but the experience left me thinking “meh” not “wow”. I guess in the captive audience of an airport maybe that works, but there are other outlets there to compete that don’t have the iPad disaster, and I wonder if they get more activity as a result.

It just looked like there was no plan. 

It is funny, the very first time I saw the setup I thought, “wow, I can’t imagine what the capital cost was to do this”, I guess now I know! Each gate restaurant probably has 200+ iPads and all the related infrastructure, and maybe the planners thought they might last 8 years, but I am here to say that may have been flawed!

Regardless, the lesson here for me is that if you are going the remarkable innovation route I think there needs to be a follow up plan to keep it fresh and relevant long beyond the early wonderment you have created. Next time you pass through PHL, check out Terminal B and see if you agree!


Founder of the align5 Companies,  CEO of Scaling Up Coaches, and Serial Entrepreneur

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