As the new Senior Director for IT at Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K), I attended my first Global Best Practices Conference last month and I found it to be the most unusual conference I have ever attended for many unexpected reasons.
The most obvious and bold statement about the conference was the name itself, “Global Best Practices Conference.” For something to truly be a global best practice implies it is the best of all advice, as collected from sources around the world in all forms and topics related to the industry. Could this be a magic product pitch or the next silver bullet technology that solves all the problems of the restaurant industry? No, I never saw a single direct product pitch from Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K). So, how would this conference complete this lofty goal?
In answer, Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K) brought together the leaders of the largest, smallest, newest, oldest, most successful, most socially responsible and most innovative restaurateurs from brands with locations all over the world. They analyzed these leaders’ successes and failures based on sales, traffic, social responsibility, turnover, innovation and charity. Then, the winners freely gave each other suggestions on how to step up the game of the whole industry. Thus, the audience heard advice from the recognized best doers in the industry on how to take immediate and long-term steps to improve their own company’s success and the success of the industry as a whole.
Furthermore, the attendees were able to look across the industry and into the future by hearing from great visionaries on what is on the horizon in governmental change, social trends, technology trends, consumer trends, leadership modeling and social concerns.
Finally, the participants were given opportunities to get into informal huddles or more formal panel discussions to directly review their company’s and the industry’s concerns with other audience members and industry experts. These provided many occasions where the audience could effectively yet informally work out industry responses to global triggers like changing government policies, economic changes, resource limitations and employee stresses like immigration reform. They worked on problem-solving not only within their particular organization but also across the industry as a whole.
Yet, the most amazing and unexpected feature really had nothing to do with the programming, exhibits, presentations or speakers. Instead, it was the deep sense of community among participants as they greeted each other with a friendly handshake and often hugs. These fierce competitors working in an industry with decreasing dollars and increased competition for employees could have acted with malice toward each other, but instead, they truly enjoyed each other and celebrated their successes and failures together. These leaders focused on ways to engage in honest, friendly and personal dialogues together – not just once, but day after day during the conference. This level of warmth and kindness was understandable given the focus of the industry by its very definition on providing hospitality.
Coming from decades in the IT industry providing services to telecommunications, banking and transportation, I have attended more conferences than I care to remember. However, this program was truly the most shocking one I have attended. Never before have I seen competitors hugging or working so hard together in collaboration to improve the industry as a whole and their own organizations. This industry and this conference are truly amazing because it works so hard to raise the bar in a truly positive, collaborative and socially responsible way. Thus, it is really and truly a global best practices conference which many other conferences and industries should attempt to emulate.
Senior Director of IT
Black Box Intelligence (formerly TDn2K), LLC.