Where to start? After a day of inspiring speakers and visits with friends and colleagues, my head is spinning. Maybe it is the thin Aspen air, but I think not. The first day of the 6th Global Spa and Wellness Summit (“Wellness” being new to the title of this conference for the first year), I have learned so much I feel I must write it down to process all the information.
The opening keynote speaker was Philippe Bourguignon, Vice Chairman, Revoluation Places and CEO, Exclusive Resorts. Philippe is one of my favorite speakers to listen to, and not only because of his charming French accent. He somehow elevates the world of spa, of wellness to a level so high I get acrophobia – in a good way. Today, he talked about the trends the world is facing. No good news here…
Long term trends (2050):
– The credit consumption (the US) will come to an end, and the export-based consumption based on an under-valued currency will too (China).
– We will see the end of the “transatlantic partnership,” as the US and Europe are already parting ways.
– And our planetary boundaries will be challenged (with 2 billion more people on the planet by 2050, the human race will create a true resource challenge for planet Earth; and let’s not think of the immigration challenges).
– Political volatility will prevail (indeed, extremes, which globally used to represent “just” 10% of the political spectrum, now represent 35%).
– There is a worldwide phenomenon of indignation, caused by unemployment and the significant income disparity and inequality our world is facing.
To make matters worse, globalization means that all of our problems are inter-connected, and a situation in Aspen can no longer be resolved in Aspen, but involves the whole world around us.
Despite all of this doom and gloom talk, Philippe ended by suggesting that part of the solution to these problems is imagination – indeed, no one today is speaking to the imagination. Yet, as Napoleon said long ago, “Imagination rules the world.” To make his point, he ended his talk with a global music video of John Lennon’s Imagine, which did make me shed a tear.
As if the audience had not had enough hard facts to digest, Dr. Richard Carmona, 17th Surgeon General, US and Vice Chairman, Canyon Ranch, followed with more gut-wrenching information (literally).
– 9 million children in the US are obese.
– 2 out of 3 adults in the US are overweight or obese.
– Half a trillion dollars are spent per year on the consequences of smoking and obesity, both which are preventable.
– We are facing immense health illiteracy.
Dr. Carmona talked about the role of spa and wellness industries in helping manage this global epidemic – indeed, he encouraged us all to create sustainable behavioral change to promote better health – in effect, what he called “taking the spa to the hood.”
In order to achieve our mission, we must be innovative. Here comes John Kao, Innovation Activist and Author of Jamming: The Art and Discipline of Business Creativity, and Innovation Nation. He began by telling us that innovation is the most overused and least understood word in the lexicon, and followed by explaining how “managing innovation” is not what matters. “Practicing innovation” does matter. Practice makes perfect – in innovation as in all disciplines. He made the audience practice, pairing us and making us each tell part of a story for 20 seconds, until the next person continued, etc. For 3 minutes. In my group, with Alfredo and Brenda from Universal Companies, we ended up with a story about a bear who was wearing a flash light on his head and ate the humans at the Global Spa Summit because of their lack of innovation. Don’t ask. In any case, apparently we can all improvise, we can all create, and we can all innovate. All it takes is practice. He peppered his talk with music on the piano, in effect, also improvising, linking innovation to jazz. Then, he brought us back to the world of spa, with the following exhortations:
– Turn the spa experience inside out
– Make the spa experience sustainable and not event-driven
– Productize the spa service
– Transition from papering to meaning
– Turn the spa experience upside down
– Address the challenge of supporting longevity
– Make the spa experience relevant to kids and across cultures
We should all be able to do that with a little innovation.
Lunch was perhaps my favorite part of the day. Our keynote speaker was none other than Jose Maria Figueres-Olsen, President, Carbon War Room and Former President of Costa Rica. His discussion (in perfect Spanish and perfect English) made me understand and care about planetary limits, energy, the environment, and climate change more than I thought I could.
However, the best part of lunch was my table. Each table had an assigned leader and topic. I chose table 17, led by Gerladine Howard, founder of Aromatherapy Associates, leading a discussion about “What I have learned about overcoming adversity.” The people at the table were mostly people who knew Gerladine well enough to know of her battle with cancer. I did not. She asked me why I had chosen her table. First, I love her oils (the Relax – Evening is my favorite). Most importantly, however, I don’t think we speak enough of adversity. One could find this strange after a day of doom and gloom news about the world. What I mean is more individual, more personal adversity. “How are you?” “Fine, and you?” has become such a standard greeting we never really think about the question, or the answer. In the midst of an economic crisis, all of our businesses are doing “great.” And in the midst of personal challenges, we are all always “fine.” I thought this was such an interesting, unusual topic for discussion I just had to be at that table. The best table in the room, I am sure – a table at which we all reminded each other that sometimes, simply sharing a reality can make us feel better. While sharing the reality doesn’t change it, sharing might just change our perspective.