The idea of putting 50 people together in a room with social media as their common ground and trying to get them to come up with some real initiatives sounds fraught with problems.
Virgin Atlantic took a brave step with its V-JAM session last week. The event was all about innovation, open space and creating your own agenda but it had a more concrete aim – real initiatives on how social media can improve the flying experience – before, during and after. Is that really possible?
In many ways it worked because it was open and innovative but those same reasons it may not have worked because it appeared to lack concrete solutions.
Lots and lots of good discussions took place on sustainability and enabling travellers to be more productive in the air to family friendly flights and how to make more of traveller data.
Social media may be about connecting people and bringing groups with shared interests together but it is also about saying what you want, what you think and very often just having a rant. In short, it can often go round in circles.
Many of the ideas were good, if a little gimmicky – things such as seatback Twitter for status updates, digital graffiti walls where you could find out who sat in the seat before you, ways to share traveller data so passengers can hook up with people with common interests, blogs from the people who have just returned from the destination you are flying to and lots of widget ideas.
Some of these would delight customers and the airline already has a reputation for being good at that – but would they take the hassle out of travelling? Would they make the experience more social, or would they make it anti-social?
Inevitably, the concepts would achieve a bit of both because everyone is different. Some would join in, others would be annoyed and others would prefer to read a book, watch a film or sleep.
Quite quickly the V-JAM discussions, going on in different areas of Nesta’s funky offices, became similar. The topics often lacked practical application for many reasons too.
However, they are not to be knocked because it’s about trying new things and not worrying too much if they fail.
Virgin Atlantic will now take away all those Post-Its from the ‘democracy board’ and try to cogitate, digest, blah blah a la Lloyd Grossman. We wish them luck!
The airline also wants to progress some of the ideas and has the funds to develop prototypes, get things up and running …and here’s the vehicle for that.
V-JAM was a great idea, an innovative first (probably) and Travolution will be looking for an update on what the airline is taking forward.
Linda Fox is lead reporter for Travolution