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Disrupting the Status Quo with a Social Mindset (INTERVIEW)

Bruce Poon Tip, Founder, G Adventures
Gil Haddi
January 14th, 2014
Enjoying the immense success of his recently published book Looptail, Bruce Poon Tip, who recently received the Innovator of the Year award from the Ontario Science Center, is the only author in the world who can lay claim to having a forward written by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Packed with the thrills of travel to remote locations as well as invaluable business insights, it is little wonder that Looptail has made the New York Times International Best Sellers list and was written up in Inc. Magazine as one of the top ten books of the year, taking the title of 'Best 2013 Book for Entrepreneurs.'

Founder of the world's largest group holiday travel company, G Adventures, Bruce rejects the title of CEO, preferring to keep the spotlight focussed on the passionate work of his team and the life-changing experiences of travelers as they take part in the social tourism programs developed by G Adventures. Pioneering local tourism and assisting in community development around the world, Bruce has revolutionized the travel industry, completely disrupting the norms of tourism as we know it in his initiatives to alleviate poverty and redistribute wealth, concepts that were virtually unheard of previously in the world of tourism.

Four questions with Bruce Poon Tip:

1. How does your team come up with innovative ideas?

We have two separate departments at G Adventures, one that focusses solely on coming up with ideas and innovations, and another called Black Ops, which is the project development department. As mentioned in the book, getting more involved in the business side of things helped stabilize the company and allows us to transcend company culture.

We maintain a two-way dialogue with our consumers who become advocates for our brand, and we're one of a few Canadian companies with over a million fans on Facebook. We transcend what we do and we transcend travel with our social business model. We were able to raise over $80 000 in just a few days, purely based on small donations from our customers, for the G Adventures Philippines Rebuild effort thanks to the loyalty and connection that we have with our consumer community. This close contact with our extremely loyal customers allows us to try out new products and ideas all the time, letting us beta-test projects like our Local Living™ initiative. Because of our relatively small size, we are in a unique position to be able to do things that other companies can't because of all the red tape they have to go through.

2. Where do you draw innovative inspiration from?

Nothing in the travel industry influences us, all our inspiration is drawn from outside the field. Netflix does a great job engaging consumers with video streaming, Amazon has an exemplary business model, Zappos has incredible customer service and I was invited to speak at Apple and got a tour to meet with executives who always set the bar for innovation. And, of course, the Dalai Lama has always been a huge source of inspiration for me.

3. How do you create a culture of innovation?

By creating a business model of happiness, it becomes possible to let ideas flow without the fear of making mistakes. It allows for true freedom of thought and creativity. An environment that embraces high risk and high reward is what allows us to be nimble and quick to market because speed is also a large part of innovating. Innovative people that are super engaged thrive in such an innovative environment and can make a huge impact when their unique and bizarre thinking is embraced.

Some of the best ideas are often considered crazy at first, and ideas such as having travelers living with Amazonian Indian tribes in the desert or nomadic families in the plains of Mongolia or other local villages in remote locales. Over a decade ago we started doing trips to Antarctica which seemed insane to many but we built our own ships and made it happen our way. Coming up with wild ideas is how we've been able to successfully create initiatives like our city tours in Delhi where we were able to employ street kids from a home as tour guides. It took years to pioneer this idea and work with the communities and train all the kids, but now it is rewarding to see your hard work become a self-sustaining system.

4. How will G Adventures continue to be a leader in innovation?

Regardless of all our challenges, we will always be one step ahead of our competitors because we take risks. One of our greatest moments in the last year was creating the Local Living™ brand which has been taking the idea of community tourism to new heights. Travelers now have the option to get a true local experience by living with local people; you can stay in a local winery or a nomadic tribe, and in return, those locations and families benefit from tourism in areas that normally don't see much benefit from tourism.

One of the things I'm a huge believer in, innovation is about what you have yet to do as opposed to what you have done. At G Adventures, we are all about being disruptive; we get people to gain more out of their holiday time and put the tourism dollar to use as a force of good in aiding in wealth distribution, a foreign concept in the travel industry. We are driven by our purpose and that is what will keep us sharp in the years ahead.

To learn more about G Adventures visit http://www.gadventures.com/
References: linkedin, gadventures