Last month Keteka was invited to Amsterdam for Innovation Week at Booking.com. I had the privilege of representing our company on a panel of innovators. I shared the stage with executives from Booking.com and Google, a former astronaut, and a professor of business ethics from Delft University of Technology. We discussed a wide range of topics related to innovation, including how and when innovation occurs, and what we can do to make sure that the benefits of innovation affect society as a whole and not just those at the top.

Here are my 3 key takeaways from the event:

1. Choose Ambition Over Caution

Being innovative involves taking the status quo, and changing it to yield an improved outcome. When you change an established system or way of doing things, there will inevitably be friction from others; those who are either fine with things the way they are, or are not willing to take the necessary risks associated with improvement, out of fear of failure. There is an inherent risk of failure in any innovative task. However, we need to push ahead and be ambitious in our pursuits

2. Failure = Learning

It’s OK to fail. So many of Keteka’s biggest learnings have resulted from trying new initiatives, and failing miserably. By embracing and evaluating those failures, we gained valuable insights that have led to overall improvements to our product and processes.

It’s extremely important for members of your team to feel like they can take risks and push boundaries of conventional thought. Over the last 3 years, we’ve resisted and rejected the idea of becoming simply another booking site. We’re brainstorming and experimenting completely new models, and with that there will inevitably be some failure. The team has to embrace that risk and failure, because they are integral steps toward achieving true innovation.

3. Innovation is Rooted in Purpose

A growing number of companies are realizing the importance of having a mission that goes beyond simply making money. Business success in the 21st century is also defined by the positive impact it has on the whole of society. In a society where technology allows for radical transparency, commitment to a higher mission and purpose is integral to success.

One of the questions asked by an audience member was, “how do you insert mission, purpose, and impact into your business model?” At Keteka, we have infused our impact metrics into our bottomline, so that when we are successful, local tour guides and their communities are successful as well. Those metrics are:

1. Revenue to local guides
2. In-person capacity building
3. Local jobs created

While I relished the opportunity to share Keteka’s story to thousands of people in the travel space, my experience at Innovation Week ended up being much more than I expected. I left Amsterdam reminded that willingness to take on risk, embracing failure, and being rooted in purpose beyond financial gains is what will bring on the most impactful innovations in the future.