The Order of the Factors Does Alter the Final Outcome – By Osvaldo Torres Cruz

The hotel market is, no doubt, one of major growth in the international arena, as shown by the increase in offers. This makes hotel chains face a permanent competence to catch the attention of prospective clients. 

The smartest way to compete is to offer differentiating products and services. However, globalization turns these into very easy-to-copy commodities. Therefore, hotels have to undergo constant changes, and innovation has become a company value that calls for redesigning tasks, strategies, operational procedures and service standards, among others.

These changes make workers develop large-scale adaptability skills to stop doing things the way they used to and engage in new behaviors.

If we consider the tasks and procedures used to achieve the business goals as stimuli for the workers, then we should know their adaptive process to the cognitive schemes that operate in the brain of each employee, the ones in charge of executing those tasks by showing behaviors suitable to the goals to be met.

The concept of scheme is defined in the work of Piaget (Swiss epistemologist, psychologist and biologist) in terms of a given mental structure that can be transferred and generalized, and which every human being has structured during his/her life experiences. That is, every worker of the business will have a different architecture for the schemes that operate his/her brain which, according to Piaget, also operate in terms of these two unchanging functions: organization and adaptation.

Adaptation is always present via two basic elements: assimilation and accommodation. The process of adaptation sometimes looks for stability, and others for change. The latter is very actual in hotel businesses, because they need it to be different from their competitors, by offering unequal products and related services.  

Adaptation and organization are key functions and they are constant in the process of cognitive development. They cannot be dissociated. In the psychological and physiological systems, adaptation operates through two complementary processes mentioned above: ASSIMILATION and ACCOMODATION.

ASSIMILATION: It refers to the way an organism faces an environmental stimulus in terms of the present organization. In other words, it is the way the worker accepts and conform the new information (tasks, procedures, standards) to his/her pre-existing schemes. Most interesting in this process is the fact that it lasts differently for every worker, because it will depend on the following factors: the level of consolidation of the previous knowledge, the level of cognitive flexibility and, above all, the will to confront the processes of structural changes in his/her mental paradigm.

Assimilation shapes the new information to fit into the present schemes. It is not a passive process for it requires to transform or modify the new information to integrate it to the existing one, and this requires consuming brain energy. As we all know, the brain is an energy eater and it will, at first, be against expending energy, rejecting the process of assimilation, unless it represents a later benefit.

The benefits that the change of tasks, procedures and standards can provide to the workers will be turned into activators and reinforcers of the assimilation process, and will shorten its length, so that the short-term benefits must be considered in all innovation processes of a business.

ACCOMMODATION: It implies a modification of the present organization in response to the demands of the environment. It is the process by which the worker adapts to the external conditions. Accommodation is not only a need to subject to the environment, but it is also necessary to coordinate the different assimilation schemes. In short, accommodation refers to the process of modifying schemes to accommodate to the new information, and it is manifested through changes in the behavioral schemes resulting from the assimilation of the new and, consequently, striking a balance 

There cannot be any accommodation (modification and adjustment) if there is no previous assimilation. Therefore, we cannot expect behavioral changes in the workers in face of a new task, procedure or standard, if this has not been previously assimilated, and they cannot move on directly to modifying a conduct if there is no time for both processes to manifest and balance. Nevertheless, this is one of the main mistakes made in some hotel businesses, where the workers are asked to immediately change their behavior, and the only result you get is erratic behaviors, rejection, inconsistency or procrastination in face of the new goals.

Then, we can conclude that, in a company, the order of the factors DOES alter the final outcome in face of a new task, procedure or standard, because the processes of Assimilation and Accommodation must unfailingly be first activated in the mind of every worker so they can show a behavior appropriate to the goals to meet, resulting from a balance between the external environment and the internal structures of the thinking of the workers.


Lic. Osvaldo Torres Cruz