George Hines is the chief information officer and head of innovation at Global Experience Specialists and has 20 years of experience in various B2B companies in the marketing, live events, telecommunications, outsourcing, and travel industries. You’ll have no problem recognizing him. He’ll be the only one in GES’ Las Vegas headquarters wearing the uber-chic and cool Google Glass. But don’t let that fool you. He’s experienced a civilian version of Navy SEAL training in an Extreme SEAL Experience bootcamp, been dropped in the middle of Morocco and found his way back to the airport, and leads team GES in Ragnar Relay Series races.
Businessinterviews.com: Tell us more about your role with GES.
George: I’m the global chief information officer, the head of innovation, and an executive team member of GES. My role requires me to be a technology visionary, a business-focused manager, a service provider, and an expectation-setting expert.
It’s a lot of fun because my team works on all aspects of technology, ranging from client-facing product development to internal systems that make our business more efficient. We’ve recently integrated “design thinking,” which is the leading methodology for innovation, and it really focuses on human-centered design for ease of use and delighting customers. There’s never, ever a boring day in my line of work.
Businessinterviews.com: What was the most challenging project you’ve been involved with, and why was it all worth it in the end?
George: The most challenging project I was ever involved with happened while I was working in Lima, Peru. I went to Lima for two years to lead a team tasked with transforming the billing and customer relationship systems in a newly acquired wireless telecom company and integrating the systems into BellSouth International.
I had never lived outside of the U.S., I only spoke English, and most of our clients were Spanish-speaking. It was the most fun project I have ever worked on.
By the time I left Peru, I spoke Spanish fluently, I had made new friends, and I had successfully finished one of the toughest projects in my life.
Businessinterviews.com: What are some of the most exciting ways you see technology and the event industry intersecting in 2014?
George: The exhibitions and live events industry had done business in a fairly consistent way for many years. For that reason, I’m excited about how emerging technologies are converging and being used to drive and measure attendee engagement and personalize the attendee experience.
New geo-fencing technologies, coupled with mobile technology, enable attendees’ phones to receive relevant information about what they’re interested in and allow exhibitors and show organizers to better understand what works for engagement and what doesn’t in real time.
There will be no more waiting year to year to see whether something works. Progress in improving attendee engagement will be measured in days rather than years. We’re headed for a transformation in terms of how exhibitions and events are measured and produced, and technology will be the catalyst for that.
Businessinterviews.com: What is one easy tip for business leaders looking to increase engagement at their events?
George: Pay attention to what your customers are doing — not just what they’re saying. It’s a well-known fact that you can learn by observing others and their reactions to situations.
GES incorporated the Earth Harp into a couple of the exhibitions where we were an exhibitor. At the International Association of Exhibitions and Events, we observed the overwhelming migration of attendees toward our booth when the Earth Harp started to play. Sometimes, observing others tells you a lot more about what’s important to them than simply asking them. Observing the actions of others also helps you to uncover unmet needs.
Businessinterviews.com: What was your favorite event you were a part of this past year, and why was it so memorable?
George: The best event I have been a part of this year was a coaching experience I had at Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design (affectionately known as the d.school).
We had just spent the past week learning about design thinking, and we were to coach students of the Stanford Executive Program on our last day on campus. It was exhilarating to learn and immediately apply what we had learned in the same week. It was a fantastic experience to mix with so many brilliant, driven people at once.
Businessinterviews.com: What is one lesson you learned at the Extreme SEAL Experience that you’ve been able to apply in your professional life?
George: It would be impossible to limit this to one lesson learned because it was the most fundamentally life-changing experience I’ve ever had. However, I would boil it down to two lessons: teamwork and personal limits.
Teamwork: Because I never served in the military, I always wondered why there was such camaraderie and how that contributed to achieving incredible results as a team. I was overwhelmed with emotion to experience that brotherhood firsthand — that selflessness and the “do everything for the team first and yourself last” mentality.
I remember a fellow student struggling with the running, and we ended up carrying him. I remember struggling with swimming, and one of my fellow students helped drag me along. We worked together as a unit. It was an emotional experience. The business world could really take a page from the military in terms of teamwork, and I’ll always remember the lessons I learned with regard to taking care of my team before taking care of myself.
Personal limits: At the Extreme SEAL Experience, they tear you down as an individual and build you up as a team just like in real training. While building you up, they push you beyond the limits you thought you had. The human spirit’s desire to achieve is really an amazing thing.
The best example of this was our last day. We arrived at a marina alongside a river at 7 a.m. Out of nowhere, a helicopter appeared. The pilot jumped out and said, “I have only three instructions for you today: 1. Seat belts. 2. Ready. 3. Execute.”
We were to jump out of a moving helicopter in full military gear into a muddy river from 30 feet in the air. I was afraid of water and heights until that day. There was no time to think about it — I just did it. I now know that I can do anything I want. I simply decide to do it, and I bring that same confidence and approach to my work. Hooyah!
Businessinterviews.com: What is one piece of technology you could not live without?
George: It’s impossible to pick one. I have a triad of technology that I take everywhere, and they work together to meet my needs: my iPhone 5s, MacBook Pro with Retina display, and Sony a7R full-frame mirrorless camera.
My iPhone is my comms guy on my team. It keeps me in touch with texts, emails, Internet, and conference calls. My camera is my recon lead that can capture just about anything, including 1080i video and 36 MP pictures. My MacBook is my point man. It does everything and is the brain for my day-to-day. I even have a military spec sleeve it fits into. Last year, I opened it up and used it in the snow on Svalbard during a photo shoot of a polar bear in the wild.
Businessinterviews.com: Since you’re around technology constantly, what are some tips you have for other business professionals in need of a digital detox?
George: My tech never leaves my side, but I still find extreme ways to disconnect. I’m an extreme adventure traveler and trained survivalist in desert environments. Each year, I pick a place that few others would ever consider going or pick a really remote place and do something that nobody else would want to do.
For me, it’s more about getting away from the relentless demands on my time, and disconnecting from the Internet does that. However, my tech goes with me because it’s a part of who I am. I love HDR photography, I love what my MacBook with Photoshop can do with my photography, and I need my iPhone to wake up in the morning with that song “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida.
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