Crisis Innovation

Luke Sykora, Stanford University April 19, 2020

The economic downturn of 2002 impacted the entire country, but it was especially stark in the Bay Area, as the superheated dot-com bubble burst in dramatic fashion.

At the time, Chip Conley was the CEO of the Joie de Vivre hotel chain, and a number of his once-packed San Francisco properties were in trouble.

Instead of delivering his investors their hefty quarterly dividend checks per usual, he found himself asking them to pump in additional money just to keep the struggling hotels afloat.

To deliver the news, he sat down and wrote them a sobering letter explaining the unfortunate situation. But with that letter, he also included a goofy teeshirt.

As he explains in this clip from his 2008 ETL talk, maintaining a sense of humor and creativity when delivering bad news can earn you a lot of goodwill.

At a time when everyone — from employees to executives and investors — feels stretched to the limits, Conley’s reminder about the power of levity couldn’t be more important.

Conley’s advice is just one of dozens of suddenly-timely insights we’ve uncovered in our eCorner archive — which includes everything from practical advice on how to behave during a downturn economy, to Jack Dorsey’s story about how Square managed to find an opening during the 2008 recession. And to resurface all of these now-urgent clips in one place, we’ve created a new series page focused on how innovators find agency amid recessions, disruptions and uncertainties.

To dig in further, please visit our Crisis Innovation series page!

And keep an eye out for new content. We’ll be adding new video clips as our current ETL speakers address the evolving COVID-19 pandemic in real time.