“I believe in the collective intelligence of people and will invest in processes that will allow it to prosper,” Orlando Ashford, president of Holland America Line, told Cruise Industry News. “A group will always outsmart individuals. A group can be more innovative and come up with better solutions.”

Named president of the cruise line only last December, Ashford knows what he is talking about, bringing a wealth of experience to the job. He joined Holland America from Mercer, a global consulting firm, where he was president of the Talent Business Segment. “We were global, doing business in more than 110 countries,” he explained, “focusing on leadership, organizational structure and compensation. My job was about identifying talent, positioning that talent inside an organization to generate value, and it was about inspiring and energizing that talent.”

Ashford continued: “The cruise industry is exciting and very human capital intensive. It is about the people you attract and engage. I want to bring my experience to this company and tap into the energy of people. This is a people business; it is about the people we serve.”

While believing in the group concept, he said: “The model still requires us to make decisions. Some new ideas will be pursued, some will not.” He added that innovation is not necessarily defined by big “explosions;” it can be defined by a series of small things. “My motto is think big, start small and move fast.”

At the end of every work day, Ashford said he spends some time reading customer letters, as a way of gaining a better understanding not only of the customers, but also of the industry. “The letters generate questions that I can pose to our teams,” he noted.

“The focus has to be on the customer. We cannot just fall in love with what we do; we must stay connected with the customer.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Spring 2015