The last revolution in hotel architecture began in 1967, with the opening of the John Portman–designed Hyatt Regency Atlanta. The hotel’s soaring, 21-story atrium lobby transformed the image of the big convention hotel. The concept was copied in hotels around the world and established Hyatt’s reputation as an innovator.

Flash forward to 2010, and Hyatt is once again breaking new ground. There is no front desk at the chain’s luxury Andaz properties, for instance, where “hosts” carrying computers check in the guests. Conference space has been redefined by a concept called Andaz Studio, where residentially styled, high-tech meeting rooms surround a communal open kitchen. In a July 27 article in USA Today, writer Barbara DeLollis said that these and other Hyatt innovations have “started to re-invent the hotel stay.”

Attending Hyatt’s Insurance & Financial Business Exchange in Boston in July, I couldn’t help but wonder why it took more than 40 years to reignite Hyatt’s trailblazing reputation. My question was partially answered by a theme that ran through many of the presentations during the two-day meeting: The key to success is to start from scratch. < P> How many of us really begin with a blank slate when we plan a meeting, address a business challenge, or map out our career path? We look at best practices, talk with our peers, and consider what’s worked and hasn’t worked in the past. This is all a valid and necessary part of problem-solving, but to be truly innovative is to throw out all our preconceived beliefs and start fresh. “We started with a clean sheet of paper,” Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian told USA Today.

Another example of starting fresh was stressed by IFBE speaker and technology expert Corbin Ball in his presentation about social media. The incredibly fast evolution of social media, he said, has turned traditional marketing topsy-turvy by transferring the power from the pundits to the users, from the meeting planners to the meeting attendees. “Your brand,” he explained, “is not what you say it is. It is what people are saying about you.”

Throwing away preconceived notions and starting from scratch is not easy—but it is a necessity in today’s fast-changing world.