April 6, 2009

Lesson from Southwest Airlines

So by now, you have probably seen the "Rapping Southwest Flight Attendant" either on your local news station or on YouTube.

You may have even read Bob Wolfe's great post on the Young Association Professional blog that asks the question "Are You Taking the Mundane and Turning it on its Head?" It essentially an embed of the aforementioned video.

For me, this video and its viral success leads to a few points that I want to delve into here - culture and differentiation.

As I look at the video, I can't help but think about the culture that Southwest has created that allowed this to happen in the first place. They have a culture that rewards innovation, which in turn provides value to their customers. Their employees are able to be themselves, using their skills to more effectively get their message across and make it fun and exciting for the traveler. They try new things without the fear that if they make a mistake they'll be in trouble. This in turn has led to a resounding success in getting the company a GREAT DEAL of free media, thus helping to extend their brand to people who might not fly regularly.

Just think... Which airline is the average non-flier likely to choose for their next flight - the boring, stuffy one, or the one that shows it has people with personality running it (and oh by the way, has cheap fares).

I often hear people talking about the need for associations to innovate if we are to be successful as we move into the next decade - that if we think we're going to be using the same business model and doing things like we do today, we will be way behind. So my question is - why can't we be more like Southwest?

Why can't we create a culture within our organizations where not only the ingenuity of our employees is celebrated, but also that of our members? We can differentiate ourselves by being THE association that is truly open to innovative ideas, no matter where they come from. We can develop rewards for the the most innovative employee/member/non-member whose ideas we can implement to redevelop ourselves as we move forward. We can essentially use innovation to drive our business models, thus providing more value to our members.

I guess I feel as though this ONE LITTLE YOUTUBE VIDEO really crystalizes the fact that a culture of innovation is something that not only benefits the employees of an association/company, but also the association/company as a whole through the amazing outcomes it can create.

Why aren't we embracing the innovative ideas that come from our employees and members by creating a culture that supports it? It seems easy, but as we all know, changing the status quo rarely is.

Perhaps we need to have an association executive rap about developing a culture of innovation at the next ASAE Annual meeting. Maybe that will get people thinking more about it...

1 comment:

coffee maker said...

this flight attendant is destined to save lives with his music