The Southwest Paradox

I think it was Rob Paterson who first got me thinking about what I now call the Southwest Paradox.

There’s Southwest Airlines very successful as an airline for a very long time. Surrounded for quite a lot of that time by a large number of very unsuccessful airlines.

Southwest does not come across as a secretive company. There’s a whole reality TV show showing it warts and all. There’s not much about the way it functions that hasn’t been examined and described. I’d venture that most of what could be made explicit about how Southwest works has been made explicit.

So it’s very interesting that almost no other airline comes anywhere close to Southwest in terms of success.

There seems to be a basic assumption, from B Schools to bookstores, that success is only a matter of modelling something that works, making the process explicit, and copying it. The Southwest Paradox suggests there’s something fundamentally faulty in that assumption.

I might also speculate that the quantity of diet books in shops, and levels of obesity, are positively correlated. And the plethora of books on how to be happy may be an indicator of how unhappy we are – despite there being no shortage of advice on the subject.

For my More Space chapter, I think I may kick off with the Southwest Paradox. Whether I go down the “Simple Ideas, Lightly Held” route or the “Organic Branding” route, I think it’s a good set up.

And comments, questions and sarcastic remarks are welcome…

4 thoughts on “The Southwest Paradox

  1. Tony Goodson

    That’s a brilliant idea. Undoing this pseudo scientific approach we take to modelling. Add Dell and Apple as well, and a few others.

    So what does make a successful company?

    You tell me!

  2. Emergent Strategies

    Success secrets ?

    Business schools, case studies, magazines and books, autobiographies, benchmarking and best practice. We’re all trying to learn what works and what doesn’t.
    However Johnnie Moore’s post The SouthWest Paradox raises some interesting questions. Sout…

  3. Rob

    I think it has a lot to do with execution. People worry so much about strategy and keeping it secret, but anyone who has ever managed people knows how hard it is to get everyone on the same page and doing their jobs well. There are tons of good ideas that failed, in part because of poor execution.

  4. The Social Customer Manifesto

    More Thoughts. More Discussion. And A Lot More Space.

    “Caffeine?” “Check.” “Snacks?” “Check.” “Notebooks?” “Check.” “Thesauruses?” “I think you mean ‘thesauri.'” “You know what I meant. Do we have ’em?” “Check.” Looks like the list is in pretty good shape. Now, I’d love your help. Todd Sattersten has anno…


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