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On Two Airlines: Southwest and United

In Restoring the Soul of Business, Rishad Tobaccowala shares his thoughts about the high cost of overreliance on humans or machines — but not on both. He explains how to reclaim human creativity, insight, and relationships with other humans as well as with machines in order to compete and win in today’s VUCA marketplace.

For example, consider his thoughts about two airlines, Southwest and United.

“Both companies are absolutely dependent on data and technology, and they’re measuring their performance consistently. Employees at both companies must have an almost religious adherence to processes and procedures given how crucial safety and timeliness are in their industry.

“At Southwest, though, they prioritize customers over process (though certainly processes must be followed), view employees as family, avoid layoffs, and encourage people to express themselves creatively. At United, individuals expression is discouraged. That’s why a captain flying a Southwest plane might get on the intercom and and provide passengers with the score of a pivotal game being played in the city they’re flying to or from. On United, they act like this game doesn’t exist.

“It’s not surprising that United has been grappling with a series of ugly PR incidents recently, while Southwest boasts the following results”:

o 2.4 percent voluntary turnover
o 44 consecutive years iof profitability
o Lowest number of consumer complaints
o 85 percent employees proud to work for Southwest
o No layoffs and no furloughs ever

(See Pages 169-170)

* * *

Rishad’s key skill is getting people to see, think and feel differently about how to grow themselves, their teams and their company. He does this through distilling 40 years of global learning and wisdom and communicating in a way that is provocative, pragmatic and inspirational.

To learn more about Rishad and his work, please click here.

Restoring the Soul of Business: Staying Human in the Age of Data was published HarperCollins Leadership/An imprint of HarperCollins (January 2020).

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