The Southwest Paradox

Thoughts on what I'm calling The Southwest Paradox - and what it means about a questionable assumption behind many business and other how-to books. This may be a jumping off point for my essay for the More Space project.
Johnnie Moore

Johnnie Moore

I’m Johnnie Moore, and I help people work better together

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…

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