Week 6: Breaking the Mold and The Pursuit of Wow!

In an age of commodities, so many companies and their competitors offer products and services that are so similar you frequently cannot tell them apart. Tom Peters points out that when everyone else looks mostly the same, this is an opportunity for some companies to really stand out by doing something different.

Southwest Airlines – Even though this book was written more than 20 years ago, many of the insights that Peters makes about Southwest Airlines continue to be true today. Most of the time, their people are having a good time and giving their customers a memorable travel experience. A good example of this was when I recently flew Southwest and they got to the portion of the safety instructions where they talk about oxygen masks. They say to secure your own mask before assisting others, but this flight attendant said “If you are flying with more than one child, apply the first mask to the one who is most likely to contribute to your retirement account.” This got a healthy chuckle from the crowd during an exercise that most other airlines appear to “get through” as quickly as possible and most travelers are actively ignoring. At Southwest it is more than simply getting from point A to point B, they are providing an experience.

Some great “guru” quotes from this chapter:

Are you regenerating? Are you dealing with new things? When you find yourself in a new environment, do you come up with a fundamentally different approach? That’s the test. When you flunk, you leave.” — Jack Welch, former CEO of GE and Management Guru

“While hard data may inform the intellect, it is largely soft data that generates wisdom.” — Henry Mintzberg, McGill University Professor and Management Guru

“Effective prototyping may be the most valuable core competence and innovative organization can hope to have.”— Michael Schrage, Innovation Guru

“Most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.” — Oscar Wilde, Author, Playwright and Poet

It is freeing to realize that doing things (in life and in business) differently from the way others do them is actually a good thing. To stand out, develop a specialty, fill a unique need in the market, be colorful, leave a lasting impression and take risks is really the best way to approach things (again, in life and business). Breaking the mold means being one-of-a-kind, so celebrate and differentiate on what makes you and what you do/provide for your clients that is unique.