Last year I complemented Southwest Airlines on their joint use of social and technical systems in the design and implementation of their numbered boarding system. Now I will compliment them on continuous improvement, and their gate agents – and offer them a suggestion that may be applicable in your own environment. The picture I showed in my earlier post showed rotatable, numbered signs. Southwest’s improvement is to use video monitors to explain the system, and to change the numbers as different groups board.  These instructions (and some others) cycle through before the boarding process begins. They also use them to do short promos. My suggestion is to use the time not used up by the instructions and promos to provide customer education. Things like short videos demonstrating:
  • How backpacks and bags worn by people in the aisle can smack the person in the aisle seat if the aisle folks turn abruptly
  • The outcome of slamming your seat back when the person behind you has a beverage or laptop on their tray table (though SW does limit the amount their seats go back – thank you!)
Amy, the gate agent in San Diego who helped me get home several hours early, got right on board with this idea and thought that the little videos could be “Airline Etiquette” highlights. A little searching shows that Delta has already created such videos -- though Southwest spokesman Chris Mainz is cited in the 2007 article as saying that Southwest was considering following Delta's lead. Now’s the perfect chance: Video monitors, customers with free time on their hands, extra time available on those monitors…. What’s the application for the rest of us? A technology/situation audit. What technologies do you already have, that could be serving a situation that you also already have? Perfect lunch-time discussion (and part of the STOP, LOOK, LISTEN approach to innovation). If your organization has video on tap, think about the issues I recently raised about video and knowledge. Are there unused video resources you have at your disposal? Inexpensive video is on the rise (coming to a cell phone near you soon). What value can you glean from this resource or others?