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    Ten Things United Airlines Might Have Done

    UnitedAirCouldaDonev1Improving Customer Service at United Airlines Requires a Paradigm Shift and Recognizing They Have a Problem

    Creative Training Would Have Helped

    10 Things United Airlines Might Have Done (see below)

    Once again we have an incident of extremely poor customer service from a major airline. This time it’s United (as it is frequently) who dragged a paying customer off a flight by force. A doctor on a deadline. Incidentally, an Asian man. The video is very hard to watch, it’s sad, degrading, humiliating for the passenger, and an example of brutality visited upon an innocent and trusting consumer. The cops went too far as well, but United made the call and got them involved. United is responsible.

    Other than beating him up or shooting the man it really couldn’t be worse. The CEO made a quasi-apology today but even the apology was half-assed, Oscar Munoz said “I apologize for having to re-accomdate these passengers.” That’s a partial quote but he doesn’t apologize directly to the man they mistreated. Wow. To make matters even worse, the reason they needed people to get off was so they could fly four United employees to a flight they were working. The incident, the background of the problem, and the half-baked apology signal a sick culture. United Airlines is a jaded, faded, uninspired, culture — that will die — unless they pull out of this lack-of-innovation, and lack-of-consumer-empathy death spiral.

    Two Points to Make related to Creativity and Innovation:

    1.) The first thing they need to do is admit they are sick. United is not going to remedy a deeply rooted problem without a massive perspective shift. They are so far away from their mission/vision of “fly the friendly skies” that band-aids (like “investigations”) are not going to work. Without a big change in thinking customer service challenges are going to be like Wach-A-Mole. I’m speaking as someone who has flown over a million miles on United. I’ve seen it myself, and consistently; this whole attitude of the school mistress, or steward-as-drill-Sargent. You get on the plane and if you don’t conform to every little rule they have (which are always changing, and are always changing to make life more miserable for you), you are a dunce until you comply. They treat you like a child, not like a valued customer. There are some lovely people who work for United, and, there are some, quite a few, who need an attitude adjustment. This is a cultural problem. The first thing they need to do is see this sickness as their truth; they need to admit they have a big problem. Then, they need to take action steps to change, see my next point. And how about a full throated, meaningful apology to that poor man?

    2.) Culture change doesn’t happen without a project. How United could change would be to organize an innovation project to improve that would involve every person in their organization. An assessment of their culture is not necessary in my mind, they are proving over and over their culture is anti-customer. Training in customer service and creative thinking would be at the heart of a program, but would also need to find breakthrough new ways to serve customers. It would need to involve C-suite employees — because that’s where empowerment and better service start. That training and innovative change program would be enhanced with creative problem solving training. Also known as “CPS” having the tools to do effective brainstorming on the spot would have avoided this incident. The problem of finding ways to get people to give up a seat is a solvable one without bringing cops onto the plane. I can think of about 10 things they could have done first (see below). According to reports, they made two offers to passengers before the incident. With only a little more divergent thinking this incident would have never happened. United Airlines can’t afford Not to do an innovation project.

    Ten Other Things United Could Have Done To Get Passengers to Give Up Seats:

    1. They could have offered more money. Just up the ante.
    2. They could have offered a free trip.
    3. They could have offered free trips domestically for three months.
    4. They could have offered a free coach international flight.
    5. They could have offered a free membership to the United Club Lounge.
    6. They could have offered free baggage for the next three years.
    7. They could have offered free drinks for a year, or two, or three.
    8. A chance to ride in the cockpit for one flight.
    9. A free upgrade from coach to first class on a future flight.
    10. They could have created a package that combines several of the above ideas.
    11. Bonus idea: How about asking customers what it would take?

    I could think of 20 more without too much trouble. And one or more of them would have worked. United needs to focus itself and ask itself tough questions, and then involve all employees in developing creative, innovative answers.

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    The Founder, Innovation On Film

    The Founder, Lessons in Innovation The Founder, starring Michael Keaton as McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc, is the best film about innovation since Moneyball in 2011. Between the two of them there is enough marvelously illustrated content to teach a masters course in innovation. Unlike Moneyball, which had the surface covering of a baseball story, The Founder is actually about how innovation happens.  In telling Ray Kroc’s story, we see it all: the entrepreneurial mindset, observational research, desire, and, how an idea is taken to the next level. One does not have to be a student of innovation to love this movie. Innovation stories, in both the movie, and in real life are filled with emotion, brilliance, and human frailty. Innovation




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    Trump: Learn to Steal Smart

    Stealing Smart and Stealing Stupid Melania Trump’s speech last evening at the GOP convention, and today’s subsequent media uproar and fiasco, is symbolic of several things in my view. Summarizing my themes here: Competence, Theft, and Ideas (or lack of them). I’ll take flack for writing this post, but understand, this is not about politics. It involves politics — but my comments have more to do with creativity and innovation. As most of you know, my interests are in those areas, so, I’m looking at recent events with that lens. Not as a lefty, not as a righty. I’m looking at this with the green tinted shades of the artist and the black and white lens of a professional innovator.




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    Paying Lip Service to Developing Entrepreneurs

    There is a very frightening trend happening in the USA. We are not growing entrepreneurs. See my “Seven Ways to Grow Entrepreneurs” below! What is it we believe in our capitalist country? Isn’t it something like this: Anybody who works very hard, has a bit of talent and a good idea, can start something, grow it, and do well.  Isn’t that the essence of the entrepreneurial American dream? Yes, there is more to it than that. Yes, you can fail. Yes, it’s a market driven meritocracy — or it should be. I’ve always taken this entrepreneurial spirit for granted – it’s who we are! I’ve always assumed that as the years go by, more and more Americans (and this extends




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    Domain Knowledge Matters Donald Trump

    Call me king of the obvious but I’d like to remind folks about something related to leadership, innovation, and the upcoming election. Domain Knowledge Matters I’m not taking political sides here but I’m going to make a point about Donald Trump’s candidacy. Let’s face it he has captured the attention of a large group of people. This is factual — the polls have him leading the GOP field. My opinion on why he’s doing so well is this: Trump says things that are bold, straightforward, non-PC and they echo the sentiments of many Americans. People love this approach because it’s just not what they’re used to hearing from a politician. I’ll put aside the notions and accusations that he’s racist,




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    The Flaming Lips and Economic Development

    Consider Attending the Creativity World Forum 2015 As many of you know I’ve participated in the annual State of Creativity Forum in Oklahoma for several years. I’ve written here previously about how effective their model is in getting broad-based involvement, participation, and attendance. This is arguably the most successful creativity conference in the world right now. Those interested in the creativity and innovation field should attend Creativity World Forum 2015 if at all possible. It’s affordable, the content is superb, and it’s a great networking opportunity. It’s in just a few weeks, so register, and make plans now to arrive in Oklahoma City for the March 31st one day event. The illustrious Sir Ken Robinson is  returning as a keynoter (he




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    Rural Broadband Necessary for Rural Innovation

    Tuesday– September 23, 2014 It’s nice to see that people are recognizing that innovation isn’t always in Silicon Valley. Writing you today from the countryside in Three Oaks, Michigan, aka “Michiana” — where my poky web access is satellite based. Steve Case’s article earlier this week in the Washington Post  — Why innovation and start-ups are thriving in ‘flyover’ country —  is spot on. Case, you may recall, was co-founder of AOL. He correctly identifies the reasons why Chicago, Denver, Cincinnati, and other smaller cities are becoming vibrant centers of start-ups. He’s asking for investments of time and money to be made in order to further the trend. I agree, and… He didn’t go far enough with his article — he missed one




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    Ten Ideas for Using Innovation Film Clips

    I’ve written an article on Innovation in movies — Inspiring Innovation Films: a Top Ten List.  It’s been published on the Innovation Excellence portal — I’d be most grateful if you’d read it and comment over there. Today’s post is a value add to that article with some ideas on how to use creativity and innovation clips in projects and meetings. If you’re an innovation educator, manager, or team leader you may want to consider using clips as training and/or stimulus tools. I’m a big one for keeping things entertaining no matter what you’re doing. Movie clips are a great way to do that. Here are Ten Ideas on how to integrate film clips into an innovation project: Send out a




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    Ted Nugent Lacks Creativity

    The Golden Triangle of Inanity I’ve resisted the urge to write an enraged post about the inflammatory comments made in recent weeks by Ted Nuget, Sarah Palin, and Duck Dynasty guy, Phil Robertson. I call them The Golden Triangle of Inanity (GTA). Many writers and observers have responded to their words in kind, so, I guess that base is covered. I had the notion to take Ted Nugent’s recent statement (called Obama a “subhuman mongrel”) on word for word, and then I thought, it’s not worth the energy. Why spread around even more negativity? Suffice to say I think the recent statements of the GTA are crass, ignorant, and grossly inappropriate. If you believe that these celebrities are speaking out




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    Reading Widely Means More Dots to Connect

    People ask me what I read. I think this question is inspired by my citing some arcane fact or that I make a weird connection now and then. I am a voracious reader, but I think what I actually read might surprise. Most of it is NOT directly about creativity and innovation (that’s a way to guarantee you’re boring!) Reading widely provides more dots to connect. Broadly, I’m thinking I’m improving my database by reading a lot of varied and weird content. There is some science to this; one can make more conceptual blends if one has more to blend. And, concept blending, new connections, are where innovation comes from. So, this is a snapshot of what I’m reading, for




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