Have you seen the weapons prisoners make out of soap, spoons, or whatever they can get their hands on? It’s amazing what you can do with limited resources, if you really put your mind to it.
A good business example: Southwest Airlines. The airline has succeeded in large part due to its embrace of constraints. For example, its fleet consists exclusively of aircraft from the Boeing 737 line. By flying only a single aircraft, the company spends less to train pilots, ground crew, and mechanics. And maintenance, purchasing, and other operations are also vastly simplified, which reduces costs too.
More ways that Southwest keeps it simple: It offers flights only to select cities, no seating class distinctions, a simple pricing structure, a bare-bones frequent flier program, no meal service, etc.
Shows how executing on essential functions and leaving the rest out can still take you a long way.
Benjyon 03 Mar 09
And the most friendly staff of any airline. I really love Southwest compared to any of the other carriers I’ve flown—and I’ve flown most of them. I also love dealing with Midway instead of O’Hare whenever possible. I just wish that Southwest flew to more destinations from here…
Michaelon 03 Mar 09
You like Midway? Picking people up there is hell…
If you want a nice time, take the bus or drive out to the Rockford Airport and take Southwest from there. a) free parking, b) no lines, c) friendly people. So much simpler and there’s no chance of delays.
WDon 03 Mar 09
Bad timing to give SW a nod on saving money.
They recently skipped maintenance checks for potential cracks in the fuselages of 46 aircraft. While that may have saved a few bucks on the payroll, it now is costing them a $7.5 million fine to the FAA.
CNN article: http://tinyurl.com/c9urjy
Anonymous Cowardon 03 Mar 09
And if all the airlines caught onto the idea of minimalism, we’d applaud the one airline that went the extra mile and offered fancier peanuts saying “they’re more customer focused.”
Each to their own.
scott Milleron 03 Mar 09
great unspoken analogy to what works best for software development and startups. less is always more. constrained resources forces more prudent allocation of those resources. keeps bringing us back to what the customer needs, and only what they need.
Johnon 03 Mar 09
This applies to software development tools. I used to emphasize picking the best tool for the job. There’s something to be said for mastering one tool and using it for everything it’s at least moderately good at doing. If you pick the best tool for every job, you’re going to have huge set of tools you’re no good at using.
Chad Sakonchickon 03 Mar 09
RyanAir (who learned everything they know from Southwest) has added more constraints and more complexity for their customers by making the actual flight the core cost. Everything else is a la carte.
You get one carry-on gratis, every other bag costs to check. You pay for all drinks and snacks, reading material, they also conveniently sell shuttle services to city centers. This micro payment model may seem like a burden to customers, but I booked a $100 round trip from Milan to Slovakia 24 hours in advance and loved it.
They’re going as far a toying with the idea of putting coin slots on the bathroom doors – http://tinyurl.com/dluhjo
Translate this model to the software world. 37signals could charge a lower fee for Highrise subscriptions, but then have a $10 charge to import your QuickBooks customers to the CRM. Or they could sell 10 more ‘deals’ to Basic subscribers for an extra $5 a month instead of bumping the whole plan to Plus for an added $25 a month.
Jeff Putzon 03 Mar 09
The down side of all this is that flying SW is like being on a reality show for cattle. It sucks.
Davidon 03 Mar 09
This sounds familiar...
Chris Carteron 03 Mar 09
I don’t like Southwest. Every time I’ve flown on one of their planes, the seats have felt like I’m sitting on a rock in the woods for several hours. I would put their seat comfort below Northwest, even.
Personally, I like Frontier. $5 gets me satellite television in my seat, the staff are hilarious, and the seats are all very comfortable and have miles of legroom.
Ryanon 03 Mar 09
I’ll bet the automakers could learn a thing or two about simplifying.
I’ve noticed that Gordon Ramsay almost always strips down a restaurant’s menu by 50% or more when he’s consulting them. Similar concept.
Travison 03 Mar 09
Actually, I believe that southwest now HAS seating distinctions, although it’s only a small part of their flights (they offer some sort of upgraded b-class type seats).
Personally, I love southwest, even without including the price drop in the equation. Studies have repeatedly shown that their boarding process is the most time efficient (over assigned seats!). When I fly, all I want is to get there quickly, and on time—both of which Southwest does (in part) b/c of their seating procedures.
Also, from now on, whenever I hear about people complaining about flying, I’ll recall Louis CK’s interview with Conan (YouTube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LoGYx35ypus). Skip to about 2:45 to see his flight comments.
BillPon 03 Mar 09
Southwest is coming to the Twin Cities and I for one am overjoyed.
Anything to break up the Northwest (Delta) monopoly will be welcomed with open arms. Woo Hoo!
Joeon 03 Mar 09
Southwest only works as a business model because it only has to serve a niche customer base. If the other airlines did not exist to handle major domestic routes, international routes, alliances, complicated itineraries, and so on, you’d complain about Southwest’s limitations instead of its success.
Success doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Southwest filled a distinct need in an ecosystem. If the ecosystem were different, that niche might not exist.
Jeff Hartmanon 03 Mar 09
These aren’t constraints. These are business decisions.
Sunilon 08 Mar 09
Southwest sells a functional service but is not much fun (even with the fun attendants).
Virgin sell an experience and is fun (I am not sure of they are efficient but I hope so). They also seem to treat the flight as the razor and want to sell you a lot of other stuff while you are stuck in the air. But they make consumption fun by making the ordering fun with a touch screen at very seat and the presentation of what you order fun too.
Costco similarly has a very efficient model, but all the samples that you can taste as you walk through the store make the trip there a lot more fun.
As users have more influence on what they use the days of bloatware are numbered. But the bar is a lot higher that a functional service. Efficiency and usability is table stakes but you have to deliver an experience that makes things fun to use to really be successful.
This discussion is closed.