#TBT: All About the LUV

Happy #TBT! Here’s an oldie-but-goodie post from Jim: All About the LUV.

People in arts and entertainment (but especially the arts) are fairly self-critical about their attitude toward audiences, and with good reason. The arrogance that it takes to ignore the people who are paying your bills is unattractive by almost any measure.

But it’s worth saying that this dysfunction of thought is by no means limited to arts and entertainment folks.

By contrast, that arrogance I was just talking about seems to be endemic to human nature, and it ain’t pretty.

For example, one of the hardest things for human beings to accomplish is not getting satisfied with success. An upstart comes into an industry flying the flags of discontent with the status quo and eventually becomes successful. With amazing frequency, that same organization at some point tips over and becomes part of the way things are rather than the way things are going to be. It’s human nature at that point to relax, keep doing the things that got you where you are, and take the opportunity to scorn the new upstarts.

These also happen to be the first steps toward decline, and it happens in every industry, not just the arts or entertainment. Sprint was once a revolutionary in the world of long-distance, breaking people out of the prison of AT&T long distance, and now they’re another in a litany of indistinguishable and boring companies that do a very similar thing, including AT&T themselves.

But it doesn’t happen to every company. Southwest Airlines continues to be one of my favorite examples of the perennial rebel, despite the fact that SWA’s market value is greater than several of the bigger, older airlines combined.

What’s the difference? I think it’s simple but very hard to execute: Be about something. SWA is about more than its own success, although it has had plenty of that. It’s about great service, great low fares, the freedom to travel by air and, interestingly, love.

They talk a lot inside their company about Love: for each other, for their passengers, for their communities. Even their ticker symbol on the stock exchange is LUV. It’s part of who they are and what they do, and it comes through.

So what is your organization about? It can’t just be about being there. That’s not enough. Well, it is for a while, right up to the point where you’re successful, and then the rot sets in …

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