Innovation Programs are designed to focus everyone’s attention on identifying and implementing innovative ideas in a specific area. They are also designed to encourage everyone to keep their eyes and ears open for new ideas, including those that might be outside their direct work area or scope of responsibility.The airline industry is well known for going beyond the simple “suggestion box” idea to implement more fully developed innovation programs:
American Airlines program, called “Ideas in AAction”, resulted in over 17,000 ideas and savings of over $83 million USD. The famous story highlighting the success of this program is the “black olive” story. A flight attendant noticed that no one was eating the black olives in the salads and suggested that this item be eliminated, which resulted in thousands of dollars saved.
Delta Airlines also implemented an internal innovation program. The famous story from this program, again was about a cost savings involving food. A flight attendant noticed the piece of lettuce that was used to decorate their food was often wilted and unappetizing. The Airline removed the lettuce leaves and saved over $1 million annually.
Southwest Airlines, faced with higher fuel costs, asked everyone to identify ideas that would save the company $5 per day. Thousands of ideas were received resulting in $23 million in savings.