What does the founder of JetBlue, the high-flying airline startup, read when he wants to take his thinking to a higher level? Malcolm Gladwell's best-seller The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (Little Brown), which came out in paperback earlier this year. "It crystallized the importance of word of mouth," says Neeleman, who bought copies for his executive team. And why not? More than half of his customers hear about the airline through a friend.
Why is this book a good airplane read?
For one thing, it's a quick read. I have ADD, so I have a hard time with big books. This book also provides a really interesting way to look at the world.
You mean you really like the view from 30,000 feet?
By looking at how social epidemics spread, you can really see how just a handful of imaginative people at certain pivot points can have a huge impact on what comes next.
Any other high-flying take-aways?
The book reaffirmed my suspicion that you don't have to spend a jillion dollars on advertising to get your word out. What matters is that customers have a good experience with your product at every single point of contact. At JetBlue, we're completely obsessed with flawless execution.
That's not an insight that we associate with most airlines ...
Letting people travel far better for far less money is a principle that works. Doing good is good business.
A version of this article appeared in the August 2002 issue of Fast Company magazine.