Howard Putnam

Former Southwest Airlines CEO Howard Putnam will speak about innovation at The College of Wooster's Wilson Lecture on Oct. 30


Former Southwest Airlines CEO to Present Wilson Lecture

Howard Putnam to speak about innovation at The College of Wooster on Oct. 30

October 15, 2012 by John Finn

WOOSTER, OHIO — Howard Putnam, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, will present "Innovation: Creating a Culture and Process for Ideas to Hatch" at the James R. Wilson Lecture on Tuesday, Oct. 30, at The College of Wooster. The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the Wilson Room of the Scot Center (1267 Beall Ave.), beginning at 7:30 p.m. Parking is available behind Lowry Center (1189 Beall Ave.) and next to the Art Murray Baseball Field (off Gashe Street) as well as across the street at Ebert Art Center (1200 Beal Ave).

“Innovation and bold steps occur in organizations that embrace and foster a climate and culture for risk taking and idea implementation,” says Putnam, who proved this philosophy works when he was CEO of Southwest. “Brands develop when people thrive in the vision and experience.”

As CEO of Southwest Airlines from 1978-1981, Putnam established a culture that placed people first, based on the belief that making individuals the top priority would lead to the greatest long-term impact and success. He and his team positioned and organized Southwest for growth and profitability utilizing a very flat management structure with decision making and idea development imbedded in everyone’s job scope and responsibility. Individuals and teams were rewarded for risk taking and for designing out-of-the-box processes and improvements in productivity, customer service, cost containment, safety, and profitability.

Putnam is also an entrepreneur, and has served as a director of several startup technology companies. He is an author, speaker, and advisor on business issues, change, leadership, and ethics. He has an MBA in marketing from the University of Chicago and attended Harvard’s Advanced Management Program. In addition, he is the author of The Winds of Turbulence.

“Successful entrepreneurs have several things in common,” says Putnam. “They make turbulence work for them; they have a vision (a flight plan) that they are passionate about; they are specific, methodical, and consistent; they understand what business they are really in; they are persistent; they understand the value of leadership, people, and great customer service; and they are willing to take risks and innovate.”

Putnam grew up on an Iowa farm and learned to fly out of a pasture. His wife Krista is a native of Ohio and a former flight attendant. Their son, Mike, is an airline captain based in Charlotte, and their daughter, Sue, is in public relations and advertising in Reno.

The James R. Wilson Lecture Series in Business Economics brings business and financial leaders to Wooster’s campus to share their insights with students, faculty, and the broader community. The series is supported by the James R. Wilson Fund for Business Economics, established in 2001 by a gift from James R. and Linda R. Wilson. The list of previous speakers includes Peter Guber, CEO of Mandalay Entertainment; Donald Kohn of the U.S. Federal Reserve System; Katharine Lee Reid, former director of The Cleveland Museum of Art; James W. Griffith, CEO of Timken Corporation, and Craig R. Barrett, former Chairman and CEO of Intel Corporation.

“The generosity of Jim and Linda Wilson enables us to bring in high-profile speakers, who not only deliver a public lecture, but also interact with students at a variety of levels,” said John Sell, professor of business economics at Wooster. “This provides an exciting and unique learning opportunity for them.”

Additional information about the lecture is availably by phone (330-263-2145) or e-mail.