Improving United Airlines Customer Experience

With all the outpouring of emotion around United Airlines last week, we thought this would be a good opportunity to use our platform to identify specific actions United could take to improve customer experience.  Social media has a tendency to generate polarized, collective outrage - whereas Kannetic’s social platform is designed to foster collaborative Collective Intelligence.  We thought this could be a useful experiment in turning outrage into intelligence.

We built a Custom Kannetic solution specific to airline travel and recruited a panel of United customers to participate in a focus group using it.   In just a couple of days of easy, rapid participation by panelists, Kannetic’s platform enabled the customer panel to identify and align on a number of specific suggestions for United Airlines to improve customer experience.  While there was strong agreement amongst customers that the airline needs a complete mindset shift, here are fifteen of the top specific ideas for how United can improve the experience of customers and turn around its negative reputation:

1.    Make it transparent when someone is buying a ticket if the flight is fully booked.

2.    If the flight is overbooked, make a higher offer until someone volunteers. The offer can be low cost to United, but high value to customer (e.g. travel).

3.    If the flight is overbooked, never vacate boarded passengers.

4.    Have a clear benchmarking table that compares for customers the differences of fare classes.

5.    If a customer is buying a fare that is highly restricted, require that the buyer indicate consent and understanding of restrictions.

6.    Give phone agents more authority to approve or decline exceptions to fare rules.

7.    Ensure that there are real consequences for United staff for unprofessional behavior.

8.    Provide a way (via an app) for clients to immediately report malfeasance by gate agents and FAs/flight crew.

9.    Emphasize to United staff the importance of projecting a positive attitude through basics like smiling, listening, politeness (follow the lead of competitors like Korean Airlines and Virgin Atlantic).

10. Let customers provide feedback forms or “appreciation” tokens directly to individual crew that results in some reward for them. If someone does a good job, customers should be able to reward them.

11. Make more beverage and food offerings available on flights.

12. At airports, have a lot more of the equivalent of the Delta "Red Coats" staff around to help diffuse situations.

13. Provide airport on-site agents more authority - don't make them call for approval for obvious situations.

14. Staff that boards the plane needs to be far more communicative - do what Southwest does and explain the process.

15. While most panelists do not think United should find a new CEO, there was strong agreement that United should bring in someone from a company that knows how to serve customers (e.g., Four Seasons) to run customer experience.

How The United Airlines Customer Experience Solution Worked

In the Prioritize phase of the solution, we asked 20 United customers whether they would recommend the airline.  They were also asked to evaluate where they thought United provided a positive customer experience and where it needed to improve along 17 steps of the air passenger customer journey.

You can see aggregate results from the 20 customers who took part in the Prioritize phase below. 

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We filtered these results to look only at detractors (e.g. panelists who said they would not recommend United to friends, family, and associates).  We then found five areas that stood out as particular concern for detractors.  You can see here those five areas and sentiment about them only from detractors.

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The concerns of these detractors are particularly important to United because they are the ones most likely to contribute to negative public sentiment about United.  So we selected these five areas as Priority Improvement Opportunities, and moved the solution into the Plan phase.  In the Plan phase, participants are able to suggest, vote on, and discuss specific actions United can take to improve in each of these five prioritized opportunities.

You can see an example of three of the many ideas suggested for improving customer experience around fare rules here:

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And you can see here some of the discussion in the solution that led to these ideas:

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We were surprised by the level of response we have had to this panel.  Within 48 hours of starting recruitment, we had a detailed list of prioritized improvement actions United could take to improve customer experience.  There was obviously a very strong desire amongst United customers to express their thoughts on how the airline can improve customer experience.  If you would like to see the results or add your thoughts, just sign up here and we will invite you onto the solution.


What is Participatory Intelligence?


The fundamental philosophical dilemma of the social sciences is the question of objectivity.  Is the researcher an external observer of social reality, measuring objective facts about people and societies? Or instead is the researcher a subject whose conclusions can never be disconnected from their own social position and cultural assumptions?

There is no single answer to this dilemma of whether the researcher is an objective observer or is a subjective participant.  Instead, different methodological assumptions about this question can create different types of knowledge and can be used to solve different types of problems.

Most social science research implicitly assumes that the researcher is an external observer and that the people under investigation are objects of analysis. There is, however, within the social sciences a less well-known tradition of participatory research.  In participatory research, there is no assumed “Newtonic separation” between the researcher as subject and the researched as object.  Instead, the researcher and the researched work together all as subjects aiming to better understand some aspect of their social reality.  Participatory research methods have been central to some of the most powerful applications of social science with community organizations and in international development over the last 50 years.

Kannetic Solutions are designed from a participatory research approach. Unlike commonly used organizational performance assessments, personality diagnostics, employee surveys, customer surveys, and other market research instruments Kannetic treats people participating in Kannetic Solutions not just as objects of analysis, but as subjects engaged together in common investigation.  Kannetic’s platform is designed to make it as easy as possible to tap the participatory, collective intelligence of groups using it.    

Moreover each Kannetic Solution is itself designed as a learning model that can aggregate insights based on experience and evolve over time.  Disciplines like Product Management, DevOps, and Nonprofit Board Management change as technologies, business models, and environments change.  What worked today won't necessarily work tomorrow.  Kannetic Solutions are designed to learn and reflect ever developing insights based on the collective experience of all users.

Our vision in the long run is to help foster a new form of collective intelligence – participatory intelligence – which merges the power of machine data analytics with the wisdom of conscious human judgment.  Kannetic Solutions - as systems of participatory intelligence - provide a human-centered complement to big data people analytics (which approaches people as objects of analysis) and artificial intelligence (which operates independent of conscious human judgement.)  We aspire to foster this new form of intelligence to help people better solve collective problems everywhere - both problems of business, as well as of social and community flourishing.

From Social Media Polarization to Social Intelligence

While our world is more connected than ever before – it is rapidly becoming more polarized. Social media lets us communicate with anyone, but often instead of creating shared understanding, it is amplifying extremism and ideological rigidity. Social media is polarizing us into digital tribes – as people who think like us flood our feeds each day with shocking messages and images which buttress our ideological positions.

We need to find a way past the algorithms of amplification in our social media environments that reinforce social polarization, and instead use social and internet technologies to foster social intelligence – the ability for collectives of people to think together across divides, and align together on practical solutions.

The vision behind Kannetic is to create a platform that enables just that type of social intelligence.  We think of it as Participatory Intelligence.  While our platform is just one approach to creating social intelligence, two principles underpinning Kannetic are broadly applicable to any social technology that aims to foster social intelligence rather than social polarization.

As a first principle, to foster social intelligence, social technologies must help us go through collective learning cycles together. Currently social media tends to amplify ideas - creating rapid and powerful collective consciousness around specific memes or beliefs. But social media doesn’t help us learn together. It doesn’t help us evaluate these memes and beliefs. And so it is easy for fake news to become ardent dogma.

To overcome this, we must design into our social technology collective learning cycles. It is through cycles of action and reflection that baby animals become more intelligent. It is through cycles of birth that evolution has made species more capable. Kannetic uses internet and social technology to enable groups of people to consciously connect and undertake rapid learning cycles together in a way that was never possible before.

As a second principle, social technologies that aim to foster social intelligence must enable us to find commonalities and practical agreements, rather than just spin off into our separate poles or beliefs. Magnetism works not because one pole dominates and overcomes the other. Instead it is the interaction of polarities that allows the sum to be greater than their parts. Social intelligence technology should put us in conversation with alternative perspectives, help us to find creativity in difference, and then help us to rapidly identify core commonalities and practical agreements.

While Kannetic tries to apply these two principles of social intelligence into targeted applications for team and organizational performance – it should be possible to build these same two principles into any social media or platform. If we were able to do this at scale – we could step beyond the social media fueled digital tribalism into which we are currently heading, and instead unlock the evolutionary emergence of technology enabled collective intelligence unlike anything humans have ever exercised before.

Liberating Workplace Feedback

Think about the last time you got better at something. The odds are that you got better because someone gave you feedback about how you could improve. Feedback is the single most powerful way to grow as a person and professional. But feedback in work environments is often difficult and stressful. 

Why is something that is so good for us also so stressful?

The common answer to this question is that people don't like hearing about their weaknesses and mistakes. But in reality, there are very few people who don't genuinely want to know how they can improve. Take a walk through any bookstore, and you will find dozens of books all aimed at filling the deep felt desire that most people have to improve as a leader, a professional, or as a person.

The reason that feedback is so difficult in work environments is that feedback at work has two purposes. The first is to help you improve, the second is to discipline you. And no one likes being disciplined.

The French social philosopher Michel Foucault argued that a fundamental dynamic of modernity has been the movement from the exercise of power through external coercive control mechanisms (e.g., men with sticks) to the exercise of power through internal control.  Modern institutions derive their power by internalizing in each of us the compulsion to discipline ourselves to conform to the expectations of these institutions. Foucault used the metaphor of the Panopticon to illustrate his theory. The Panopticon is an architectural design for a prison where a guard stands in a circular inspection tower at the center of the prison from which they can view all prisoners. Although it is impossible for the guard to watch all prisoners at once, prisoners don’t know when they are or are not being watched, and so must act as though they are. Feeling that they are always being watched, leads prisoners to internalize their own discipline and behave in line with the prison’s expectations.

Feedback is the Panopticon of modern work.

And so feedback at work is stressful because it is simultaneously an invaluable tool for you to professionally improve, and a mechanism through which you are controlled, evaluated, disciplined.

But what if it were possible to separate the individual growth aspect of professional feedback from the disciplinary aspect? What if feedback could be about engaging people you work with and trust in transparently and collectively helping you get better, but with control of the process in the hands of the person receiving feedback? And what if this feedback process could be automated in a way to make it easy not only to receive feedback, but to then rapidly engage the people you trust to help you plan specific actions you can take to improve professionally based on their feedback and even track your progress implementing those improvements?

The result would be a genuine and liberating process of professional development, unfettered from the anxiety and stress that is built into most workplace feedback. The result would be a process of collective support in which trusted co-workers and team members don’t just tell you what you are doing right and wrong, but efficiently help you to master your own professional development.

We created Kannetic's Leadership Developer solution to make such a liberating feedback process available and easy to conduct by anyone who wants to develop their leadership capabilities.

The Leadership Developer solution is available for free to anyone who wants to become a better leader.

You can sign up for a free subscription here:

Collaboratively Creating Company Culture


From attracting top talent, to fostering innovation, to ensuring quality execution, culture is a critical component of business success.  This fact is commonly accepted.  

The question is what to do to create a high performing company culture? Most of the consulting approaches and HR tools for creating a high performing culture adopt a psychological perspective to company culture.  This perspective approaches culture as a sort of personality or set of universal forces that characterize a company’s psyche.  Out of this perspective comes the common quest to define the perfect set of cultural characteristics which give rise to the mythical beast called “The High Performing Organization.”  (This is an actual academic term.)  In answer to this quest, literally hundreds of frameworks and diagrams have been created to map out what a high performing corporate culture is.

Unfortunately, there is in reality no single answer about how to create a high performing company culture - and no guru waiting in the Himalayas who can tell you exactly what that answer is.  Instead, there are multiple paths to a high performing culture - and your company’s path is dependent upon your unique context, market, goals, and strategy.  Indeed, no one knows better the unique challenges, goals, context, and dynamics of your business than you and your team - and so no one knows better than you, what a high performing culture for your organization is.

In some ways this makes creating your ideal company culture incredibly simple - there is no secret knowledge that you need to uncover in the fire of a sweat lodge.   The difficult part, however, is not in defining what your culture should be - you have probably already defined an ideal culture or set of company values.  The difficult part of culture is agreeing across your leaders and employees on what that culture means in practice, whether you are living up to it, and what specifically you should do together to promote it.

Culture is the only dimension of a company that every single employee can impact - for better or for worse - every single day.  And while it is cliche to say that company culture must be set from the top - culture is strongest when everyone in your company is engaged in creating it.  

Kannetic’s Culture Builder solution makes the difficult task of collaboratively building a high performing company culture easier and more time efficient than ever before.

Learn more about the Culture Builder solution here.

Optimizing Organizational Networks

Kannetic recently partnered with Polinode to develop the Network Optimizer solution which combines the power of Polinode's organizational network analysis with Kannetic's performance improvement platform.  We identified 10 critical questions that teams, organizations, and companies should ask themselves about their people network to ensure effective communication, collaboration, and talent development:


  • Are we effectively communicating and connecting across teams and locations?      
  • Are we “distributing” communication so as to avoid individuals who are overloaded and/or creating roadblocks?
  • Are we integrating and connecting everyone into the organization?


  • Are we influencing each other across teams, locations and layers of management?
  • Are we cultivating influencers throughout our teams, locations and layers of management?
  • Are we cultivating influential women, people of color and other minorities?
  • Are we engaging key influencers to shape and promote our organizational plans and strategies?


  • Are we ensuring all employees have mentors?
  • Are we distributing mentorship across leaders so individuals are not overloaded?
  • Are we mentoring women, people of color and other minorities?

The Network Optimizer solution helps you use network data to answer these questions, and then efficiently align on specific actions you can take to drive performance improvements from your organization’s network.  

You can learn more about the Network Optimizer here.

Building Corporate Inclusion and Support of the LGBT Community


Kannetic recently worked with Stan Kimer of Total Engagement Consulting to develop the LGBT Inclusion Builder solution – which helps companies develop greater inclusiveness and support of the LGBT community.  Drawing on decades of experience as a leading LGBT diversity practitioner at IBM and as a private diversity consultant, Stan identified as part of this process dozens of actions companies can take to build LGBT inclusiveness.  Here are 10 of those actions:

  1. Recruit experienced professional LGBT hires through involvement and sponsorship of LGBT community and professional organizations
  2. Set up a "reverse" mentoring program where out employees can meet with senior leaders in a "safe, open" environment
  3. Publicize LGBT Pride Month as part of your corporate calendar
  4. Include appropriate LGBT benefits equity within benefits programs (e.g. adoption, family leave...)
  5. Feature out LGBT executive and senior leaders in online and public mediums as role models for LGBT talent
  6. Engage LGBT employees and / or ERGs in the product and services development cycle to assure LGBT-appropriateness
  7. Include LGBT images in mainstream advertising (e.g., include an LGBT couple in scenes)
  8. Conduct appropriate LGBT advocacy in countries outside the US where you have a presence
  9. Support the LGBT Chamber of Commerce or professional networking group in your local community
  10. Provide one-on-one coaching and training on transgender issues for immediate supervisors of transgender employees

You can learn more about Stan and the LGBT Inclusion Builder solution here.

Boosting Team & Organizational Performance

Kannetic's patent-pending platform makes it easier and faster than ever before for teams and organizations to tap their collective intelligence to achieve higher performance.  Kannetic offers a range of solutions to help you build stronger teams, organizations, and functional groups.

You can see Kannetic's Team & Organizational Performance Solutions here. 

Here are 7 ways these solutions help you boost your team and organization's performance.

1) Conduct rapid problem-solving aimed at practical action

Kannetic is designed to make group deliberation and problem-solving incredibly efficient and powerful. Kannetic enables you to rapidly align on your largest improvement opportunities and then quickly take practical actions to capture them.

2) Leverage your full team intelligence

The best problem-solving in the world doesn't happen in the mind of one individual.  It happens when groups are able to effectively leverage their full intelligence together.  All too often, however, team problem-solving is chaotic, irrational, and prone to getting lost in minor tangents.  Kannetic helps your team focus the full power of its collective intelligence together on addressing your most critical challenges.

3) Build team buy-in

The most common reason that performance improvement efforts fail is that there simply is not sufficient buy-in or shared understanding across employees.  Kannetic is designed to foster action alignment and common purpose across team members.

4)  Address root causes

Most group performance measurement systems focus on measuring outcomes – but overlook the inputs and drivers that lead to performance outcomes.  Kannetic helps you address the core capabilities and drivers which enable better performance.

5) Rapidly tap external insights

While no one knows better than your own team what your biggest challenges are - it is helpful when solving those challenges to quickly see what others in your same situation have done. Kannetic's improvement action libraries let you rapidly tap the wisdom of others, while setting an improvement path that is custom to your unique team.

6) Stay accountable together

The second most common reason that performance improvement efforts fail is that they are not sufficiently tracked over time.   There may be a good plan about how to improve performance and initial enthusiasm to execute on it, but without review even the best plans are rapidly ignored and forgotten.  Kannetic helps you nimbly stay accountable together to your performance improvement plans and goals with easy, social tracking.

7) Make improvement fun

For many employees, the idea of organizational performance improvement conjures up anxiety and dread.  They imagine some new management philosophy that  will be imposed on them to learn and recite, or budget cutbacks that may hurt them.  Kannetic makes performance improvement a participatory team sport where everybody contributes their perspectives and insights as part of a collaborative effort to get better together.