Southwest Uses Business Challenge for their Rising Leaders

Southwest Airlines invests significantly in leadership development with a variety of learning experiences. Business acumen is an especially important concept for leaders to develop as they focus on meeting the company’s fiscal and operational goals. Recognizing this, Southwest identified the need to include a module on financial acumen in their high-potential leadership development program.

Southwest Airlines partnered with Abilitie to incorporate Business Challenge into Southwest’s MIT II: Developing Legendary Leaders program. The nine-month program used Business Challenge to help these high-potential leaders to:    

  • Understand the relationships between operational decisions and financial measures at the company and product line levels
  • Develop foundational expertise in investment and ROI analysis
  • Relate strategy and execution at the operational and tactical levels
  • Increase financial literacy and understanding of financial statements 

Abilitie worked with Southwest Airlines to create a blended learning program with two major components: Fluent in Finance and Business Challenge.

Fluent in Finance is a six-hour finance course for non-financial managers that combines tutorials, case studies, and challenging interactivities. Business Challenge, a multiplayer business acumen simulation, allowed program participants to read financial statements and make strategic business decisions based on financial metrics. Participants were paired into teams and competed against each other in a dynamic marketplace. Leading a virtual company, participants executed strategic business decisions, balanced sales growth with cash flow, and analyzed financial statements to make operational and investment decisions.

Simulation debriefs focused on financial strategy brought learning to life, and allowed participants to further explore the impact of their choices on the company’s bottom line.

The Results

Participant reviews of the program included comments such as, “The business simulation was the best I’ve had since grad school.” On a scale from “Very Poor” to “Totally Awesome,” 100% of participants rated the experience “Totally Awesome.”

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