It’s all about doing something different

If you do what everybody else does, it’s really tough to get ahead

Just before an impending snowstorm, several of us were comparing the forecasts we had heard. It seems that regardless of the station to which one had listened, the forecasts were remarkably similar, and as it turned out, they were all wrong.

It seems many stations get their raw forecasts from the National Weather Service, tweak and/or customize them a bit, put them on fancy graphics and broadcast them. Packaging is everything. How accurate or close one comes to reality seems to be of less concern.

If I were a station manager, I’d use a different approach. I’d figure out how to get the most accurate forecasts possible and develop a reputation for always or nearly always being right. It wouldn’t be long before I’d be snagging viewers from my competitors.

Once viewers come over for my weather report, they just might stick around to watch a couple of other shows too. Once the ratings improve, I’d be able to raise my advertising rates and have fewer commercials. Doesn’t that sound like a different strategy?

This isn’t pie in the sky. There are private weather services that sell forecasts that are very accurate. Years ago, I had Harvard University as a client. Winter storms were a major concern. They didn’t want to call the weather crews in too early because they’d be paying them to do nothing. Nor did they want to get them in too late.

They purchased a weather forecast specific to Cambridge that would detail the start of the storm to, say, within an hour’s window – and they were on the money. They also included snowfall rates per hour, which really helped in the staffing and planning. All of this was available a day or two in advance from a local private weather service.

Offshore sailors often use private weather services to plan their routes. Severe weather at sea just isn’t any fun, and it’s dangerous. Seasoned skippers cross oceans without encountering the bad stuff.

Of course, the National Weather Service forecast is paid for by our tax dollars, but it’s not very good. Why not spend a few bucks to provide something better and leave the competition wondering what happened to their viewing audiences?

A dream flight

In some industries, they call this disruptive technology. It’s a game-changer. The computer industry has always been improving its wares, often at a feverish pace. Even so, you could shop for a laptop and find models from many different companies that were remarkably the same.

The first shakeup came from smartphones. Still, many folks needed bigger screens for their work, so Steve Jobs came up with the iPad and spawned the tablet industry. Those other companies are still trying to figure out what happened.

If you do what everybody else does, it’s really tough to get ahead. If, on the other hand, you do something different – really different – the results can be astounding. And it doesn’t always require rocket science to develop a new technology.

I have a dream that someday a U.S. airline will hire someone from Singapore Airlines (generally considered one of the best airlines in the world) with a directive to make his new company like Singapore Airlines.

Yes, Americans like cheap airfares, but they’re not crazy about those cattle-car experiences. I’m expecting the emergency oxygen masks to become coin-operated any day now. (For those of us who board without a coin, they’ll be happy to make change for us, of course for a fee.) Don’t wait for the emergency to get your change.

Imagine getting on an airplane and actually being treated like a human being. Just think of what it would be like to have enough room for your legs. If it’s a long flight, how about a good meal? Nothing fancy, but tasty and nourishing. Remember when a bottle of water was actually free? How about those hot towels just before landing?

This might bump the ticket price up a bit, but the total cost would be about the same. The lunches we’re forced to buy after clearing security are outrageously priced and often not very good. Bulk purchasing would enable a carrier to provide cabin service at a lower cost than the terminal outlets are charging.

Remember it’s all about doing something different. It’s tough to beat everybody when you’re doing exactly what they’re doing.

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or