In news, people thought I was crazy because I’d watch every newscast from the competition, as well as the other newscasts from my own station.
Yes, it was a very tedious practice; but I always knew what was going on, which station did what, and whether the way they presented the story was effective. It helped me produce a newscast that I knew was up-to-date, catchy, and informative.
Sometimes there would be an idea thrown around the newsroom about how to tell a certain story, and I could chime in with my concerns because I’ve already seen the concept bomb on another station.
That’s not to say that I’ve never made mistakes on-air. But I definitely limited the number of mistakes by learning from others.
But what is sometimes not reiterated enough is how leaders not only need to learn from their own mistakes—but the mistakes of others.
In local government, it’s easy to get too consumed with what your organization is doing and not care about surrounding or similar entities. However, paying attention to those other entities could help you determine what works and what doesn’t. I’ve seen several departments from different areas try to launch the same program with the same depressing outcome—a direct result of not keeping an ear to the ground.
And on a more personal level, it’s just smart to not have to repeat mistakes others have made because it will save you a load of grief.
So go ahead and read newspapers, watch the news, or contact personnel from other organizations to see what was successful or not for them. Their results won’t always translate over into your organization, but your citizens will certainly thank you because a preventable flop could save them money. (And it’s always a good thing when you can save tax dollars.)