Ever just done something because, well because, it’s always been done that way?

Could there ever be a worse reason for doing something?

I hate this mentality, I think individually everyone would agree, but how come collectively we find it so hard to stop?

As marketers we must always be looking at the data from new directions, looking beyond the obvious, or the usual stats and information, otherwise we might end up being Sony – having the personal music player market cornered, and never seeing Apple and the iPod coming. There are so many examples of doing things just because they have always been done that way, and never realizing the obvious…that it was a stupid way to be doing things. Innovators break the rules, look outside the box, and push the envelope.

Here are a few examples for you:

1. Just go for it…

“As the sun fell behind the hills on the west side of Little Rock last Thursday evening, the Pulaski Academy Bruins and the visiting Central Arkansas Christian Mustangs scattered around the field and stretched before their high school football game. Apple-cheeked cheerleaders alternated between practicing their routines and checking their backlog of texts as the P.A. blasted the predictable medley of psych-up songs. Conventional stuff, in other words.

Then the game started.

On the first possession Pulaski marched steadily downfield until it faced fourth-and-four at the Mustangs’ 14-yard line. The Bruins went for it and converted. A few plays later, thanks to a penalty, they faced fourth-and-goal from the 23. Again they went for it, this time unsuccessfully. By the end of the first quarter, Pulaski hadn’t punted or attempted a field goal on any of its four fourth downs—unsurprising when you consider that its roster lists neither a punter nor a kicker.

Pulaski fans are accustomed to such play. Most enjoy the show, shake their heads and refer to the coach, Kevin Kelley, as a “mad scientist.” But really, the coach isn’t mad at all; his decisions are rooted not in whimsy or eccentricity but in cold, rational numbers. Ask him to defend his methods, and he revs up his Dell laptop and refers to his statistics.

Pulaski hasn’t punted since 2007 (when it did so as a gesture of sportsmanship in a lopsided game), and here’s why: “The average punt in high school nets you 30 yards, but we convert around half our fourth downs, so it doesn’t make sense to give up the ball,” Kelley says. “Besides, if your offense knows it has four downs instead of three, it totally changes the game. I don’t believe in punting and really can’t ever see doing it again.”

He means ever. Consider the most extreme scenario, say, fourth-and-long near your own end zone. According to Kelley’s data (much of which came from a documentary he saw), when a team punts from that deep, the opponents will take possession inside the 40-yard line and will then score a touchdown 77% of the time. If they recover on downs inside the 10, they’ll score a touchdown 92% of the time. “So [forsaking] a punt, you give your offense a chance to stay on the field. And if you miss, the odds of the other team scoring only increase 15 percent. It’s like someone said, ‘[Punting] is what you do on fourth down,’ and everyone did it without asking why.”

The onside kicks? According to Kelley’s figures, after a kickoff the receiving team, on average, takes over at its own 33-yard line. After a failed onside kick the team assumes possession at its 48. Through the years Pulaski has recovered about a quarter of its onside kicks. “So you’re giving up 15 yards for a one-in-four chance to get the ball back,” says Kelley. “I’ll take that every time!” Why not attempt to return punts? “Especially in high school, where the punts don’t go so far,” he says, “it’s not worth the risk of fumbling or a penalty.”

Much of Kelley’s analysis has support among number crunchers. In 2005 David Romer, a prominent Cal economist, published a study that argued that over the course of the three NFL seasons he studied there had been 1,068 fourth-down situations in which teams, mathematically, would have been better off going for it. In all but 109 cases the teams either kicked or punted.

Which is to say that most football coaches aren’t simply averse to risk—no shock, there—but that they make choices at odds with statistical probability, akin to blackjack players standing on 11. The explanation: Subject as they are to scrutiny, coaches have incentive to err on the side of conservatism. No coach gets fired or ripped on talk radio for punting on fourth-and-four. Most do when they go for it and fail.”

Sports Illustrated, September 21, 2009 – A coach’s case for kicking conventional wisdom to the curb by L. JON WERTHEIM

2. Not a bad call…

“The fallout from Bill Belichick’s ill-fated decision to go for a first down on fourth-and-two at his own 28 with a six-point lead late in New England’s 35–34 loss to the Colts proves one thing: The moneyball mentality hasn’t yet made it to the gridiron. Belichick was widely pilloried for the call. The reaction of NBC’s Rodney Harrison, a former Patriot, was typical; it was “the worst decision” he’d ever seen.

But what do the numbers say? Within two hours of the end of the game, the New York Times website had a post from Brian Burke of Advanced NFL Stats, who calculated that the Pats had a 70% chance of winning by punting and a 79% chance of winning by going for it. If the math of a Navy pilot turned blogger seems fuzzy, consider that the next morning the Times had a pair of professional computer-programming number crunchers run the data, and they came to the same conclusion: Belichick made the right call.

He’s long run up against the Old Guard mentality that prefers custom to empirical data. “To me, it’s a shame they didn’t get it,” says Kelley, “because now it means coaches will be less likely to make that call—the right call—in the future.”

Sports Illustrated, November 23, 2009 – The math supports Belichick’s ploy

3. How David Beats Goliath.

This is a story by Malcolm Gladwell, author of BLINK, THE TIPPING POINT, & OUTLIERS. It’s possibly one of the best written articles I have ever read, it’s loaded with examples:

Read the whole article here.

Tomorrow make a resolution to think different, just practice doing it, I promise you will see a difference.