I never know what I’m going to find in an airport. I’ve stumbled across some great ideas, as well as some that have left me shaking my head. Vino Volo, for example, offers a sip-it-and-ship-it wine bar concept where travelers can comfortably await their next airplane flight while sipping a wine flight, accompanied by some pretty delicious small plate offerings. On the other hand, the Tyson vending machine I found offering hot chicken nuggets and cheeseburgers for a few quarters left me wondering just how far we’ll go to get our fix of processed foods.

Then there’s my most recent find: the Yellow Pages kiosk. It caught my eye when I arrived in Tulsa on a recent trip, but I didn’t have time to check it out until I skulked around the gate awaiting my return flight a few days later. At first glance, I was intrigued by the idea: look up local businesses, Yellow Pages style, at an interactive touch screen that will text the selected information to a cell phone. Interesting.

The more I played with it, though, the more I wanted–and didn’t find. I could look up restaurants, for example, but all I could see on-screen was the (exact!) same thing I would find in the hard copy Yellow Pages: an alphabetical listing of name, address, and phone number. Because touch-screen electronic media inherently suggests interactivity to me, I found myself tapping the screen on the name of a restaurant to drill deeper in the hope of finding a description, a menu, reviews, anything. Nothing. Just the Yellow Pages on a screen. This whole, slick-looking machine provided no more information than a hard copy would have.

This could have been a really great idea. I could look up a local business and tap the name to link to its website. Or driving directions. Or reviews. Or make reservations. Or, or, or.

I thought maybe I was asking too much, that the programming investment required to realize my vision might significantly change the economics of the situation, so I visited www.yellowpages.com. Everything I imagined was right there. Search restaurants in your town; click one to find a description, link to its website, driving direction, and reviews. Perfect.

Unfortunately, my internet search just made the kiosk idea seem even worse. Now I really don’t understand why that company wasted its time loading the big yellow book into the machine when all it had to do was provide an entry point into the online version. It obviously had a phone line for texting, why not an internet connection? It could have been so simple.

What might have been a good idea fizzled when it came time to make it happen. It could have been so much more, but it ended up falling short. No wonder I didn’t see anyone using it.

Think it through, build it out, make it happen. The execution counts just as much as the idea itself.

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