Sometimes change is so gradual yet so ubiquitous that we don’t see the enormous implications of what’s really happened until somebody says it in a new way. I recently had such an experience when I read Google’s Michael Jones on How Maps Became Personal in the Atlantic. A lot of the ideas in this piece jumped out at me, but the one that really got me thinking was:
Effectively, people are about 20 IQ points smarter now because of Google Search and Maps. They don’t give Google credit for it, which is fine; they think they’re smarter, because they can rely on these tools. It’s one reason they get so upset if the tools are inaccurate or let them down. They feel like a fifth of their brain has been taken out.
The change Jones talks about was brought about by taking static maps and making them personal, AKA tailored to the person using them in a way that makes everyone a “local,” an instant expert. Smarter.
I had that experience today driving back from Palo Alto to SFO. The Google Maps iPhone app remembered my previous travels and offered me two choices with predicted travel times differing by 20 minutes. I could see the red areas where traffic was heavy and what to avoid. Armed with this real-time insight, I selected the 280 North and a small side road that got me to my destination almost to the predicted minute.
This same kind of personalized view of what one is supposed to do on the job has arrived in the workplace in the form of intelligent process. Instead of getting a one-size-fits-all company binder (typically well out-of-date), new employees can expect to get a personalized, up-to-date view of their processes, work instructions, systems, metrics based on their roles within the organization.
In a sense, this lets them become “locals” much faster with out the need to become immersed in hidden tribal knowledge. Not only that, they can ask questions of other locals in real time with built-in social collaborative tools – a sort of built-in roadside assistance. Of course, they can get this same information on their mobile devices.
Personalized process is as common sense as Google Maps and just as much a factor in making people smarter. What did we do before we had this? Hard to remember.