Yet imagine getting into a London taxi and asking for The Barbican or asking for The Flatiron in New York and being greeted with a blank stare. Although it sounds bizarre (especially in London) I’m sure that it sometimes happens.
But here is the stranger thing, when I tell São Paulo taxi drivers that The Copan is on Avenida Ipiranga, an enormous and well-known central road, they invariably plug the address into a GPS system so it can guide them to the destination. Not only do many of the drivers not know major landmarks in their own city, but they can’t plan how to get there without a GPS system doing the work.
There is an enormous opportunity to improve the way we learn and work thanks to this proliferation of information and the tools we now have to access it. However, if we don’t organise it then our lives can feel as if they are drowning in more information than we can possibly handle. How many people today think that email is a useful tool that helps you to stay in touch? To most it feels more like a burden. Forward-thinking company leaders are rapidly finding ways to reduce the reliance on email for communication precisely because it just creates a situation where it is harder for people to communicate.
Some organisations are thinking about how they can overlay intelligence for customers on this tsunami of data. In the UK the challenger bank Atom is using artificial intelligence to improve their customer support. The system never forgets a single customer query so it can rapidly learn answers to all but the most complex questions – the system will often help the customer before they ever need to speak to a human on the customer service team.
In Sweden, the train company Stockholmståg has a system that analyses all train movements in real-time. With cause and effect knowledge of how a delay in one location may ripple through to others the system can predict delays and inform customers before a delay has even occurred. That’s right, the system knows exactly how one train not leaving on time will affect everyone else across the entire network.