By Kevin Meyer
There’s a way to get to the Fairbanks Airport, just don’t ask your iPhone for help.
Apple has disabled driving directions to the Fairbanks International Airport after a glitch in its maps app guided drivers to the edge of a runway instead of a terminal, airport spokeswoman Angie Spear said Friday.
Previous directions on newer iPhones and iPads guided drivers to the edge of the tarmac instead of the correct route to the terminal. In incidents Sept. 6 and Sept. 20, drivers went through a gate, past warning lights and signs, and then across an active runway, to reach the terminal.
Now there's obviously a bunch of bad things happening here. The app, of course, but also a physical security system that let's folks just drive right onto active runways.
But what really struck me was the lack of extremely basic perceptual/analytical skills on the part of the drivers. How can you drive past warning lights and signs, through a gate, and across runways without realizing that something might just be wrong? That something doesn't fit conventional experience. Seriously? Are we so entranced and trusting of our world of apps that we can no longer recognize a conflict with expected reality? Apparently so.
I'm obviously dating myself, but I remember keeping real map books in the car, driving blindly around cities like Boston having to stop every couple blocks to check the book, and even ordering TripTiks from AAA for longer trips. A drive, even into a new town, took a certain level of research, analysis, and writing. That often lead to a certain level of getting lost – failure – and then learning from that failure.
No longer. Now you just turn on the app, and if it seems strange to have to avoid a landing jet along the way you chalk it up to the vagarities of "the shortest route." Common sense exempted.
And this is the exact reason why one of my hot buttons are systems like ERP, MRP, and the like where gigabytes of data are dumped into a machine and results are miraculously spit out and displayed on reports or monitors. The results are taken for granted and assumed to be correct, even if they fly in the face of common sense. $50 million in extra chocolate bars? $1 billion in extra Blackberry phones? The system said so, therefore it must be correct.
We have to learn to think again. We have to allow, and encourage our people to think. Training them to read the output on a monitor, or the results of an app, isn't thinking.
A few months ago I wrote a piece on Learning by Writing… by Hand.
The process of writing by hand creates understanding, ownership, introspection, and thus learning.
This is also why I regularly harp on the advantages of scribbling on whiteboards over typing into "the machine" and then coercing that data onto reports or electronic displays. When you write a production number, metric, or problem on a white board you own that number, you immediately see the relationship between it and the numbers next to it, you recognize patterns and trends, and you may have to even explain it to peers standing around you. Action can be taken immediately to change an unfavorable situation.
Typing into a computer? Not so much. Somehow that data is mysteriously transformed into other numbers and analyses that you may see a week or even month later and the linkage, understanding, and ownership of that relationship is lost. You end up with a bunch of folks trained to feed the machine, and a different bunch of folks trained to supposedly interpret what the machine spits out. The problem – and opportunity – is obvious.
Every day I find more examples where this is true. Whether it's managing a factory or using a map app.
Write. Think. Learn. Please, before you hit a plane.