Austria is not far away, but somehow the journey takes me longer than it does to get to Singapore. It’s not down to any inefficiency in the Swiss Train network, which offered a profuse apology for the one minute delay, but more likely down to my circuitous route and last minute planning. However that circular route and ‘just in time‘ booking gave me an incredibly cheap holiday. How? Not because i’m a great travel planner, but rather because of the host of sites dedicated to finding me the best deal: performance in the moment, enhanced by thoughtful technology. It’s the nature of the Social Age. I can decide to go skiing, then just go skiing. Barely any planning required.
But that was just the start: being willing and able to use the technology and free enough to jump at the last minute got me to the mountains, but once there, the fun really started.
When i learnt to ski, you went to ‘ski school‘ and slipped down a slope all week with a dozen strangers. Today, learning to ski is a radically different affair: quantified, democratised, shared, supported and gamified.
Let’s start with the gadgets, the wearables. I opted not to use Google Glass, not because of any privacy fears, but rather because you need full goggles to stop your eyes watering and being dazzled. Instead, Oakley make a ski mask with ‘Head Up‘ display, showing you your speed, distance travelled and even messages from friends further down the slope. Quantified performance. Arguments apres ski about whether Paul really hit 60mph.
The GoPro camera, rugged and cheap, controlled by remote tied to my glove, captured video, stills and bursts as i followed my friends down the mountain. We used it to analyse and critique each others performance, huddled around the iPad at the end of the day. And to capture our greatest moments! For Ed, only 12 years old, this is normal: capturing video, producing compilations, sharing them socially. I’m amazed the ski instructors don’t use it for a premium service: video your performance and talk it through, as any pro sportsperson would.
Before we left, Paul, wanting to learn to carve, had reviewed and shared YouTube videos, learning nuances of how to put pressure on the downhill ski, learning from the generosity of others. No money involved, just the social reputation awarded to those who produced the best videos.
On my phone, the Ski Tracks app runs all day: it provides a lot of data, from a complete breakdown of runs, analysed by kilometre, to max speed, distance an altitude. All this can be shared, all compared. You can even export it into Google Maps to see your route plotted out on a 3d image of the mountain (although in Google Earth there is no snow: you ski through sunlight fields and forests!).
The App itself replaces the old fold out ski maps that used to tear and flop limply as they got more dog eared and damp throughout the day.
At a simple level the technology let our community of friends remain loosely connected throughout the day: if someone went off, we could arrange to meet, share our location, reconnect at will.
The significance of this? Bear in mind that skiing is a purely social and sporting activity: but we’ve enhanced our performance and it costs next to nothing to do. Using technology to capture data, using community to interpret the data, learning from the interpretation and the support (and competition and challenge) of the community. The technology enables us to be better, with no external curriculum or set of rules. We just figure it out as a community.
Paul and I spent time discussing whether Endomondo or Ski Tracks was the best App: for me, on an iPhone, Ski Tracks was superb, but on his Android phone it was a disaster. This is the evolutionary marketplace of technology: judged on performance and feedback from the community, In the end, he used his Garmin GPS and i used Ski Tracks. We got the same data through different devices: a devolved and democratised ecosystem of technology, decided by the user. Contrast this with organisations trying to own and dictate choices and technologies.
This type of performance enhancement isn’t tied to the ski slope: next month, one of our friends in the police will be fitted with her wearable camera. Indeed, every officer in the county will wear one: rugged tech, always on.
It’s not the pervasive nature of technology that counts, indeed, it’s not the technology itself, but rather what we do with it. The ways our behaviours change: we took turns to be ‘cameraman‘, filming each other. We huddled together to review performance. We provided critical feedback on each others videos. We created games and competitions based on quantified data: speed and distance.
Organisations need to adapt more than just their technology to be fit for the Social Age: they need a mindset for change, a mindset for performance enhancement and a willingness to let the community find it’s way. In a democratised ecosystem, it’s the community that will find the best solutions: our job is to facilitate this, not control it.
The goal is a win for everyone: people better able to perform, to perform better, to be more effective, and it’s within our grasp. Indeed, it’s often just our systems, and processes that get in the way. Change IT to be facilitating, change learning to be performance enhancing. Move beyond viewing ‘quantification‘ as something to organisations does to staff towards it being something we use to learn, to perform.
It’s a mindset change to make the organisation fit for the Social Age.