I was listening to NPR during my drive home the other night. Alternating between interesting stories and loud music helps cut the commuter chaos to a tolerable level. As I was repeatedly taking my foot off the brake and putting it back on again, Simon Garfield’s British accent caught my attention. Mr. Garfield recently wrote a book called On the Map: A Mind-Expanding Exploration of the Way the World Works. Whether you appreciate the beauty of maps or not, the discussion surrounding how maps have been shaped by the digital revolution was compelling.
In the past, maps were large documents illustrating far away places. In calculating a destination 50 miles away, one would often see the surrounding 500+ miles. Maps today are often the size of a phone and can be easily manipulated with a touch of our finger. We are able to hone in immediately on where we are and where we need to be – often marked clearly by point “A” and point “B”. With the emergence of smart phones and map applications we lose sense of the bigger picture. There is no larger piece of paper to unfold and provide a broader, although perhaps less relevant, landscape. In a sense, it is completely egocentric. ‘Filter out the side streets and take me where I want to go.’
It is true that today we have a level of control that we previously never had. We choose what content we want to receive (through rss feeds, Flipboard, Zite and others). We choose what brands we want to follow. And we choose who we want to communicate with in our digital world (through Facebook, Twitter and others). We have more control than ever before. This control has contributed to many “quasi-experts” in different fields who have built their knowledge and, in turn, create their own value to share with others.
This manifestation is an indicator of what many call the Social Era. In her HBR Ideacast interview, Nilofer Merchant offers a simple explanation on what is different about the social era from other eras (such as the industrial era) by stating, ‘the biggest change is that not everyone will create value, but that anyone can.’ We have the ability to contribute anywhere and this opens up more possibilities than ever before.
By exerting control and choosing our filters, we can increase our knowledge in areas that are important to us, we can contribute and provide feedback to organizations that will enable them to enhance their products or services and we can communicate and collaborate more effectively with co-workers through knowledge sharing.
The value we create can go beyond acceptable and cross into exceptional. When we are motivated by our own values, we significantly impact those around us to do the same. And there is nothing egocentric about that.