Title:search

Using tools that shape the way we think

Although everyone uses the same desk top tools, everyone uses them in quite different ways. The tools have become second nature, but most people are not specifically trained; they learn through contact and intuition. 

When spreadsheets arrived in the late 1970s, some people found them almost impossible to understand. Each cell was addressed like a coordinate. It was like using a map in digital form without the benefit of the cartographic layout. Now the tools have become part of everyone’s everyday work, but because they work in different ways, there are features that people use intensively and others that people know nothing about. 

Even in the most common word processor you can find a function that produces a summary of a document. It works remarkably well on some documents, less well on others. It can be a very useful function when trying to sift some key phrases from large quantities of text, perhaps gathered using a web search. It’s a feature that specialist tools have developed. But the main point is that no two people work inside the most common word processor in exactly the same way. 

This has important consequences for a project. People can misunderstand each other and be at cross-purposes. The remedy for a team is to develop shared ways of using the tools. This can be an easy win. And when the technology moves ahead, you need to think again as a team. When people get used to GPS positioning, it changes the way they think about maps, and the way they work also.

They say that people who grew up with a technology, perhaps learning it between 12 and 22 can speak it like a mother tongue.  What you learn afterwards is less intuitive, and when you learn a technology later on, it's more like a foreign language.


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