The TomTom effect

The TomTom effect

To really observe new things you should never stick to the main roads

It’s vacation time!

The ‘TomTom’ (I mean the navigation systems like Tomtom and Garmin in general, not the other products manufactured by the companies with the same name) I am sure will be used in the many foreign countries which you and I will visit, either by car or by bicycle, over the next few weeks.

The TomTom is a curious thing. On the one hand it shows you the way, making your journey much simpler and easier. On the other hand however it shows everyone else the same way, as a consequence making certain roads very busy and their alternatives relatively empty. The TomTom creates a bias to find the same solutions by following the same roads (even TomTom live changes little about this!).

It occurs to me that this could be a metaphor of our time: there has never been much space for different opinions and points of view or for other ‘mental travel goals’. At the same time we’ve become extremely susceptible to hype: we all read and talk about the same themes, which are themselves constantly being written and rewritten. The ‘TomTom’ has become a metaphor for the mental tunnel vision that permeates our lives.

Some practical examples of these new main roads of attention? Off the top of my head, I can think of ‘leadership’, ‘authenticity’, ‘the cloud’ and ‘enterprise 2.0’ to name but a few.

Could such tools as Google or the Lonely Planet guides be working work as forms of ‘mental TomToms’, leading us to all think along the same lines, putting you and me in the same ‘box’, and making out-of the box thinking realistically unattainable? Are there other major agenda-setting ecosystems out there which work as ‘mental TomToms’ for all of us? The Harvard Business Review, for example, The Economist or The Times? Do they determine your box or do you?

To truly innovate you should never take the road most travelled. Innovation never takes place along the main roads or in the mainstream. So, bypass the ‘TomTom bias’ and go your own way. Don’t be bothered about the advised travel route, no matter how famous the source of your information is. Don’t mind if others find you idiotic or nuts. Only in this way will you find genuinely new experiences, discoveries and adventures. Leave the others to the main road, while you enjoy your space.

Safe travels and enjoy your holiday!

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