Bob Miano's Blog

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In Admiration of London Cabbies: The Self-reliant Talent Factor

Ever taken a cab in London? There is no better place to hitch a ride. First of all the famous black cabs are cool, old-fashioned vehicles that look like they rode right out of a 1930’s detective novel. Second, the drivers are genius at what they do: getting you where you need to go. Every driver has passed “The Knowledge,” a test that requires the memorization of more the 25,000 streets and the location of every hospital, government building, theatre, hotel, metro and train station in the city.

Navigation systems are taking off worldwide but not in cabs in London. As the recent CNN.com technology article “London cabbies: Brain cell mightier than microchip” points out, London drivers take pride in their expert city knowledge. And hey, a London cab driver has “a larger hippocampus” (section of the brain responsible for navigational capabilities) than the average person, the CNN article points out. So why turnover that big brain to a computer?

As someone who has worked in the technology sector for decades now, I still find myself thinking a little more “old school” than “cutting edge” at times. I admire the London cabbies who say no to navigation systems and yes to brainpower. However, I much prefer that New York cabbies—who have an easy entry test to take, know limited locales and often depend on their passengers to know exactly where to go—hook up their cabs to today’s state-of-the-art navigation systems ASAP!

As a business professional working in the human capital industry, I take an important lesson from the London cabbies and their commitment to knowing their jobs and their city. Too often in the workplace today, we rely on systems and high-tech tools to feed us information and forget about the TALENT it takes to make that information valuable and accurate. The applications and gadgets we use so liberally in business today are only as effective as the talent of the people who built them and the skills of the people operating them.

As business leaders and managers, hiring a self-reliant go-getter is one of the smartest moves and best investments we can make. When it comes to measuring the collective drive of an organization, I believe you can look at the ratio of “self-navigators” to “auto pilots.” The more “self navigators” you have on staff, the farther your business will go.