I recently read two articles that had me thinking about problem solving. The first article was about how the next generation of Google Maps aims to solve the problem of traffic. The second article detailed how Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport dealt with the problem of long wait times for checked baggage.
How is Google going to solve traffic? I’ll sum up. Google is proposing to send motorists, going to the same destination at the same time, to take different routes. This means that even if route A is currently the fastest way to work, some motorists will be sent to route B, in order to prevent impending traffic on route A.
How did the George Bush Intercontinental Airport solve the problem of long wait times for baggage? It didn’t. It just seems that way. The airport simply moved baggage claim further away, so that it took passengers longer to walk there and by the time they arrived, their baggage was waiting for them.
How are these things related? Well, I found it interesting that Google and George Bush Intercontinental Airport took very different approaches to problem solving. Google has decided to solve the macro problem of traffic, by actually making some user’s experience a little worse (by sending them on the currently slower, route B). George Bush Intercontinental Airport has decided to ignore the macro problem of slow baggage delivery by instead focusing on the user’s perceived experience of long wait times.
I’m sure there are some people who will say that George Bush Intercontinental Airport’s solution, is, well, not really a solution. Then again, there may be some people who when they find out that Google might not send them the fastest way home, will switch to Mapquest.
Google’s goal is let’s fix traffic. George Bush Intercontinental Airport’s goal was let’s have happier passengers. I’m not going to argue which goal is more legitimate, but in fact, both solutions meet their goals.