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January 17, 2013

Life Lessons from Google Search

Or, the Boolean guide to happiness.

Matt Vanderlinden: A-HA! SeriesGoogle Search is an amazing thing if you really think about it. Pick up your phone, your tablet, or sit down at your computer and there it is – this little rectangle with the blinking cursor ready to tell you everything you want to know about almost anything.

The fact is, it’s eerily similar to the key plot device on several episodes of Star Trek®. The biggest difference, however, is you don’t have to worry about messing up the time/space continuum, or Klingons. But I digress.

As cool and ridiculously useful as Google Search is, can you really pull life lessons from it? Heck yes you can. I submit that there’s one huge life takeaway that Google Search teaches us – you need to ask the right questions.

Results, whether in Google or in life, are affected by the parameters you set and the criteria you use to come up with your results. Greg McKeown, CEO of THIS, Inc., a leadership and strategy design agency headquartered in Silicon Valley, talks about this concept in an awesome article found on hbr.org called ‘The Disciplined Pursuit of Less.’ In it, Greg provides a simple example of what I’m talking about.

‘Think of what happens to our closets when we use the broad criteria: “Is there a chance that I will wear this someday in the future?” The closet becomes cluttered with clothes we rarely wear. If we ask, “Do I absolutely love this?” then we will be able to eliminate the clutter and have space for something better.’

It’s a great example of a lesson we can apply to all different aspects of our lives; our careers, routines, health, the list goes on and on. Are we asking questions that’ll lead to the results that we’re looking for? Do we need to tweak our Boolean operators, take out some ‘ands,’ maybe add an ‘or’ here and there? Will that help us get down to what’s essential and what ultimately fulfills us most?

The point is, if you’re not happy with your results, maybe it’s time to change your criteria.

This is true for businesses as well as individuals. If you’re not achieving your business goals, look at what you’re asking your employees to do. Are they things that really move you closer to your goals? Or are you using the wrong criteria?

I dare you to give this a serious try for a week. Adjust your criteria in a way that puts a finer point on what you’re trying to achieve, whether personally or organizationally. Post a comment and let me know what your week was like. Here’s to better results!