I was driving home along one of Boston's famously clogged arteries recently, my right hand clutching a cellular phone, my left hand typing into the notebook computer open on my lap. Is this wise? I asked myself. More to the point, I thought, do I really need both knees to steer? And if, as I suspect, I don't, is there some sort of telecommunications or information-processing device that I can work with a free knee?
All right. Never mind. Forget I asked. Driving and computing clearly don't mix. I promise never to do it again. It's just that sometimes I'm suddenly possessed by a deep fear of missing out on a technological innovation that would, if I had it, make my life easier or more productive. Is it just me? Don't you ever wonder if somewhere out there there's an up-and-coming software tool -- a technological sleeper -- that could have a real impact on your business? Well, we have a candidate for you to consider: the geographic information system. A GIS does for locational data what a spreadsheet does for financial data. To find out why more and more growing businesses are turning to a GIS to get closer to customers, in more ways than one.
Of course, sometimes it's not so much a new tool that you need as it is a way to use a familiar tool more effectively. To that end we've had writer Anne Field find several growing companies that have managed to take an old standby -- the customer database -- and make it the cornerstone of a high-tech marketing program. You can read about the tricks of the database trade [in [Article link]].
Most organizations that have used technology to come out on top don't point to a single tool. What they share is a commitment to finding the right combination of tools to meet their particular suite of challenges. For two compelling examples of technology-driven turnarounds, check out Joshua Macht's story on Woods Memorial Hospital [ [Article link]] and Sarah Schafer's article on Fisher SpacePen Co. [ [Article link]].
Oh, by the way, apparently I'm far from the only person in the world who drives and computes at the same time. For more insight into that foolish practice, take a look at Bulletin Board [ [Article link]].
Finally, speaking of navigating, please check out Inc.'s just-launched Web site (http://www.inc.com) and our site on America Online (key word: Inc.). At both you'll find new ways to access what's in the magazine as well as information and tools that don't show up in the print version. Just one thing. Don't do it while you're driving.
-- David H. Freedman, Editor (firstname.lastname@example.org)